Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Caretakers (1963)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Caretakers (1963)

In Hall Bartlett's melo-dramatic chronicling of a revolutionary new, experimental, social reform treatment method for the mentally-ill:

  • the opening scene of guilt-ridden housewife Lorna Melford (Polly Bergen) walking down a street, entering a movie-theater (showing West Side Story) and having an hysterical, nervous breakdown up on stage in front of the audience and the screened newsreel, where she was wrestled by two men and hospitalized
  • the efforts of well-meaning, compassionate and caring Dr. Donovan MacLeod (Robert Stack) to care for mentally-ill females to be treated with respect, without punishment or incarceration in the Canterbury State Hospital; he opposed harsh treatment for newly-admitted patients, such as Lorna, and urged for her transfer to his "borderline" counseling program immediately: ("A girl is committed to us for help and what do we do? In less than an hour, we take away her identity, put her in an isolated room, and scare the hell out of her...You put a frightened child in a closet and tell her not to be afraid?")
  • Lorna's long suffering and confused husband Jim Melford (Robert Vaughn)
  • the shocking scene of Lorna's electroconvulsive shock therapy - who was held down on a table while the dosage meter went to high
Lorna's Electro-Shock Therapy
  • the sequences of the 'borderline' ward engaged in group therapy and the problems of the various patients, including senile Irene (Ellen Corby) with a toy doll, man-hating, sexual tease and cynical ex-prostitute Marion (Janis Paige), childlike and pretty Connie (Sharon Hugueny), and severely-troubled mute Edna (Barbara Barrie) - including the troubling scene of the killing of a pet parakeet released from its cage
  • the scenes of opposition from mean head nurse Lucretia Terry (Joan Crawford), who in one scene (dressed in a black leotard) taught self-defense judo in a huge gymnasium to her nurses in order to defend themselves, and argued for less freedoms for the patients: ("As you can see, size or brute strength mean absolutely nothing against judo. That's why I insist my nurses keep themselves in top physical condition. You must be able to protect yourself against the possible attack by a patient - male or female. And remember this, never trust a patient. Never turn your back on them. They're different from you. They think differently. They act differently. I will not tolerate brutality or cruelty. Neither will I tolerate laxity or carelessness. From the very beginning, the patient must know that you are in control. You have the power to make them obey the rules of this institution, and believe me, they will respect your strength"); she mentioned that the nurses on MacLeod's "dangerous ward" needed extra vigilance and training
  • the climactic scene during a therapy session when pyromaniac Edna threatened to burn the hospital down, but was embraced by Lorna (who told her: "We want you, Edna") and treated sympathetically; Edna responded haltingly and spoke with a few words: ("Good, so good"), after which Lorna congratulated her with another hug: "You talked, Edna!"; and then Marion complimented Dr. MacLeod on his work: "You were right all the time"
Threat of Pyromania by Edna Quelled by Lorna
  • the freeze-framed ending, atop a view of Dr. MacLeod: "WE ARE THE CARETAKERS OF THEIR HOPE - THEIR FUTURE", and the final scene of patients entering the newly-opened Canterbury Day Hospital - evidence of the success of Dr. MacLeod's treatment program, accompanied by cast credits pictured one-by-one

Lorna's Nervous Breakdown

Dr. Donovan MacLeod (Robert Stack)

Lorna's Husband Jim (Robert Vaughn)

(Janis Paige)

Head Nurse Lucretia Terry (Joan Crawford)

Freeze-Framed Ending


Greatest Scenes: Intro | What Makes a Great Scene? | Scenes: Quiz
Scenes: Film Titles A - H | Scenes: Film Titles I - R | Scenes: Film Titles S - Z