The Snake Pit: Mixing Marx with Freud in Hollywood

A new article forthcoming in History of Psychology will interest AHP readers: “The Snake Pit: Mixing Marx with Freud in Hollywood,” by Ben Harris. Abstract:

In 1948, the motion picture The Snake Pit was released to popular and critical acclaim. Directed by Anatole Litvak, the film told of the mental illness and recovery of one patient, who survived overcrowding and understaffing and was treated by a neo-Freudian psychiatrist known as Dr. Kik. It was based on a novel of the same title by Mary Jane Ward, who had been treated at Rockland State Hospital in New York. Building upon exposés of horrid hospital conditions in the press, The Snake Pit helped motivate reforms in the treatment of the mentally ill. Via unpublished correspondence and drafts of the film’s screenplay, this article explores the populist and antifascist themes in The Snake Pit, which came from the director, screenwriters, and the politics of the immediate post-WWII era. It also describes the case history of Mary Jane Ward and her treatment by Gerard Chrzanowski, the real “Dr. Kik.”

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.