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Feb 9, 2019

Based on John Patrick’s popular 1945 play, The Hasty Heart became a smash screen hit four years later – taking an already-Cold-War-weary public back to the waning days of a marginally less cynical conflict. Our characters are convalescing British Empire conscripts at a MASH unit in Burma – along with one gruff, pragmatic “Yank” (Reagan, dusting off his Brother Rat roommate persona). All of the acting accolades went to Richard Todd, as a singularly standoffish Scot, who refuses to reveal what’s under his kilt, but shows his ass anytime anyone tries to speak to him.

Only one member of our panel found the film (which takes a pretty unique approach to the “days are numbered” drama) particularly affecting, but everyone had something to say about it. The Gipper once again offers top-notch support to a star who is doing more of the obvious heavy lifting, effortlessly embodying the audience’s changing perspective on the damaged young man at the heart of the tale.

The film displays the 1949 version of a “woke” attitude toward a Basuto soldier who is just part of the gang – but never gets a chance to speak (his lack of English becomes a key plot point toward the end). Nigerian actor Orlando Martins does what he can with the role, but the persistence of white supremacist attitudes in this undeniably “progressive” movie are agonizingly apparent.

On the other hand, the story absolutely leans into (and allows itself to depend upon) an insanely retrograde notion of Scottish national character as some unholy combination of the worst aspects of Scrooge McDuck, John Knox, and James Doohan’s Star Trek accent. It’s pretty close to miraculous that Todd was able to wring so much pathos out of such an inadequately conceived character. Of course, his jubilant post-conversion outburst against the world capitalist order went a long way with us.   

Recorded in September 2018, on the eve of another grotesque municipal election in Toronto.

Novel suggestion:

Peter Delacorte's Time on My Hands

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