One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a 1975 film directed by Milo Forman. The film is an adaptation of the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. The movie was the first to win all five major Academy Awards (Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director, Screenplay) since It Happened One Night in 1934, an accomplishment not repeated until 1991, by The Silence of the Lambs. The movie was filmed at Oregon State Hospital in Salem, Oregon. Contents Plot Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow. Randle Patrick McMurphy (Nicholson), a criminal who has been sentenced to a fairly short prison term, decides to have himself declared insane so he'll be transferred to a mental institution, where he expects to serve the rest of his term in (comparative) comfort and luxury. His ward in the mental institution is run by an unyielding tyrant, Nurse Ratched (Fletcher), who has cowed the patientsmost of whom are there by choiceinto dejected institutionalized submission. McMurphy becomes ensnared in a number of power games with Nurse Ratched for the hearts and minds of the patients. All the time, however, the question is just how sane any of the players in the ward actually are. Throughout his short stay at the hospital, McMurphy forms deep friendships with two of his fellow patients: Billy Bibbitt (Dourif), a suicidal, stuttering manchild whom Ratched has humiliated and dominated into a quivering mess; and "Chief" Bromden (Sampson), a 6'5 and muscular Native American who has schizophrenia. Recognized by the patients in the ward as deaf, and unable to speak, they ignore him but also respect him for his enormous size. In the former, McMurphy sees a younger brother figure whom he wants to teach to have fun, while the latter is his only real confidant, as they both understand what it is like to be treated into submission. McMurphy initially insults Chief when he enters the ward, but attempts to use his size as an advantage (for example, in playing basketball where his height is necessary). Later, both are suspended, along with patient Charlie Cheswick (Lassick), for being involved in a fight with the male nurses, and are sent to a detention area. Cheswick is sent first to undergo shock therapy, while McMurphy and Chief wait on the bench. During this time, McMurphy offers Chief a piece of gum, and Chief verbally thanks him. A surprised McMurphy realizes that Chief can speak and has actually been faking his situation at the ward the whole time. This leads McMurphy to allow Chief in on his escape plan because of his hidden wisdom. Ending this scene, a more defiant McMurphy emerges from the detention area to an awaiting Nurse Ratched. One night, McMurphy sneaks into the nurse's station and calls his girlfriend to bring alcohol and assist in his escape. She brings a friend, and both enter the ward by seducing a male nurse. The patients of the ward become intoxicated and go wild, while Billy flirts with McMurphy's girlfriend. McMurphy doesn't mind, and invites them to a room where they can be in private. McMurphy then waits with Chief until they finish. While they wait, they drink untold amounts of spirits, mainly vodka by themselves in a very brief period of time. By mistake, both pass out for the night and are unable to escape in the morning because the male nurses and Nurse Ratched have arrived. Nurse Ratched commands the male nurses to clean up the patients and conduct a head
count. When they discover that one patient is missing (Billy), they search for him and find him in a room with McMurphy's girlfriend. Nurse Ratched threatens to tell his mother and he begs her not to. When she explains that he should have thought of the consequences, he breaks down into tears and is dragged away by male nurses. When left alone momentarily, he commits suicide with a broken beer bottle. McMurphy, with an opportunity to escape the ward, goes to see what caused the commotion. After he sees what the ward has done to his friend, he explodes into a violent rage, strangling Nurse Ratched until she is near death. She survives, but McMurphy is taken away yet again for punishment. This time, the punishment is much more severe. The lobotomized McMurphy is returned to his bed during the night. Chief, unwilling to leave McMurphy behind, suffocates his vegetable-like friend with a pillow. "I'm not goin' without you, Mac. I wouldn't leave you this way. You're coming with me. Let's go," Chief says. He considers the murder of McMurphy an act of mercy, a "liberalization". The Chief, managing an act McMurphy earlier failed to do, lifts a heavy marble hydrotherapy fountain and, hurling it through a barred window, escapes to Canada. Casting Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched Kirk Douglas originated the role of McMurphy in a stage production, and then bought the film rights, hoping to play McMurphy on the screen. He passed the production rights to his son, Michael Douglas, who decided his father was too old for the role. Kirk was reportedly angry at his son for a time afterwards because of this. Actor James Caan was originally offered the McMurphy role, and Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman were considered as well. The role of domineering Nurse Ratched was turned down by six actresses, Anne Bancroft, Colleen Dewhurst, Geraldine Page, Ellen Burstyn, Jane Fonda, and Angela Lansbury, until Louise Fletcher accepted casting only a week before filming began. Actor Role Jack Nicholson Randle Patrick McMurphy Louise Fletcher Nurse Mildred Ratched William Redfield Dale Harding Dean R. Brooks Dr. John Spivey Scatman Crothers Orderly Turkle Danny DeVito Martini William Duell Jim Sefelt Brad Dourif Billy Bibbit Christopher Lloyd Max Taber Will Sampson Chief Bromden Vincent Schiavelli Frederickson Nathan George Attendant Washington Mwako Cumbuka Attendant Warren Josip Elic Pete Bancini Lan Fendors Nurse Itsu Ken Kenny Beans Garfield Alonzo Brown Miller Michael Berryman Ellis Peter Brocco Colonel Matterson Sydney Lassick Charlie Cheswick Mimi Sarkisian Nurse Pilbow Title Interpretation The origin of the title is often disputed, however, it is believed to come from a poem by Louis Untermeyer called "Rainbow in the Sky."
