10. The Snake Pit (1948)
Virginia Cunningham is an inmate in the State Mental Asylum and appears to be schizophrenic - not even remembering her husband Robert. Dr Kik is her benevolent psychiatrist and we are treated to, in flashback form, the beginning of Virginia and Robert's relationship, how they met and fell in love. Their marriage and how she drifted away into an alternate reality on her wedding day. The rest of the film focuses on Dr Kik's attempts to rehabilitate her through therapy. The hospital system is a hierarchy where patients get moved up or down according to their progress. Like all films set in a mental hospital, there is a bitch nurse - Nurse Davis who goads Virginia until she is straight jacketed out of Level 1 and sent to the bottom level. However, Dr Kik's tender loving care rescues Virginia from a life of psychotic oblivion and she is cured and reunited with her husband. Olivia de Havilland was nominated for Best Actress for her work in The Snake Pit. She eagerly researched her role for months - visiting several asylums, watching ECT and other treatments and sitting in on therapy sessions when she was allowed to. Her marvellous and believable performance as a schizophrenic woman showed that all the research paid off. The film was exceedingly bold for its time, it took a subject that was a taboo and made it into a damning indictment of how awful psychiatric hospitals are and the abuse of patients by staff. The film led to reform of many asylums. The heroine Virginia recovers from being schizophrenic in Olympic standard time whenever most people with the disease flounder with it for years but kudos to Hollywood for tackling such a brave subject.