Doctor who OK'd 'Cuckoo's Nest' hospital use dies
In this Oct. 16, 2012 file photo, former Oregon State Hospital superintendent Dr. Dean Brooks, center participates in a ribbon cutting ceremony for a museum about the hospital. Brooks, 96, died May 30, 2013 in Salem, Ore., his family said. Brooks opened the doors of the hospital to the filming of the 1975 movie ``One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,'' after other mental hospitals had refused. His family said he wanted to open a national discussion about mental health and the harm insitutions can do. Also pictured, left to right, are Oregon State Hospital Superintendent Greg Roberts, Jim Civey, Brooks' son-in-law; actor Louise Fletcher; and OSH Museum President Hazel Patton (AP Photo/Eilise Ward, The Oregonian) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; LOCAL TV OUT; LOCAL INTERNET OUT; THE MERCURY OUT; WILLAMETTE WEEK OUT; PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP OUT
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The psychiatrist who opened the Oregon State Hospital's doors to filming of the 1975 Academy Award-winning movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" has died.
Dr. Dean Brooks died May 30 at a retirement home in Salem at age 96, family members said. He had been in declining health for several weeks after a fall.
Brooks' daughter Dennie Brooks said Friday the film's producers were turned down by all the other mental hospitals they approached. But her father, who was the Salem hospital's superintendent, saw the value of the movie in starting a national discussion about mental health and the responsibility of institutions to do no harm.
She said Dean Brooks also thought being part of a movie would be fun for him and for patients. He ended up playing a small role in the film — which was based on a 1962 Ken Kesey novel and starred Jack Nicholson — and making sure patients were involved, too.
Allowing the movie inside the hospital was a big career risk, but Dean Brooks regularly took risks on behalf of the patients, going so far as to take them on mountain-climbing expeditions and teaching them to rappel down cliffs, said Greg Roberts, the Oregon State Hospital's current director.
At the urging of staff, he allowed patients to start wearing regular clothes rather than uniforms long before other state hospitals.
"He would wink at me and say he could do stuff then I could never get away with today," Roberts said. "In my opinion, Dean Brooks literally set the bar on how to be a great state hospital superintendent."
Kesey based the novel on his experiences working at a Veterans Administration hospital while a writing student at Stanford University. But the movie made the story forever part of the history of the Oregon State Hospital, which has since moved to another building.
In the film, the free-spirited Randall McMurphy fakes mental illness to get off a prison farm, only to be defeated by the overwhelming institutional power of the hospital and the domineering Nurse Ratched.
Dean Brooks played Dr. Spivey, a psychiatrist who initially acquiesces to Ratched's power but later is inspired by McMurphy to stand up for himself and the patients.
While the movie gave him a platform to speak out for patients, Brooks had a reputation as an innovator before the film was produced, his daughter said. She cited a patient outing he organized that included whitewater rafting and was featured in Life Magazine.
"He saw Ken Kesey's true message about our capacity and organization's capacity to do harm to one another," Dennie Brooks said. "If he hadn't known that, he would have gone right along with the administration at the time and said, 'No, we're not gonna do it (the film).'"
Before giving his approval for the movie, Dean Brooks went to every ward and discussed the idea with patients and staff.
"To make the deal, he insisted primarily that the patients be respected, and the patients actually be involved," said Charles Kifleyak, who made a documentary about the psychiatrist and the filming of "Cuckoo's Nest" called "Completely Cuckoo."
"He felt the film had to benefit the patients in some way, or he was not going to do it," Kifleyak said from Burbank, Calif.
Nearly 90 patients ultimately had parts in the movie, or jobs behind the scenes, said Dennie Brooks, who also worked on the film as a location coordinator.