Episode #1438

American Icons: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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Friday, September 20, 2013

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Studio 360 American Icons

This is the story of America’s fight against authority.

Ken Kesey had worked in a mental hospital, but his first novel was really a parable of what happens when you stand up to the Man — a counterculture fable that doesn’t end well. Despite his far-reaching influence, Kesey was shut out by filmmakers who turned the story into an Oscar-sweeping phenomenon. Cuckoo’s Nest changed how many people thought about mental illness and institutions. Sherman Alexie debunks the myth of the silent Indian; we visit Oregon State Hospital, where the director played himself on screen; a psychiatrist explains how the movie gave mental hospitals a bad name, with tragic consequences; and actress Louise Fletcher takes us into the mind of one of the most fearsome movie villains, the sweet-faced Nurse Ratched. “She doesn’t see her behavior as it really is. Who does? Who sees that they’re really evil?”

Passages from the audiobook narrated by Ken Kesey were provided courtesy of HighBridge Audio.

 

 

Bonus Track: Kurt Andersen's full interview with Louise Fletcher

Hear Kurt's entire conversation with Fletcher, including why "no studio in town would touch this movie," and how she was cast in the role for which she won an Oscar.

 

 

 

Slideshow: Behind-the-scenes of the film 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest American Icons Studio 360
© 1975 The Saul Zaentz Company, All Rights Reserved.

The original movie poster for the 1975 adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Will Sampson American Icons Studio 360
© 1975 The Saul Zaentz Company, All Rights Reserved.

The novel is told through the eyes of Chief Bromden. When One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was adapted into a film, the Chief becomes a silent secondary character (portrayed here by Will Sampson). 

Jack Nicholson One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest American Icons Studio 360
© 1975 The Saul Zaentz Company, All Rights Reserved.

Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy, a new patient in the Oregon State Mental Hospital.

Jack Nicholson Milos Forman One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest American Icons Studio 360
© 1975 The Saul Zaentz Company, All Rights Reserved.

Jack Nicholson and another actor play a scene while director Milos Forman watches. 

Louise Fletcher Nurse Ratched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest American Icons Studio 360
© 1975 The Saul Zaentz Company, All Rights Reserved.

Louise Fletcher plays Nurse Ratched, a "perversion of feminity" according to scholar Leslie Horst who sees the character as a warning about "the danger of women who have power." Fletcher won an Oscar for her performance in the film. 

Louise Fletcher Milos Forman One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest American Icons Studio 360
© 1975 The Saul Zaentz Company, All Rights Reserved.

Louise Fletcher on the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with the cast and director Milos Forman (at right). 

Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Louise Fletcher American Icons Studio 360

The October 6, 2012 opening of the Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health. From left to right: Dr. Dean Brooks (in wheelchair), Louise Fletcher, Board President Hazel Patton, Salem mayor Anna Peterson, and State Representative Vicki Berger.  

Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest American Icons Studio 360
Courtesy of the Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health (Ron Cooper)

An exhibit from the museum: a psychiatrist's couch, lobotomy table, a photograph (on the left) of Dr. Brooks teaching, and (on the right) a surgical suite. The stand on the far right of the photo holds surgical and anesthesia instruments.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey American Icons Studio 360
Courtesy of Viking

The original cover from the 1962 publication of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey American Icons Studio 360
Courtesy of Penguin

A 1999 cover that plays on the themes of imprisonment and confinement in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey American Icons Studio 360
Courtesy of Penguin

The 2002 cover in paperback, still available today. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey American Icons Studio 360
Courtesy of Penguin

A 2007 edition of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest from a series where Penguin commissioned comic artists to draw new covers for classic novels. This edition was illustrated by Joe Sacco.

