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Film / The Hasty Heart

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The Hasty Heart is a 1949 British-American World War II drama film adapted from the play of the same name by John Patrick, directed by Vincent Sherman and starring Richard Todd, Patricia Neal, and Ronald Reagan.

It is August, 1945, in the Burma theater of operations. On what is literally the last day of the war, August 14, Cpl. Lachlan MacLachlan (Todd) is hit in the back with a piece of shrapnel from a land mine. The doctors at an army field hospital save his life, but his kidney is destroyed and has to be removed. That turns out to be very bad, as the doctors discover that his other kidney is defective, dooming him to death by renal failure and uremic poisoning in a matter of weeks. The doctor in charge of the field hospital elects not to tell him.

The ward MacLachlan is introduced into includes a clutch of generic characters, like an Australian called "Digger", a New Zealander called "Kiwi", a Brit called "Tommy", an American called "Yank" (Reagan), and "Blossom", a Basuto who's called that because it's the only English word he knows. They're looked after by "Sister" Margaret (Neal), who is not a nun but is the head nurse. The other patients take a quick dislike to MacLachlan, who is rude, abrasive, and stand-offish. When the doctor asks the men to befriend MacLachlan in his final days, they give it their best shot, but an unknowing MacLachlan doesn't make it easy.

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Tropes:

  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Five of the nine characters in the movie are patients in the hospital ward, who are referred to only by generic nicknames.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Lachlan is a true Scotsman who plays the bagpipes, much to the irritation of Yank, who had a Scottish grandfather and grew to hate both him and his bagpipes.
  • Girly Skirt Twirl: A pretty rare male version as the gang asks Lachlan to demonstrate how a Scotsman makes a turn on the march, while he's wearing the kilt. They're trying to induce a Girly Skirt Twirl to find out if he's Going Commando.
  • Going Commando: A Discussed Trope that turns into a Running Gag as the gang wonders what, if anything, a Scotsman wears under his kilt.
  • Hand Signals: How Lachlan's CO signals him and another soldier to go around the flank of the Japanese. The plan is quickly short-circuited when another soldier steps on a mine.
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  • Hates Everyone Equally: Lachlan is quite the bitter misanthrope, making it difficult for everyone when they try and make friends with him.
    "I do not like to have my freedom nibbled into!"
  • Hospital Hottie: Sister Margaret wears a very snug, flattering uniform. Lachlan falls in love with her, and Yank clearly has unrequited feelings for her, as evidenced by his melancholy "no" when Lachlan asks if Margaret has ever kissed a patient.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: The doctor doesn't tell Lachlan that he's doomed to die in a matter of weeks. Lachlan is bitter and angry at everyone else for keeping the secret, once he finds out.
  • Manly Tears: Lachlan's hard shell breaks all at once, as he bursts into tears when the gang gives him presents and cake for his birthday.
  • Narrator: Only for the opening sequence setting the scene.
  • Parenthetical Swearing: Margaret's explanation of Lachlan's past as the poor child of an unwed mother gives Yank the chance to call him a bastard.
    Margaret: He's a foundling; his mother wasn't married. Do you know what that means?
    Beat
    Yank: He sure is.
  • Stock Footage: Of the Burma campaign, featuring an impressively smooth transition from the stock footage to the action of the story.
  • Title Drop: Lachlan doesn't want to rush things with Margaret, saying "They say that sorrow is born in the hasty heart."
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Lachlan, unsurprisingly, doesn't take the news well.
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