The Caretakers

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The Caretakers
The Caretakers (1963 movie poster).jpg
Original theatrical poster
Directed by Hall Bartlett
Produced by Hall Bartlett
Screenplay by Hall Bartlett
Story by Hall Bartlett
Jerry Paris
Based on The Caretakers 
by Dariel Telfer
Starring Joan Crawford
Robert Stack
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Lucien Ballard
Edited by William B. Murphy
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
August 21, 1963 (1963-08-21)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2,050,000 (US/Canada)[1] $1,110,000 (Foreign) [2][page needed]

The Caretakers is a 1963 American drama film starring Joan Crawford, Robert Stack, Polly Bergen and Janis Paige in a story about a mental hospital.[3]

The screenplay was adapted by Henry F. Greenberg from a story by Hall Bartlett and Jerry Paris based on the 1959 novel The Caretakers by Dariel Telfer. The film was produced and directed by Bartlett, co-produced by Paris and distributed by United Artists. The Caretakers is reminiscent of a 20th Century Fox film set in a similar hospital, The Snake Pit (1948).


Young, optimistic psychiatrist Dr. Donovan MacLeod wants to prove his theory that mental patients can benefit from group therapy. His method of treatment, with no violence or punishment, is met with a great deal of resistance from his unyielding and self-righteous head nurse, Lucretia Terry, who believes in traditional methods such as strait-jackets and padded cells for treating the mentally ill.

Head of the hospital Dr. Harrington is weak-willed. Terry's assistant, nurse Bracken, supports her superior's stand. After much trial and error and the harrowing near-rape of a patient, MacLeod's ideas prevail in spite of the opposition and meet some success.

Patients include a distraught mother, Lorna Medford; a former prostitute, Marion; a pyromaniac, Edna, and a former schoolteacher, Irene.



Co-writer/co-producer Jerry Paris also appears in The Caretakers as a passerby Lorna bumps into on the street.

Joan Crawford arranged for each day's scenes with veteran actor Herbert Marshall, an old friend who was in frail health, to be shot first, thus allowing him to finish his work early in the day.[4]

Crawford was on the board of directors of Pepsico and Pepsi-Cola product placements include a scene at the hospital picnic, which features a wagon dispensing the soft drink.


Variety commented, "Miss Crawford doesn't so much play her handful of scenes as she dresses for them, looking as if she were en route to a Pepsi board meeting", and called the film a "superficial, ineptly-plotted drama"[5] Bosley Crowther of The New York Times noted, "Altogether, this woman's melodrama is shallow, showy, and cheap - a badly commercial exploitation of very sensitive material."[5]

Despite some negative reviews, the film went on to gross over $3 million worldwide, ranking #57 on Variety's list of top grossing films.[6]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The Caretakers received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White:Lucien Ballard. It also received Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Motion Picture Actress - Drama: Polly Bergen, and Best Motion Picture Director: Hall Bartlett.

DVD release[edit]

The Caretakers was released on Region 1 DVD on April 15, 2010 through as part of the MGM Limited Edition Collection.


  1. ^ "Top Rental Features of 1963", Variety, 8 January 1964 p 71. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
  2. ^ The United Artists Story by Ronald Bergen
  3. ^ Variety film review; July 3, 1963, page 6.
  4. ^ Quirk, Lawrence J.; Schoell, William (2002). Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography. University Press of Kentucky. p. 213. ISBN 0-813-12254-6. 
  5. ^ a b University of Southern California; Division of Cinema; American Film Institute; Center for Understanding Media. Filmfacts, Volume 6. p. 180. 
  6. ^ "The Top Box-Office Hits of 1963", Variety Weekly, January 7, 1963.

External links[edit]