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Ah Randle, ah humanity!

  • Jul 17, 2003
If I recall correctly, Kirk Douglas tried for many years to produce a film based on Ken Kesey's novel. He failed but son Michael succeeded and as its producer, accepted the Academy Award for the best film of 1975. Nicholson and Fletcher also received Oscars for best actor and best actress, respectively. The focal point of the film is, of course, Randle P. McMurphy (Nicholson) who may or may not deserve to be confined in an insane asylum ruled (in effect) by nurse Mildred Ratched (Fletcher). When I think about Nurse Ratched, I am reminded of an observation by Thelonious Monk: "You know what's the loudest noise in the world, man? The loudest noise in the world is silence." Given her absolute authority, she almost never says anything whereas McMurphy almost immediately becomes the unofficial (and self-appointed) spokesman for the other inmates. His confrontations with Ratched are inevitable. The resolution of their final conflict is among the most chilling revelations I have ever experienced in a film. Perhaps I should have seen it coming but I didn't.

Oddly, much of the narrative involves several activities which are quite entertaining and even hilarious. For example, somehow McMurphy manages to flee the asylum with the other inmates, arranging so that he and they can take a day cruise with some of McMurphy's "friends." Of course the inmates thoroughly enjoy themselves. He also organizes basketball games in which the key player is Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), a Native American who never speaks and who seems to be at least ten feet tall. But there are other moments which are quite serious, indeed tragic. Brad Dourif deserved his nomination for an Academy Award for supporting actor (in the role of Billy Bibbit) and all others in the supporting cast are also first-rate. When I first saw this film, the character Martini caught my eye so I waited for the credits to learn the name of the actor who played him: Danny DeVito.

Nicholson and Fletcher are brilliant. I've always thought hers to be the more difficult role because it places more limits on her talents than Nicholson's does on his. Stated another way, the McMurphy part gives Nicholson more opportunities to use those remarkable talents. Also, Nicholson's personality seems comparable with McMurphy's in certain respects (e.g. spontaneous, impish, confrontational, playful, quick-witted) whereas it is inconceivable to me that, other than gender, Fletcher and Ratched have anything in common.

Kirk Douglas has never missed an opportunity to say how proud he is of son Michael's career and especially of what he achieved as producer of this film. Yes, those are the sentiments of a father but Kirk Douglas has also had a very distinguished career of his own as a producer, director, and actor. He understands better than does almost anyone else what is required to create a great film such as this.

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Robert Morris ()
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Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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Milos Foreman's ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, based on the novel by Ken Kesey and the play by Dale Wasserman, presents a biting and ultimately tragic satire about mental institutions and the human spirit. A disturbing, witty, and electrifying drama, the film won the 1975 Academy Award for Best Picture. R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a misbehaved con who shirks authority, finds himself in an asylum after faking insanity to get out of work detail in prison. The vivacious troublemaker soon finds himself in a worse kind of prison--one presided over by the repressed, terrifyingly quiet Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), whose set of rules and regulations are meant to suppress patients' psychotic outbursts, and their spirits. It's not long before McMurphy is reaching out to his new inmates, trying desperately to bring life to an otherwise dead atmosphere. To Ratched, however, Nicholson's free spirit is as dangerous as a schizophrenic impulse. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST is brilliantly acted by an ensembl...
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