~By Norm Robins~
Playwright Paddy Chayefsky was a complex man. Born in New York City in 1923, he served in World War II and was awarded a Purple Heart medal after he was wounded by a land mine near Aachen, Germany. Early on he fell in love with television as a medium. He wrote one of his most famous plays, Marty, specifically for TV. His male leads were vulnerable just like him, tortured just like him, and insecure just like him.
He received Academy Awards for his screenplays for Marty, The Hospital, and Network.
Chayefsky contracted cancer in 1981. He refused to go to a hospital for fear the doctors would “cut me up because of that movie I wrote about them.” He wrote the screenplay because his wife Susan received poor care in a hospital.
In Hospital Dr. Herbert Bock’s (George C. Scott) life has lost its meaning. He is the 58-year-old chief of medicine at a New York teaching hospital. His wife and children have left him, he is a boozer, and he is impotent, impotent in the broader sense. Not only is he sexually impotent, but he has lost interest in his work. His hospital patients are inexplicably dying. Suicide seems the only answer.
Here is his impotence monologue with Diana Rigg playing his 25-year-old temporary enamorata Barbara Drummond whose father is receiving treatment in Bock’s hospital:
Immediately after this scene she finds out he isn’t all that impotent. She doesn’t tell us. She shows us with a knowing smile.
The denouement of the movie is delightful.
This is among the best acted, most compelling scenes ever. This movie is worth seeing for this scene alone. The acting and directing throughout are excellent. But Scott’s acting all through the film is a wonder to behold.
The Hospital can be viewed free at amazon.com. This is the first in a three-part series of Chayefsky’s movies that we will review. In the days to come we will review his films Network and The Americanization of Emily. Stay tuned.