Cast & Crew
George C Scott
Richard A. Dysart
At the chaotic Manhattan Medical Center, intern Dr. Schaefer makes multiple mistakes that lead to the death of patient Mr. Guernsey, then uses Guernsey's now-empty bed for an assignation with an orderly. The next morning, Nurse Perez finds the intern dead in the bed, hooked up to an IV. Hospital administrator John Sundstrom calls in Dr. Herbert Bock, the hospital's chief of staff, and chastises him for failing to concentrate on his work. Bock, who is suicidal due to the collapse of his marriage, his alienation from his two grown children and his disillusionment with the field of medicine, promises to focus, and delves into Schaefer's mysterious death. He soon learns that the night nurses, assuming the sleeping Schaefer was Guernsey, administered a glucose IV that sent him into diabetic shock, and after admonishing the head nurse, Bock orders a pathology workup. Back in his office, he escapes a barrage of complaints about the underfunded, overworked staff by visiting the resident psychiatrist, Dr. Joe Einhorn. Bock discusses his actue depression, explaining that his reputation as a "boy wonder" put pressure on him to succeed, and combined with his gloomy home life led to suicidal thoughts, but when Einhorn presses him to take better care of himself, Bock declares that he simply must concentrate on work. Later, in the emergency ward, literal-minded accountant Mrs. Cushing stumbles upon the abandoned, dead body of research doctor Elroy Ives. Meanwhile, hospital executive Milton Mead's brother, William, is admitted for surgery and is furious to learn that no private rooms are available. Soon after, senior resident Brubaker informs Bock that Edward Drummond, a Methodist missionary who lives with the Apaches in Mexico, has lapsed into a coma as a result of mistreatment by various staff members, and his daughter Barbara has arrived to transport him back to Mexico. After hearing the horrifying story of Drummond's care, Bock determines to fire two of the man's doctors, Ives, whom Bock does not realize has died, and a surgeon named Welbeck who spends far more time incorporating and trading shares in his businesses than on his patients. Late that night, Barbara and an Indian shaman named Blacktree perform a ritual over Drummond, and although the nurses are appalled, Bock allows them to continue. Barbara accompanies him back to his office to order an ambulance to transport her father to the airport the next day. There, she tells Bock the story of her father's calling: After years as a successful doctor, he one day began speaking in tongues, only to discover that he was fluently conversing in an esoteric Apache dialect. Believing he had been called by God, he moved to a mission in Mexico, while she dabbled in drugs and other counterculture interests until she finally settled down with him. Barbara makes her interest in Bock clear, but he responds that he is impotent, and compares Barbara to his son, a hippie who preaches love but harbors hatred. When Barbara remains nonplussed, Bock shouts that the impotent are the true despised minority, and that his real lust is for a sense of permanent worth. Although he pioneered the field of immunology, he continues, he has now lost his desire to work and feels worthless. Furious, he throws the girl out, then prepares to inject himself with an overdose of potassium. Barbara returns, however, and when he attacks her, she responds with passion, and soon they are making love. The next morning, Bock asks Barbara to stay in town for a week, but she refuses, citing several prophetic nightmares she has had about the hospital. Instead, she declares her love and states firmly that he should join her in Mexico, as he loves her and can do necessary work there. Although at first he calls her crazy and declares he must stay to run the hospital, he soon admits that he loves her and agrees to consider her proposal to leave together within hours. Meanwhile, a demonstration rages outside protesting the eviction of black families from condemned buildings in order to make room for the hospital's new drug rehabilitation center. Sundstrom enters into a community discussion with the various factions insisting that the hospital is guilty of racism, sexism, imperialism and consumerism. At the same time, a team of surgeons begins an operation on a woman, only to realize that the woman on the operating table is neither the correct patient, nor alive. She is soon identified as Theresa Campanelli, one of Drummond's nurses. Bock has learned that Schaefer's blood contained a high dosage of insulin, proving he was murdered, and pauses in his investigation to tell Barbara that he still wants her to stay. She replies that she is offering silence, solitude and herself. Just then, someone mentions that a man wearing Schaefer's nametag is wandering the hospital. Realizing that all of the dead doctors worked on Drummond, and that the person wearing the dead doctor's name tag is probably the murderer, Bock visits Drummond's room. Although he finds the patient peacefully in bed, once Bock turns around, Drummond, perfectly healthy, attacks him from behind. Barbara walks in and helps restrain her father, who admits that he killed the people responsible for his poor treatment. Recalling how Guernsey's ghost commanded him to do God's will by committing murder, Drummond details how he killed each person simply by making them patients in their own hospital: For instance, Drummond brought Ives to the ER still alive, but the negligent interns left him to die. When Barbara announces that she must take her father back to Mexico to protect him, Bock offers to accompany them. They leave the room to arrange transportation, not realizing that Drummond's last planned victim, Welbeck, is just arriving. As Welbeck receives a phone call informing him that his partner has embezzled all their money, a fire breaks out in the condemned building and the protestors erupt in a riot. In the hospital, Welbeck suffers a heart attack from shock, and when he collapses onto Drummond's bed, the hospital staff assumes he is Drummond. Bock allows them to believe this, and he and Barbara surreptitiously hide Welbeck's wallet, pack Drummond's clothes and slip out. As they run to the ambulance, the protestors storm the hospital, joined by the young doctors on staff. Barbara loads her father into the ambulance, but Bock remains in the street and, realizing that his true calling rests with the people and institution that need him, tells her he must be stay. He kisses her goodbye and, joined by a resigned Sundstrom, re-enters the fray that surrounds his hospital.