    Music Playlist
  1. Suite for Violin and American Gamelan
    Artist: Lou Harrison
    Album: La Koro Sutro
    Label: New Albion Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Opening Theme)
    Artist: Jack Nitzsche
    Album: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Fantasy
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Why Don'tcha Do Me Right
    Artist: Frank Zappa
    Album: Absolutely Free
    Label: Zappa Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. Act of Love
    Artist: Jack Nitzsche
    Album: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Fantasy
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  5. I-6
    Artist: Bun-Ching Lam
    Album: Like Water
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  6. Emergency Room
    Artist: Mychael Danna
    Album: Girl, Interrupted (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Tvt
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  7. The Ward
    Artist: Mychael Danna
    Album: Girl, Interrupted (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Tvt
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  8. Rock Me to Sleep
    Artist: Henry Mancini
    Album: Touch of Evil (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Varese Sarabande
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  9. Vizio Di Uccidere
    Artist: Ennio Morricone
    Album: For A Fistful of Dollars (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Razor & Tie
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  10. Per Un Pugno Di Dollari (Titoli)"
    Artist: Ennio Morricone
    Album: For A Fistful of Dollars (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Razor & Tie
    Purchase: Amazon
  11. Charmaine
    Artist: Jack Nitzsche
    Album: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Fantasy
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  12. O' Venezia Venaga Venusia
    Artist: Nino Rota
    Album: Il Casanova di Feferico Fellini (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: CAM
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  13. Late Anthropocene
    Artist: Brian Eno
    Album: Small Craft on a Milk Sea
    Label: Warp Records
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  14. Daddy's Money
    Artist: Mychael Danna
    Album: Girl, Interrupted (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Tvt
    Purchase: Amazon
  15. Four-Day Interval
    Artist: Tortoise
    Album: TNT
    Label: Thrill Jockey
    Purchase: Amazon
  16. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Closing Theme)
    Artist: Jack Nitzsche
    Album: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Fantasy
    Purchase: Amazon

Guests:

Sherman Alexie, Ken Babbs, Dr. Dean Brooks, Brad Dourif, Kathryn Dysart, Louise Fletcher, Leslie Horst, Mindy Lewis, Chuck Palahniuk, Hazel Patton, Dr. John Talbott, Barbara Tepa Lupack, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, Douglas Unger and Lidia Yuknavitch

Produced by:

Jonathan Mitchell

Editors:

David Krasnow

Comments [14]

ERIC OTTO from Cincinnati OH

The opening there was a comment that in 1962 there wasn't much of a counter culture or the culture culture existed in the fringes, but that really wasn't true talking to my parents and friends living in the late 40s and 50s, there was a thriving counter culture. The NY art scene was happening at the time along with the folk culture in the Village. There was a lot of things happening around Northern California. There were lot more socialist and real communists then. Look at Irving Kristol then who was following Trotsky. North Carolina had Black Mountain College. Kerouac and his friends were hot and heavy from 1946 onward. Look at Hefner and Playboy. There was a lot of counter culture with people following Jazz. The Civil Rights movement was a big counter culture. The counter culture was happening but not being reported.

Jan. 01 2014 09:08 PM
Ben Bochner

The story of Ken Kesey's writing student who fell from grace and became The Rogue Reader:

http://theodorecarter.com/ben-bochner-is-o-u-levon-the-caverns-co-author-fell-from-grace-and-became-ken-keseys-rogue-reader/

Dec. 17 2013 09:35 AM
paddy from nj

Good reminder of what art can do.....radio, novels, plays, movies. TV.............No. 6.

Sep. 28 2013 10:39 AM
Steven Rudin from Massapequa Park, NY

Thank you for this story. It was one of the most fascinating broadcasts I have ever heard on the radio! I was a psych. major at Adelphi in the 1960s, and worked at Creedmore Mental Hospital in my senior year. I think they were really trying to improve things for the patients at that time. There was a real push to stop "warehousing" people, and move them out quickly into small home like settings. That didn't work out, for many reasons.
I don't remember the staff as evil at all, but they were paid so little that most had little education, and understanding, of mental illness. That is why they were trying to hire psych majors, I believe.
I remember the doctors being called "floor walkers" as they would come in through one door, and try to get out to the other side as soon as possible. It was really the head nurses who ran everything. The answer to most problems was more medication,unfortunately.
I would often hear the idea that it was really the people we called ill who were sane, and those labeled sane who were really insane. This tied in well with the ideas of the Counter Culture and the Anti-War movement. After working in the hospital I thought that it was a very naive view of things. The real story was much more complex.
Once again, thanks for the wonderful broadcast!

