One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on TCM

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest swept the top awards at the 1975 Academy Awards. It plays on TCM this month and I wrote about it for the website.

Jack Nicholson as McMurphy

A rare screen adaptation of a beloved novel that maintains the emotional and dramatic power of the original while establishing its own distinctive approach to the story, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) is an underdog masterpiece. “It was a classic story: the story of an individual fighting the system,” is how producer Michael Douglas explained his attraction to Ken Kesey’s novel about a strong-willed rebel fighting a domineering head nurse in a mental hospital. “Particularly in the Sixties, people identified with this individual trying to overpower the system…” Yet it took more than a decade to come to the screen. Kirk Douglas bought the rights to Ken Kesey’s novel before it was even published in 1962. While the book became a bestseller and a counterculture classic of the time, Douglas produced a Broadway adaptation with himself in the lead role of Randle P. McMurphy and spent years trying to get a film version off the ground. Turned down by every Hollywood studio and most of the major American directors, it was finally made independently by a pair of first time producers—actor Michael Douglas (who bought the rights from his father) and jazz record impresario Saul Zaentz—and émigré director Milos Forman. It became a box office smash (eventually earning $200 million on a budget of less than $5 million) and the second picture in Hollywood history to sweep the top five Academy Awards.

Read the complete feature here. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest plays on TCM on Tuesday, May 18, and is available on DVD and Blu-ray.