It’s one of the most memorable moments in movie history: silent Chief Bromden smashes a heavy appliance through a barred window to escape from a cruel mental institution in the 1975 classic “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
As demolition begins on most of the 125-year-old building where the movie was filmed, workers plan to preserve one section and the marble hydrotherapy device Bromden used for a museum of mental health.
“It’s the thing that many people remember about the movie,” said hospital spokeswoman Patricia Feeny.
Workers on Monday used a trackhoe with a 95-foot arm to begin tearing down the roof of the Oregon State Hospital’s J Building to make way for a new 620-bed hospital complex that’s to be finished by 2011.
Feeny said the movie’s producers donated the prop that resembles a large bathroom sink with various faucets and spigots, to the hospital. It has been on display outside the hospital superintendent’s office.
The movie based on Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel was fictional, but it has become closely associated over the years with real-life problems at Oregon’s crumbling, overcrowded psychiatric facility.
In the Oscar-winning story, Randle P. McMurphy, played by Jack Nicholson, locks horns with the authoritarian Nurse Ratched, who has cowed the institution’s patients into dejected submission.
In the movie’s climax, Chief Bromden, played by late actor Will Sampson, becomes enraged after hospital officials perform a lobotomy on Nicholson’s character. He then lifts the machine over his head and throws it through the window to clear the way for his escape.
Other props from the movie planned for the museum display include a bathtub used by Danny DeVito’s character and a large broom Chief Bromden pushes throughout the film.
Hospital superintendent Roy Orr said mental health advocates are divided on whether “Cuckoo’s Nest” helped promote the cause of the mentally ill or was an overly sensationalized depiction of brutality in state mental institutions.
But he supports devoting part of the museum to the movie.
“I guess I just view it as a part of our past; and now it’s time to move on,” he said.