Sep. 24 2013 12:50 PM
suzinne from bronx

And when this movie came out, Hollywood mattered. The Oscars acknowledged true artistic accomplishments. That's not the case today.

Sep. 23 2013 08:25 PM
suzinne from bronx

This movie was so hot at the time, that me and me friends waited on a long two times in NYC without even getting in to see the flick. And my mother was so dense, that after seeing the movie, she asked me why did the statuesque Indian smother McMurphy?

LOVED the program having seen the movie, and reading the book thereafter.

Sep. 23 2013 08:22 PM
BAMstutz from New York City

Great show! Can someone (Terry Gilliam preferably) remake the movie as Kesey would have wanted.

Sep. 23 2013 07:34 PM
eBbr in Salt Lake from Utah

Loved the show. American Icons is a splendid series. I especially enjoyed the extended interview with Louise Fletcher.

Sep. 22 2013 03:28 PM
bob silver

I would like to suggest the Dune series by Frank Herbert and his son for a program.

Sep. 22 2013 02:20 PM
Sara Lukinson

I'm surprised that one of the central people in this story, Milos Forman, who turned the book into a mainstream classic, was left for a brief comment at the end. He had been banned by his own country for his light comic but brilliantly subversive films that satirized the power and idiocy of state bureaucracy. He had lived through both the totalitarian regimes of Nazis and Communists.
He was asked by Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz to direct the film because he was good but also because, new to this country and barely making ends meet, he was cheap, and they could not get big studio financing. He brought his style, his history and his horror of power to the film, and found in Nurse Ratched the embodiment of the State, "telling everyone how they must act and be and even feel," as your last comment from him begins to suggest

I think your program, as terrific as it was, missed an essential ingredient in how the story gripped us, and created a lasting influence. Milos Foreman was the artist who made the movie, and as a true artist, took the book and mixed it with his blood, his history, his fervor and truth.

Sep. 22 2013 12:11 PM
Tonda Marton from New York City

Team! You keep referencing the novel and the film but between these two, and continuing today, is the STAGE PLAY by Dale Wasserman.

Kirk Douglas created the role of McMurphy off-Broadway in Dale Wasserman's play ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, then years later Michael Douglas bought the film rights from Wasserman (and Kesey) to produce the film starring Jack Nicholson.

Dale Wasserman's play ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST is performed all the time, all over the country.

I myself handle the foreign-language licensing of this play, and Wasserman's CUCKOO'S NEST is virtully in production in foreign language every day of the year somewhere in the world.

Tonda Marton
The Marton Agency
New York, NY

Sep. 22 2013 10:44 AM
Vic from .

I do remember going to see, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, the week it opened by myself, twice. (I don't remember if I was high)
In my first experience, it was one of the funniest movies (in a dark way) that I had ever seen.
In my second experience, it was one of the most serious movies (in a dark way) that I had ever seen.

& In the summer of 77, I remember reading the book over a strange weekend hanging out in a cheap hotel room in Puebla City, Mexico, waiting for a bus.
It was my escape from a bad scene.

Sep. 22 2013 09:29 AM
Gautam from Gothenburg, Sweden

One of the most powerful shows that you have put up. It will certainly rank among my favourite radio shows. I did not know that the book was so different from the movie. I will have to go read the book now. Louise Fletcher's comment about evil really hit home. Congratulations.

Sep. 22 2013 06:45 AM
rsvp sanguine

why did ya'll skip speaking about the music? most unfortunate.

Sep. 21 2013 07:59 AM

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