Operation Cuckoo's Nest

Gregory Peck in Captain Newman, M.D. (1963)

It's 1944 and Captain Josiah Newman (Gregory Peck - To Kill a Mockingbird) is head of a neuropsychology ward on a military base in Arizona where his particular brand of treatment is treated with scepticism by others who think the men in his care are just pulling a fast one to avoid returning to active service. With supplies and staffing short Newman manages to snag himself Jake Leibowitz (Tony Curtis - Spartacus) a quick talking orderly with a skill for acquiring what ever is needed whilst also persuading Chief nurse Lt. Francie Corum (Angie Dickinson - Ocean's Eleven) to transfer to his unit. With their help Newman tries to help each of the men in his care be it through empathy and humour or tough love.

There is a very simple way to explain "Captain Newman, M.D." and that is to call it a forerunner to that great TV series "M*A*S*H". It has that same mix of humour and drama so that you are amused but often moved by the stories of each of the patients within Newman's care. But at the same time it has that earlier Hollywood feel and with Tony Curtis starring as a quick talking young man who can acquire things it also has a touch of the "Operation Petticoat" about it.

Angie Dickinson in Captain Newman, M.D. (1963)

But whilst it is simple to explain what you get with "Captain Newman, M.D." there is so much to it than first meets the eye. The cinematography is beautiful with wonderful use of light and shade as well as angles to take advantage of the location. And when you listen to the words being said even during the funny scenes everyone feels perfect, serving a purpose when it comes to establishing the character it is coming from.

That brings me to the cast and the trio of Gregory Peck, Tony Curtis and Angie Dickinson work well together sparking off of each other in very different ways with Tony Curtis firing off the laughs whilst Dickinson radiates beauty and warmth. But "Captain Newman, M.D." owes as much to the supporting cast as it does the main with many familiar names and faces including Robert Duvall delivering touching portrayals of men affected by war.

What this all boils down to is that "Captain Newman, M.D." is still despite being over 50 years a wonderful movie which will move you as much as it will make you laugh. But it is also a beautiful shot movie which lifts it to being more than just an old movie.

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