Released in 1971, The Hospital is almost as good as Paddy Chayefsky’s later movie, Network. Set, you guessed it in a New York hospital where mayhem prevails. Outside radicals protest the hospital’s move to repurpose an apartment building, while inside medical accidents seem to abound. Accidental deaths are so common it’s farcical, which is Chayefsky’s point. He aims to show the medical profession at its worse.
George C. Scott plays, the main character, the chief of staff, a middle aged newly divorced failure of a father, who couldn’t get through the day with out a bottle of vodka. He tries therapy, but realizes it’s just not going to work for him. He’s a man who knows himself so well and doesn’t believe his own b.s. He’s ready to kill himself when — the “remedial dame” as my Shakespeare prof would say, enters. An ex-junkie, ex-nurse who wants to pull her father out of the hospital before the quack who’s treating him kills him.
If you’ve seen Network, you’ll spot a lot of similarities: the May/December romance, the crazy prophet, the skewering of the system, and the intelligent dialog (that’s so rare today – Alan Sorkin can give us some but how many others?)
As I watched, I kept thinking God help me, I don’t ever want to be in this sort of hospital. I do think most have gotten much better than this one, but since the University of Chicago is dealing with the accidental death of a board member, a board member, no less, The Hospital is still relevant. It moves quickly and keeps the audience on their toes all the way up to the unexpected ending. Bravo.
Again, I must have placed this on my Netflix queue months ago. I love these surprises.