A New Blogathon Celebrating 80 Years of Dolores Hart!

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Hello everybody! It’s been some time now since I’ve been considering hosting a blogathon honouring Dolores Hart. Those who have been following my blog since the beginning know it’s not the first time I talk about her. Dolores Hart’s story is a unique one in the Hollywood history. After an uncredited role in Forever Amber (Otto Preminger, 1947) she truly started her career as an actress in 1957 with Loving You (Hal Kanter, 1957) alongside Elvis Presley, Lizabeth Scott, and Wendell Corey.  But, in 1963, she quitted the acting life to become a Roman Catholic nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut. The years passed by and she eventually became Mother Dolores Hart. In 2013, her autobiography The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey From Hollywood to Holy Vows, co-written with Richard DeNeut, was published.

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Dolores Hart’s life certainly is a fascinating one. Even if her career as an actress only last a few years, she had the chance to develop her talent and she was a brilliant actress. Dolores Hart deserves more recognition and, as she’s very special to me, I absolutely wanted to host a blogathon in honour of her 80th birthday next October!

So, I invite you to join ‘From the Stars to a Star: Celebrating Dolores Hart’. I know the word “blogathon” is not mentioned in the title but, otherwise, I think it would have been too long! Anyway, you understand that it’s one!

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This blogathon is for everybody. If you are not too familiar with Dolores Hart, I think this could be the perfect occasion for you to discover her. Because she’s truly one of a kind!

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If you wish to participate, please take the time to read these simple rules:

1- Choose a subject by commenting on this article or by sending me an email at virginie.pronovost@gmail.com, or via The Wonderful World of Cinema Facebook page. Please include the name of your blog + the URL.

  • Subjects can be anything related to Dolores Hart Everything from her acting career to her religious life.
  • Good news: I allow duplicates! Well, the main reason is that she didn’t star in many movies (ten) and I want as many participants as possible. There are other subjects of course, but I thought it would be stupid to impose a no duplicates rule. But try not to write ALL about the same subject!
  • Can I write more than one entry? Yes, but I will allow a maximum of two entries/person.
  • Can I participate even if I don’t have a blog? Sure little frog! Just send me your article at my email address and it will be published on this blog as a guest post.

2- Once your subject has been confirmed by me (who else?), please help me spread the word about this unique event by sharing it on social media and decorating your own blog with one of these banners:

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3- The event will start on October 18, 2018, and will end on October 20, 2018 on Dolores Hart’s 80th birthday. On the 18, I will publish a new post where you will be able to submit your entry (comments section).

4- More…

  • If for some weird reason you don’t like Dolores Hart (!), this blogathon is not for you. Every article that seems disrespectful towards her won’t be included in the blogathon.
  • If you want to participate, subscribe! Don’t write an article on Dolores Hart and then assume I will include it in the roster if you haven’t subscribed first. I do accept last-minute subscriptions, but subscribe!
  • Please, mention my blog and the event in your article and also share the link to the other entries. Make sure to share the one I’ll post on the 18th, not this one.

5- If you have any question, don’t hesitate to ask!

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Here is the roster!

The Wonderful World of CinemaPersonal Tribute

Realweegiemidget Reviews Loving You (1957)

Caftan WomanThe Mountain of the Sun (The Virginian episode, 1963)

Whimsically Classic Where the Boys Are (1960)

Crítica Retrô King Creole (1958)

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October 18 seems far, but time flies…with me! I’m very impatient for us to honour the great Mother Dolores!

See you!

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With Elvis Presley in Loving You

 

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Being a Teenager in the 50s: “Rebel Without a Cause” (Nicholas Ray, 1955)

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Rebel Without a Cause was among the first films I watched when I was in full discovery of classic films. This first viewing seems forever ago but I remember it as if it was yesterday. I rent the DVD at a video store that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. They had a lot of choices, so that’s why I liked this place. I watched the movie in the living room which, at the time, was where my sister’s bedroom is now! I think I was 15 when I first saw this film. So, it was 8 years ago! Of course, any people discovering classic films come across James Dean one day or another. But why starting with Rebel Without a Cause? Well, this is the one that will most likely appeal to a teenager. Right? I loved the film. And now I’ve seen it countless times. But now, as a young adult, I see things that my teenage spirit could not detect at the time. Because Rebel Without a Cause is more than just a movie about rebels, more than a teen movie. It is probably one of the most impactful movies that Nicholas Ray has made.

