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The Caretakers (1963)

Approved | | Drama | 21 August 1963 (USA)
This movie chronicles the trials of the mentally ill and their care-givers in an over-crowded ward of a hospital. Dr. MacLeod (Robert Stack) is a new, optimistic doctor who attempts to ... See full summary »


Hall Bartlett


Henry F. Greenberg (screenplay), Hall Bartlett (screen story) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 nominations. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Robert Stack ... Dr. Donovan MacLeod
Polly Bergen ... Lorna Melford
Diane McBain ... Alison Horne
Joan Crawford ... Lucretia Terry
Janis Paige ... Marion
Van Williams ... Dr. Larry Denning
Constance Ford ... Nurse Bracken
Sharon Hugueny ... Connie
Herbert Marshall ... Dr. Jubal Harrington
Barbara Barrie ... Edna
Ellen Corby ... Irene
Ana María Lynch ... Ana (as Ana St. Clair)
Robert Vaughn ... Jim Melford
Susan Oliver ... Nurse Cathy Clark
Virginia Munshin Virginia Munshin ... Ruth


This movie chronicles the trials of the mentally ill and their care-givers in an over-crowded ward of a hospital. Dr. MacLeod (Robert Stack) is a new, optimistic doctor who attempts to start an out-patient program for the women in the ward. His method of treating mentally ill patients without violence or punishment is met with resistance by the head nurse, Lucretia Terry (Joan Crawford). During Dr. MacLeod's treatment, the phobias and illnesses of the various women in the test group are explored. Written by Stacia Kissick <srm12@ksu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Now the screen tells what makes a woman - and what breaks her!




Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

21 August 1963 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Almas en tinieblas See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This was the only film that featured Virginia Munshin as she died at the age of 30 on July 8, 1962 from a cerebral hemorrhage. See more »


When Lorna has a mental breakdown in a movie theater and rushes up to freak out on stage in front of screen, it's obvious that film on screen is a rear projection because neither she nor ushers trying to restrain her have projected images on them nor do they cast shadows on screen. See more »


Featured in To Tell the Truth: Episode dated 3 June 1963 (1963) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Kind of lame
22 January 2007 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Robert Stack, Joan Crawford, Susan Oliver, Herbert Marshall, Constance Ford, Van Williams and Diane McBain are "The Caretakers," a 1963 film also starring Polly Bergen, Janis Paige, Barbara Barrie, Ellen Corby and Sharon Hugueny who are the cared for. Robert Vaughn plays Bergen's husband. The setting is a mental institution where Polly Bergen is brought after she goes insane at a theater showing West Side Story. She wasn't the first. The focus is on her case as the director of nurses (Crawford) and the doctor in charge of an experimental program (Stack) duke it out - naturally Crawford favors things like discipline and confinement (she would) and Stack wants to treat the patients as people and give them therapy. I don't know where the drugs were, unless they didn't have them in 1963. I'm pretty sure they had Librium, though Polly didn't seem to be on it.

This film has TV written all over it, including in its choice of the actors, most of whom did major work on television. It's not strong enough for a feature film, though it looks for all intents and purposes like a B movie which it perhaps was. Robert Stack is pretty one-note. Crawford in 1963 still looked good in a leotard but the rest of her is plenty scary. I'm not sure the portrayal of the conflict was correct in its dynamics - nurses have a certain amount of power but riding roughshod over a doctor's orders...I suppose with Crawford heading up the staff, it's more than possible but not realistic.

Janis Paige gives a lively performance as a man-hater, and there is the ubiquitous non-speaker (Barrie), the nice one (Corby), the delusional one (Hugueny), and the one who will probably recover (Bergen). Herbert Marshall plays the head of the institute - by 1963, he was 73 and had enjoyed 50 years on stage and in films. After a distinguished career, "The Caretakers" is thankfully not his last credit. Constance Ford played a nurse from hell who is not a credit to her profession. There were two hunks with the last name of Williams back in the day - Van and Grant - this one's Van. Nice eye candy but he didn't have much to do.

All in all, pretty badly directed and executed.

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