County Hospital - Script to Screen

The shooting script contains an additional scene involving the discharge of The English Patient who is "all-a-flutter," William Austin (clearly suggested by the jolly Englishman enacted by Charles Gerrard in ANOTHER FINE MESS). The balancing weight to keep Hardy’s leg in traction was supposed to land on top of Austin’s head as he finally walked out through the reception room after his eight month treatment for hay fever. Knocked unconscious from the blow, Austin would then be carried back inside on a stretcher and returned to the safety of his hospital bed.

In another script to screen casualty, the wild ride home called for by the writers was more elaborate than the studio could afford to film. Used instead would be some far less expensive but unconvincing rear-screen-projection scenes designed by Roy Seawright in the special effects department. "We had to have the ingenuity to solve each problem as economically as possible," Seawright once explained. "If you needed a lot of money, they’d say, ‘Forget it! We’ll write something else.’ "

COUNTY HOSPITAL was made during the depths of The Great Depression. Since M-G-M was advancing the production budget for all Hal Roach Studios shooting expenditures, an efficiency expert named Henry Ginsberg (later an important producer at major studios in Hollywood) was installed by Metro to watch how the money was being spent. Ginsberg represented an anamoly at "the lot of fun." He was not any fun. Hal Roach did respect Ginsberg, but no one liked him.

"We had no choice," Hal Roach commented after watching a l6mm print of COUNTY HOSPITAL in 1986. "We had to accommodate Ginsberg. There was no money. We tried to make a gag out of the rear projection by showing the audience we knew the thing looked phoney. That year was one time when Metro wouldn’t give me the financing I wanted. You do the best you can."

We might have guessed as much from Ollie’s mild objection to Stan’s gift of "some hard-boiled eggs and nuts." Ollie inquires, "Why didn’t you bring me a box of candy?" Stan explains the facts of life, "They cost too much."

-- by Richard W. Bann --