George C Scott
Richard A. Dysart
William Perlow M.d.
Ruth Attaway Morrison
Milton Earl Forrest
Paul B. Price
Victor J. Kemper
Best Writing, Screenplay
The gallows humor of The Hospital was years ahead of its time when it first appeared in 1971 and the film's unusual mixture of black comedy and cynical outrage still appears fresh when compared to the programmed dramatics of TV medical series like E.R.. Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was partially inspired to write this attack on institutionalized medicine after his wife's unhappy experience in a hospital while suffering from a neurological disorder. The incompetence and hospital staff apathy she encountered there so enraged Chayefsky that he funneled his frustrations into this screenplay. He also interviewed numerous doctors, nurses, surgeons, and administrators and poured over actual malpractice suits before his scenario began to take shape.
Although Chayefsky had only worked on one film - the multi-million dollar flop, Paint Your Wagon - since his last critical success, The Americanization of Emily in 1964, he was still able to secure full creative approval on every aspect of The Hospital. His first choice for the role of Dr. Bock was George C. Scott even though United Artists wanted him to consider Burt Lancaster and Walter Matthau. Even though Scott's salary demands were at first refused, Chayefsky persisted and got his leading man in the end. For director, Michael Ritchie was hired but almost immediately clashed with Chayefsky over the set design. He was soon fired and replaced with Arthur Hiller who had worked with Chayefsky previously on The Americanization of Emily. As Barbara Drummond, the hospital visitor who seduces Dr. Bock in his office, Jane Fonda was first considered but Scott reportedly vetoed the offer with his comment, "still too much of a hippy, and in need of a bath." Ali MacGraw and Candice Bergen were also considered but Chayefsky had his heart set on Diana Rigg, a graduate of the British Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and an acclaimed London stage actress. Though Rigg at first turned down the role, she changed her mind after Barnard Hughes (cast as her father in the film) visited her in her dressing room after a performance of Abelard and Heloise and told her she was crazy to pass up an opportunity to work with Chayefsky.
Filmed at the Metropolitan Hospital on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, The Hospital had its share of expected "fireworks" during production which was no surprise since both Chayefsky and George C. Scott were volatile, opinionated men who rarely compromised on their artistic principles. Scott was going through a difficult period in his marriage to Colleen Dewhurst at the time and was drinking heavily during filming. Some days he simply didn't show up on the set while other days he arrived drunk and unable to work. In some ways his behavior was startlingly similar to the angry, suicidal character he was playing. Regardless, Scott was not an actor who took direction easily. Chayefsky found this out when he offered some acting suggestions to Scott for a specific scene and Scott exploded, screaming 'You do your f**king writing! And I'll do the acting!" Yet, somehow Scott pulled himself together and gave a magnificent performance, which earned his a Best Actor Oscar® nomination. Chayefsky did even better. His script for The Hospital won the Academy Award® for Best Screenplay (He would also win it for Network in 1976).
In Mad as Hell, a biography of Paddy Chayefsky by Shaun Considine, director Arthur Hiller commented on the acclaimed playwright: "People often say to me, 'You've done two pictures with Paddy, how did you get through it?' My answer always is, 'When a genius speaks, I listen.' He's really the only genius I ever worked with. He was way above the rest of us."
