“You don’t make friends — period!”
When a nurse (Patricia Neal) serving in post-WWII Burma learns one of her patients (Richard Todd) has just a few weeks to live, she instructs her multinational group of wounded wards — including a Yank (Ronald Reagan), an Englishman (Howard Marion-Crawford), a Kiwi (Ralph Michael), and a Basuto-speaking African (Orlando Martins) — to befriend Scottish Todd by any means necessary, including looking past his decidedly churlish and off-standing manner.
The essential premise of this adaptation (directed by Vincent Sherman) of John Patrick’s stage play is deeply troublesome: a man isn’t informed he’s about to die, though everyone around him knows. While it’s challenging getting past this moral morass, the film is well-crafted and well-acted, featuring Oscar-nominated Todd (appropriately fierce and memorable) in his screen debut, Neal as a compassionate but no-nonsense nurse, and Reagan simply — being Reagan. A running gag about what a Scotsman wears under his kilt (or not) becomes tiresome, and it’s painfully egregious to watch Nigerian-British actor Orlando Martins given such a demeaning role as an “African” (from where, exactly?) who only speaks one word of English: the name — “Blossom” — given to him by his compatriots. (It’s ironic that Martins was purportedly “the most talkative person on the set.”) With all that said, the story’s central message that we shouldn’t take a person’s gruff exterior as their “true” nature is an important one, and it’s heart-warming to see the group of men banding together for Todd’s sake.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Richard Todd as Lachie
- Patricia Neal as Sister Parker
- Wilkie Cooper’s cinematography
No, but though it’s certainly worth a one-time look.