Pity is a feeling that makes us act rather quickly. Whether it’s a homeless man on the street or a patient in the hospital, it often foments an automatic charitable reaction. How much is this reaction tied in with the growth of love? Furthermore, how much does this pertain to the differences between men and women?
In Vincent Sherman’s “The Hasty Heart,” pity comes easiest to the leading lady, Sister Parker (Patricia Neal). As a Canadian nurse in a hospital in Germany during World War II, she and a ward of men are informed of a new Scotsman staying with them, named Lachie (Richard Todd). Lachie doesn’t have much longer to live but doesn’t know it. Parker is the driving force to make the men be Lachie’s friend despite his cold nature. He is a man who wards off friendship by the principle that nothing should be given for free. Parker continues to ignore his behavior by having his roommates give him gifts for his birthday.
In private, Lachie admits to Parker that he is touched by the affections of the group. In effect, he opens himself up to the men and deep friendships develop between them. He becomes especially close with one GI, Yankee (Ronald Reagan). A romance even ensues between Lachie and Parker. However, when Parker finds out about his condition, he becomes angry with all of them because he thinks the relationships are a result of pity. “But isn’t there always a little pity in a woman’s love?” Parker asks Lachie.
Mark this: not pity in love, but pity in a woman’s love. Indeed, the movie makes a clear distinction between men and women, and also between love and pity. With the men on their own, the economy of friendship is based solely on merit and nothing is formed. However, when a woman comes into play, she introduces charitable love motivated by pity. It is this alone that creates the space for both Lachie and the ward of men to find a truce. Parker is the bridge between enemies and the one to unfold the good hearts of everyone.
Why Parker? Why women? Are ladies so desperate to see the sensitivity of men that they “ooh” and “ahh” in their vulnerable states? Furthermore, is it the man or the woman in this movie that has the more moral approach? While pity allows love to exist between the characters, it certainly should not be the foundation for that love. Therefore, one who makes drastic decisions based on pity will only be lead to sorrow. As the tale goes in the story, “Sorrow is born in the hasty heart.”
Why You Should Watch this Film:
Here’s your chance to see Ronald Reagan pre-politics and gushing his heart out. However, his performance doesn’t match Richard Todd’s. Todd was nominated for an Oscar in 1950 for Best Actor and won a Golden Globe for the same category.
The real treasure in this movie is not so much historical but philosophical. It will get you thinking about the nature of love, especially for women. For example, why does a woman melt at the sight of a single father or fawn over a man with a sad backstory? We’ve all seen it. Just how does pity control our hearts?