American Icons: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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This is the story of America’s fight against authority.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Studio 360 American Icons

 Ken Kesey had worked in a mental hospital, but his first novel was really a parable of what happens when you stand up to the Man — a counterculture fable that doesn’t end well. Despite his far-reaching influence, Kesey was shut out by filmmakers who turned the story into an Oscar-sweeping phenomenon. Cuckoo’s Nest changed how many people thought about mental illness and institutions. Sherman Alexie debunks the myth of the silent Indian; we visit Oregon State Hospital, where the director played himself on screen; a psychiatrist explains how the movie gave mental hospitals a bad name, with tragic consequences; and actress Louise Fletcher takes us into the mind of one of the most fearsome movie villains, the sweet-faced Nurse Ratched. “She doesn’t see her behavior as it really is. Who does? Who sees that they’re really evil?”

(Originally aired September 20, 2013)

Passages from the audiobook narrated by Ken Kesey were provided courtesy of HighBridge Audio.

Bonus Track: Kurt Andersen's full interview with Louise Fletcher

Hear Kurt's entire conversation with Fletcher, including why "no studio in town would touch this movie," and how she was cast in the role for which she won an Oscar.

 

Behind-the-scenes of the film

 

Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy, a new patient in the Oregon State Mental Hospital.

 

Jack Nicholson and another actor play a scene while director Milos Forman watches.

 

Nurse Ratched

 

Louise Fletcher on the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with the cast and director Milos Forman (at right).

 

Music Playlist

  1. Suite for Violin and American Gamelan

    Artist: Lou Harrison
    Album: La Koro Sutro
    Label: New Albion Records
  2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Opening Theme)

    Artist: Jack Nitzsche
    Album: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Fantasy
  3. Why Don'tcha Do Me Right

    Artist: Frank Zappa
    Album: Absolutely Free
    Label: Zappa Records
  4. Act of Love

    Artist: Jack Nitzsche
    Album: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Fantasy
  5. I-6

    Artist: Bun-Ching Lam
    Album: Like Water
    Label: Tzadik
  6. Emergency Room

    Artist: Mychael Danna
    Album: Girl, Interrupted (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Tvt
  7. The Ward

    Artist: Mychael Danna
    Album: Girl, Interrupted (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Tvt
  8. Rock Me to Sleep

    Artist: Henry Mancini
    Album: Touch of Evil (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Varese Sarabande
  9. Vizio Di Uccidere

    Artist: Ennio Morricone
    Album: For A Fistful of Dollars (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Razor & Tie
  10. Per Un Pugno Di Dollari (Titoli)"

    Artist: Ennio Morricone
    Album: For A Fistful of Dollars (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Razor & Tie
  11. Charmaine

    Artist: Jack Nitzsche
    Album: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Fantasy
  12. O' Venezia Venaga Venusia

    Artist: Nino Rota
    Album: Il Casanova di Feferico Fellini (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: CAM
  13. Late Anthropocene

    Artist: Brian Eno
    Album: Small Craft on a Milk Sea
    Label: Warp Records
  14. Daddy's Money

    Artist: Mychael Danna
    Album: Girl, Interrupted (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Tvt
  15. Four-Day Interval

    Artist: Tortoise
    Album: TNT
    Label: Thrill Jockey
  16. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Closing Theme)

    Artist: Jack Nitzsche
    Album: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Fantasy