|Patricia Neal and Richard Todd|
In Burma at the very end of WW2, a Scots soldier named Lachie (Richard Todd) is shot in the kidney. That one kidney is destroyed and the other is defective, meaning he only has a short time to live. In the hospital, the other patients are told to make what time he has left as convivial as possible, but it won't be easy because Lachie has a massive chip on his shoulder and is extremely unpleasant. But can they and the sympathetic nurse, Sister Parker (Patricia Neal), be able to get through to the man? Based on a play by John Patrick, The Hasty Heart presents a sad and intriguing situation and makes the most of it, bolstered by an outstanding lead performance from Richard Todd [Lightning Strikes Twice]. Patricia Neal is lovely in the movie, and there are also fine jobs from Ronald Reagan [Bedtime for Bonzo] as the American, and from Ralph Michael, Howard Marion-Crawford, and John Sherman as the other patients in the ward. Orlando Martins is given the thankless role of the near-silent tribesman, Blossom, but he, too, is effective. An amusing if odd sub-plot has to do with the fellows trying to find out if Lachie wears anything under his kilt -- their attempts to peek underneath it get a little obsessive at times. Todd's best scene is his reaction when he learns the truth about his medical condition, but, while he's perhaps a bit older than the character, he is on top of his game throughout. Todd played the role on Broadway after Richard Basehart left the cast. Aside from Neal and Reagan, the supporting characters aren't that well developed, and in truth, we don't learn all that much about those two, either. But somehow it doesn't matter, as the film is completely absorbing and deeply moving. This was remade as a telefilm with Gregory Harrison and Cheryl Ladd (!) and it gets a higher rating on imdb.com than the original, but I can't imagine it's better than this. Vincent Sherman also directed The Damned Don't Cry and many, many others.
Verdict: When dramas were dramas and not sitcoms. ***1/2 out of 4.