"Wire, briar, limber-lock Three geese in a flock One flew east, one flew west And one flew over the cuckoo's nest." The "one [that] flew east" is McMurphy, and the "one [that] flew west" is Nurse Ratched, illustrating their opposite directions and rivalry. "And one flew over the cuckoo's nest" describes Chief who was able to escape the institute of mentally ill patients. It loses the significance it had in the novel, in which the line is a part of a rhyme Chief Bromden remembers from his childhood. This detail was not included in the film. The film received mixed reviews from critics. Roger Ebert (who would later win a Pulitzer Prize that year) claimed that "Milos Forman's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is a film so good in so many of its parts that there's a temptation to forgive it when it goes wrong. But it does go wrong, insisting on making larger points than its story really should carry, so that at the end, the human qualities of the characters get lost in the significance of it all. And yet there are those moments of brilliance". Ebert would later put the film on his "Great Movies" list. A.D. Murphy of Variety Magazine wrote a mixed review as well. The film went on to win a total of five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Jack Nicholson (who played McMurphy), Best Actress for Louise Fletcher (who played Nurse Ratched), Best Direction for Milo Forman, as well as Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. (One of the other nominees for Best Actress that year, AnnMargret, was also in a film that featured Jack Nicholson, Tommy.) Today, the film is considered to be one of the greatest American films and has ranked as number 20 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 greatest American films, Nurse Ratched was ranked number 5 on the Institute's list of 50 Greatest Villains, and the film consistently ranks in the top 12 on the Internet Movie Database. Kesey himself did not hide his dislike of the film, particularly the casting of Nicholson as McMurphy (the characters were based on actual patients Kesey knew from a mental hospital). Kesey also loathed the fact that the film was not told through the eyes of Chief Bromden, as the book was, for he saw this as fundamental to the story. Kesey claimed to have never seen the film for these reasons. The film has been deemed "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In popular culture * The song "Shadows that Move" by metal band Mastodon includes a famous part from this film right before McMurphy is subdued towards the end by Nurse Ratched's mind games. * The song "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" by heavy metal band Metallica was inspired by this movie. * Clips of the movie sometimes appear on The Opie and Anthony Show. * The music video for Green Day's Basket Case contains several references to the movie.
* The episode of Futurama "Insane in the Mainframe" features a robotic nurse called "Nurse Ratchet". * The film has been parodied in several Simpsons episodes: o In one episode,"The Old Man and the "C" Student" Bart escapes with the inhabitants of a Retirement home, and goes boating with them, just like McMurphy does in the film. The Chief is also depicted in the same episode, as he rips a fountain and throws it out of the window to escape, just like in the filmexcept the retirement home's door was open. The Chief then throws the fountain back through another window, claiming "Forgot my hat." o In another episode, "So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show", Homer is hospitalised by a practical joke by Bart. When Moe and Barney come to visit him, Moe brings a can of Duff Beer as a present. Homer immediately starts shrieking at the sight of the can, and Barney exclaims "I can't stand to see him like this!" before smothering him with a pillow, ripping a water fountain out of the floor and using it to break a window, and then proceeding to run into the distance. This is a satirical retelling of the last scenes of the film. o In an earlier episode, "Stark Raving Dad", Homer is admitted to a mental institution for wearing a pink shirt to work at the power plant. Characters in a long pan shot appear to be parodies of Cuckoo's Nest characters. Homer says "Hello!" to a very Chief-like character, who startles doctors by responding in kind, explaining "Well it's about time someone opened up to me." * A popular pub in downtown Wyandotte, Michigan was named R.P. McMurphy's shortly after the movie was released. * In the British sit-com Spaced (second series, third episode), habitually unemployed writer Daisy gets a job in a restaurant. Almost everything about this plot line is a direct parody of the film, from the characters to lines like "take these, it'll make it easier" (referring to a pair of rubber gloves as Daisy is taken downstairs to wash up). One of the restaurant employees is in fact portrayed by Tim Sampson, son of Will Sampson. * In the comedy show The Wrong Coast, Ted Danson, asking to be called "Becker" lists one of the ways to use his name as "One flew over the Becker's nest". * One Monsterpiece Theater skit on Sesame Street featured a parody of this film, featuring a number one flying over a cuckoo's nest. * R.P. McMurphy is the title of a song by Welsh band Manic Street Preachers taken from the 1991 single Stay Beautiful