Monday, March 3, 2014

“One Flew East, One Flew West and 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest'” in Bigfork

The film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" will be playing this March at The Edge Center in Bigfork. When released, it met with overwhelming praise by both audiences and critics. In 1975 it won all “Big Five” Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay), one of only three films in history to do so. The only other two movies in the history of the Academy Awards to sweep the Big Five were "It Happened one Night in 1934" and "Silence of the Lambs" in 1991.  It won six Golden Globe awards and 7 BAFTA (British) awards. The film, starring a young Jack Nickolson, is based on the book with the same title and tells about the happenings of an out-of-control 1960’s era mental hospital security ward.  It is a powerful story, relying on many of the author’s own experiences and containing an interesting interplay of tragedy and humor. Showing at The Edge Center in Bigfork March 13. Time 6:30PM. Cost: Free.

In the 1960’s, mental hospital staff used what was then modern medical technology such as electric shock, sedation, lobotomies and, in some cases, even government sanctioned LSD trials. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" is about a new “patient,” who is trying to work the system and get out of a real prison.  He gets sent to a much worse place then he expects for mental evaluation and rebels at his situation and the conditions in which everyone is being treated.  This unique “hero” succeeds in disrupting the calm states of the medicated patients with often funny results at the expense of the staff.

The book, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962), written by Ken Kesey, is set in an Oregon psychiatric hospital and was adapted into a successful Broadway play in 1963. Kesey, as a student, volunteered for the CIA-sponsored experiments of LSD.  He was influenced by his friendship with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg who turned him on to Timothy Leary, a psychologist who was known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs in the treatment of psychiatric patients.  It is thought that, when he was under the influence of LSD, he interviewed patients at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital and used those experiences for his book.

The main character, Randle McMurphy, is played by Jack Nicholson as a rebel trying to get out of hard time in a real prison. Randle believed the patients were not insane but that society removed them because they did not “fit” the norms nor behaved in expected ways.  John Joseph "Jack" Nicholson (born April 22, 1937), is one of America’s most famous film actors, directors, producers and writers.  He is the most nominated male actor in the history of the Academy Awards, with 12 nominations and one of only two actors nominated for an award every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s. He has won three awards tying him for second place in total with several other actors. He is in the California and New Jersey Hall of fame and has a Doctorate from Brown University.  His career continues to amaze audiences.

Nurse Ratched (also known as "Big Nurse") is played by Louise Fletcher (born July 22, 1934). She is the tyrannical head nurse exercising near-total control over those in her care, including her staff. Louise initially debuted in the television series Maverick in 1959 before being cast in Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us (1974). For One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress, a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. Her other notable films include roles include "Brainstorm" (1983), "Firestarter" (1984), "Flowers in the Attic" (1987), "2 Days in the Valley" (1996), and "Cruel Intentions" (1999). She returned to television in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and had Emmy nominations for guest roles in Picket Fences and Joan of Arcadia. Most recently she played a recurring role as Frank Gallagher's mother, serving a prison sentence for manslaughter, in the Showtime television series Shameless in 2011 and 2012.

Jack Nickelson is certainly an outstanding star in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest", but the huge, quiet presence of Chief ‘Broom’ Bromden,  played by Will Sampson, is the glue holding the story together. At six foot seven inches tall he is hard to miss on screen or in real life. His character is the son of a Columbia Indian Chief and a white woman.  He pretends to be unable to hear or speak, has been in the hospital for ten years, and feels compassion and respect for McMurphy. Chief Bromden suffers from paranoia and hallucinations and is treated with electroshock. McMurphy’s courage helps Chief Bromden overcome his fear of the system. One way to understand Sampson’s performance in "One Flew Over the Cockoo’s Nest" might be from film actor Brad Dourif (who played Billy Bibbit in the film) who said that…”Sampson had been imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. After he was pardoned, after serving ten years, his release came without apology or compensation. Sampson reportedly observed the cast on set and noted, based on behavior, which only he and Dourif truly understood what it meant to be institutionalized.” More at:

“Ting. Tingle, tingle, tremble toes, she’s a good fisherman, catches hens, puts ‘em inna pens…wire blier, limber lock, three geese inna flock…one flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest…O-U-T spells out…goose swoops down and plucks you out.” A nursery rhyme from Chief Brohman’s past gives the movie its allegorical title and part of it is in the movie. The rhyme was part of a childhood game played with him by his Indian grandmother. What movie characters can you tie to the rhyme?

Will Sampson was an actor and painter, his true love being his artwork. He has said, “Painting is my life. I am first, last and always a painter”. His most famous pubic painting,  a large image depicting the Ribbon Dance of his Muscogee people, is in the collection of the Creek Council House Museum in Okmulgee, Oklahoma.

Come and see all the drama at The Edge Center’s Classic Movie Series shown by Jack and Lynn Nachbar on Thursday, March 13th. Time 6:30PM. This is an R rated film. Jack Nachbar’s great presentation will give the audience a better understanding of what this film meant for its time.   Don’t forget: you also get to see the cartoon from the same period and enjoy snacks.  All this is free of charge.


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