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Hasty Heart, The (1949, Ronald Reagan, Patricia Neal)

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Hollywood filmmaker Victor Sherman came to Britain to produce and direct Ranald MacDougall’s skilful screen adaptation of John Patrick’s West End and Broadway stage hit.

Ronald Reagan received top-billing in his only British-made picture, but the key role went to 30-year-old Richard Todd, who plays a dour and prickly young Scottish soldier, Corporal MacLachlan, who alienates his fellow patients in a British military hospital in Burma. Yank (Reagan), an American recovering from malaria, is the most persistent in his attempts to reach MacLachlan but he too fails. Lt Colonel Dunn (Anthony Nicholls), the officer in charge of the hospital, then declares that MacLachlan is dying but does not know and asks his fellow patients to try and make his last days happy.

They willingly agree but MacLachlan, brought up as a foundling and inherently suspicious of others, remains aloof. The men, while angry at his attitude, nonetheless present him with full Highland regalia on his 21st birthday. He is touched by their kindness and becomes a changed man. But when Dunn finally tells him he is dying, MacLachlan reverts to his former coldness, bitterly lashing out at Yank and the others for what he believes was their pity, rather than friendship. The normally amiable Yank finally explodes in anger and finally gets through to MacLachlan.

The Hasty Heart made Todd a star of the British cinema and earned him a well-deserved Academy Award nomination. Reagan, in spite of a dislike for working in the cold (the hospital in Burma was created by art director Terence Verity on soundstages at Elstree Studios) and a far-slower-than-Hollywood pace of filming dictated by the then-powerful film industry unions, gave one of his best performances. Patricia Neal, who had also suffered culture (and environmental) shock, coming from Hollywood to shoot the film in Elstree in 1948, gave a first-rate account of herself, and there were uniformly impressive contributions from Nicholls and Howard Crawford, Ralph Michael, John Sherman and Orlando Martins as Todd’s other fellow patients.

production details
USA / 102 minutes / 1949

Director: Vincent Sherman
Writers: Ranald MacDougall, from the play by John Patrick,

cast
Ronald Reagan as Yank
Patricia Neal as Sister Margaret Parker
Richard Todd as Cpl. Lachlan ‘Lachie’ MacLachlan – the Scot
Anthony Nicholls as Lieutenant Colonel Dunn
Howard Marion-Crawford as Tommy – the Englishman
Ralph Michael as Kiwi – the New Zealander
John Sherman as Digger – the Australian
Alfie Bass as Orderly
Orlando Martins as Blossom – the African

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