Director: Arthur Hiller
Producer: Howard Gottfried, Jack Grossberg (associate)
Screenplay: Paddy Chayefsky
Cinematography: Victor J. Kemper
Music: Morris Surdin
Cast: George C. Scott (Dr. Herbert Bock), Diana Rigg (Miss Barbara Drummond), Barnard Hughes (Edmund Drummond), Richard A. Dysart (Dr. Welbeck), Stephen Elliott (Dr. John Sundstrom), Andrew Duncan (William Mead), Donald Harron (Dr. Milton Mead)
by Jeff Stafford
So at 9:15 this morning I rang for my nurse...- Drummond
Rang for your nurse?- Bock
To ensure one full hour of uninterrupted privacy.- Drummond
I mean, where do you train your nurses, Mrs. Christie--Dachau?- Herbert Bock
Now what in hell am I going to tell this boy Schaefer's parents? That a substitute nurse assassinated him because she couldn't tell the doctors from the patients on the floor?- Herbert Bock
We've established the most enormous medical entity ever conceived...and people are sicker than ever. We cure nothing! We heal nothing!- Herbert Bock
You know, when I say impotent, I don't mean merely limp. When I say impotent, I mean I've lost even my desire to work. That's a hell of a lot more primal passion than sex. I've lost my reason for being... my purpose. The only thing I ever truly loved.- Herbert Bock
This film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1995.
The opening title credit reads "The Hospital by Paddy Chayevsky." The film begins with an uncredited voice-over narration by Chayevsky, describing the events that have led up to "Dr. Schaefer" using the bed of his dead patient to have a tryst. The credits then roll. No other narration is heard during the film. Although Andrew Duncan is credited above Donald Harron in the first opening cast credits, he is listed below Harron in the end credits, which also include the following written statement: "We gratefully acknowledge the co-operation of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation and the Dept. of Public Works of the City of New York."
According to Filmfacts, Chayevsky formed a production company in order to retain some control over the production. The writer stated in a January 3, 1972 New York Times interview that he "was in on all basic decisions, including the final cut." Although Michael Ritchie was originally set to direct The Hospital, on March 30, 1970 Daily Variety announced that he was leaving the production due to "differences" and that Arthur Hiller had been hired to take over directing, in a deal that guaranteed him a percentage of the profits.
Chayevsky noted in the New York Times interview that he saw the main theme of The Hospital as dealing with personal responsibility in a declining society. In a January 1972 LAHExam article, he stated that he made the character of "Dr. Herbert Bock" impotent "to represent the impotence of the American middle class," and noted that although he and George C. Scott fought during the filming, he was pleased with the actor's performance. That article added that the film was shot in a New York hospital's new, as-yet-unused psychiatry wing.
The Hospital marked Chayevsky's first original screenplay; the first American feature film for composer Morris Surdin; and the producing debut of Howard Gottfried, who went on the produce Network (1976, ) and Body Double (1984). It also marked the second collaboration between Hiller and Chayevsky, who had worked together on 1964's The Americanization of Emily. Actors Stockard Channing, Christopher Guest and Dennis Dugan made their feature film debuts in The Hospital. A modern source adds Shawn McAllister (Medical intern) and Lonnie Burr(Intern) to the cast. The Los Angeles Times review mistakenly credits Dave Grusin with the score.
Many reviews compared the film to M*A*S*H*, the 1970 medical satire directed by Robert Altman (see below). Although many critics disliked the film's ending, believing that revealing a mad murderer undercut Chayevsky's point about doctors' ineptitude, The Hospital generally won critical acclaim, and Chayevsky was awarded the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. Despite the fact that Scott had declined an Oscar nomination for The Hustler (1961) and, just the previous year, had refused to accept the Oscar he won for his performance in Patton (see below for both), he was once again nominated for Best Actor for The Hospital. In addition, Chayevsky won and Scott was nominated for BAFTAs; Chayevsky won and Scott and Diana Rigg were nominated for Golden Globe Awards; and Chayevsky won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Screenplay.
Chayevsky won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Screenplay.
Released in United States Winter December 1971
"The Hospital" was Chayevsky's first original screenplay.
Feature film debuts for Stockard Channing, Christopher Guest and Dennis Dugan. (Guest and Dugan did not receive onscreen credit.)
Selected in 1995 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Released in United States Winter December 1971