This was a ground-breaking film in many respects. Nicholson’s signature role as the rebellious McMurphy is one that is as bound with his acting legacy as much as Brando’s is bound with Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar or Bogart’s Rick from Casablanca. The supporting cast is also memorable, including acclaimed actors such as Scatman Crothers, Danny DeVito, Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, and Christopher Lloyd.
And the story still resonates today, forty years after the film was made. It’s a story involving not only personal freedom, but the fine line we all walk in terms of moral relativity of good and evil and right vs wrong. Was Nurse Ratched acting with evil intent or did she simply make moral judgments based on the rules set by the confining nature of a structured institution which was a home for the mentally ill?
The film swept the major categories in 1975, a feat that has occurred only three times in the history of the Oscars. The only other two films that swept the Academy Awards were It Happened One Night in 1934, and the very different winner, The Silence of the Lambs, from 1991. One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest was based on the book by Ken Kesey, and was written in 1962. In Kesey’s book, the story was told from the point of view of McMurphy’s silent Indian friend, Chief Bromden.
Tampa Theatre is screening One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest on Sunday, January 17 at 3:00 pm.