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The Hasty Heart

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The Hasty Heart (1949) starring Richard Todd, Ronald Reagan, Patricia Neal - Warner Brothers most raved-about hit since "Johnny Belinda"
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The Hasty Heart (1949) starring Richard Todd, Ronald Reagan, Patricia Neal

Synopsis of The Hasty Heart

 In The Hasty Heart, a group of Allied soldiers are recovering in a hospital of Burma, when a dour Scot is added to their ranks. The Scot is dying, unknown to himself.  Can the soldiers and nurse reach out to him?

Review of The Hasty Heart

As a rule, I don’t care for sad movies, or movies with a sad ending.  I’m willing to make an exception for The Lonely Heart, however.  It’s a World War II movie where a group of Allied soldiers are recovering from various illnesses and injuries in Burma.  They’re told that they’re going to be receiving a new member – a Scot.  This new man is terminally ill, although he doesn’t know it.  The kindly nurse (Patricia Neal) encourages them to make him welcome in the few weeks he has left.

The Scot, Lachie (Richard Todd) is a sour, bitter man. Attempts to be friendly to him are like trying to hug a cactus.  Despite the other men’s attempts, he rebuffs all courtesies and kindnesses.  Until, at the nurse’s insistence, they throw him a birthday party, which finally breaks through his barriers. For the first time in his life, Lachie both has friends, and begins to act friendly. He even falls in love with his lovely nurse.  Until his commanding officer lets him know of this condition – and that the others already knew.

There’s nothing that Lachie despises more that pity — and he pushes his friends away. They attempt to convince him of their sincerity, but fail … Until the final minutes of the movie.  As I say, it’s a sad movie. Lachie is going to die, regardless.  The only question is: will he die alone, or with his friends?  There are wonderful performances all around.  Some people tend to dismiss Ronald Reagan’s acting ability – but The Hasty Heart proves them wrong.  Richard Todd was nominated for an Oscar for his performance, and deservedly so.  I strongly recommend The Hasty Heart, and give it four stars.

Cast of characters in The Hasty Heart

  • Yank (Ronald Reagan, Knute Rockne All American) – the American, who has some antipathy towards Scots, due to his harsh Scottish grandfather. A very enjoyable performance.
  • Sister Parker (Patricia NealThe Day the Earth Stood Still) – the nurse in charge of the men, compassionate and kind. She tells them of Lachie’s condition and looks out for him. A fine performance by a very good actress.
  • Lachie (Richard ToddA Man Called Peter) – the dour Scot, who’s had a hard life and protects himself from being hurt by projecting a harsh exterior. A kind, lonely, man who desperately needs friends. An excellent performance.
  • Lt. Col. Dunn (Anthony NichollsThe Omen) – commanding officer. A minor, but important, role.
  • Tommy (Howard Marion-CrawfordLawrence of Arabia) – Bearded Englishman, a likeable fellow.
  • Kiwi (Ralph MichaelA Night to Remember) – A pudgy New Zealander, very likeable – who wants to win a bet about what’s under Lachie’s kilt.
  • Blossom (Orlando MartinsThe Nun’s Story) – a nice, likeable soldier who neither speaks nor understands English.  A point that becomes crucial.

Editorial review of The Hasty Heart courtesy of

Ronald Reagan’s career cooled after the Second World War, and he plays a second lead in 1949’s The Hasty Heart, an adaptation of a hit play. Set in a military hospital in Burma just after the war, the story hinges on a group of patients concealing a fatal prognosis from an ailing Scotsman (Richard Todd). The creaking of the play is all too apparent, although Todd’s performance is expert. Patricia Neal, still new to movies, plays the nurse in charge. Reagan gets to display his photographic memory by reeling off the books of the Old Testament by rote. –Robert Horton

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