The 50s were the decade belonging to teenagers. That’s when they’re tendencies were expended and when the concept itself of adolescence became a thing, with the qualities and flaws that come with it. They had their own fashion, their own tastes, their own ideals. That’s why the 50s were marked by movies such as Blackboard Jungle, The Wild One, A Summer Place, Gidget, King Creole and, of course, Rebel Without a Cause.

 

Why did I take so long to talk about this film on my blog? Well, no reason really. There are just so many great movies to review. But, I thought Samantha’s Natalie Wood Blogathon that she is hosting on her blog Musings of A Classic Film Addict would be the perfect occasion to discuss it. Because yes, Natalie Wood was another big star who was in this movie.

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Rebel Without a Cause was released in 1955. The story starts in a police station in Los Angeles. Jim Stark (James Dean) has been arrested for drunkenness (he is underage). Two other teens are seen: Judy (Natalie Wood) who ran away from home due to her difficult relationship with her father, and John Crawford (Sal Mineo), said Plato, for shooting puppies. Jim’s parents soon arrive accompanied by grandmother (Virginia Brissac). We then understand that Jim has difficulty tolerating them: his mother (Ann Doran) is too controlling and his father (Jim Backus) is not strong enough. After a good discussion with Inspector Ray Fremick (Edward Platt), Jim returns home with his parents and grandmother.

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We have to know that the family has just arrived in  Los Angeles and this is not the first time Jim’s getting into troubles (and not the last either). Each time something goes wrong, the family moves to another city in hope that Jim will make new friends. This might not be the best solution. On his first day of school, Jim is optimistic. Unfortunately, things won’t turn as expected and the whole day will pretty much be a mess. On his way to Dawson High, Jim sees Judy and tries to talk to her, but she prefers hanging with “the kids” and her boyfriend Buzz (Corey Allen), the leader of the gang. Arrived at school, Jim is noticed by Plato and they eventually become friends. The students are having a class at the Griffith Observatory. Buzz, who obviously likes to cause troubles, provokes Jim in a knives fight. But Jim has to do more if he wants to prove he’s not a “chicken”: Buzz challenges him to a “Chickie run”. The appointment for the dangerous challenge is at 8. The gang and Judy are here to support Buzz, and Plato is here to support Jim. During a discussion with Plato, Judy shows her better side.

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This, however, doesn’t turn has expected [SPOILER]: Buzz is killed in the race when his car falls in a cliff. [END OF SPOILER] From now on, things won’t be the same. Judy, who obviously didn’t have any real friends in “the gang” and who is better than they are, befriend Plato and falls in love with Jim. They all have to face the consequences of what happened, the frustration of Buzz’s friends, the police, and their own parents.

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Rebel Without a Cause is a film of tragedy. Many connections between it and real life are actually pretty sad. We all know that James Dean died at the terribly young age of 24. This was on September 30, 1955, or a month before the movie was released. Ironically, it’s in a car accident that James Dean lost his life, just like Buzz in the movie (but James’s character was obviously also taking enormous risks).

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Actually, the three main actors: James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo formed an unlucky trio as they all died prematurely in tragic circumstances. Natalie Wood drowned at the age of 43. Investigations on this case are still being made. Sal Mineo was murdered in 1976 at the age of 37. John Lennon even offered a reward to the person would find the murderer. His assassin, Lionel Ray Williams, was arrested in 1979.

 

But this isn’t all: actor Edward Platt put an end to his life at the age of 58 (he suffered from depression), William Hopper (son of columnist Hedda Hopper) who plays Natalie Wood father in the film died of pneumonia at 55; Rochelle Hudson who plays Natalie Wood’s mother also died at 55 from a heart attack, and Nick Adams who plays Chick, one of the members of the gang, died from a drug overdose at 36.

 

Phew…Yeah…

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There are, of course, many more interesting things to discuss about Rebel Without a Cause apart from the numerous premature deaths.

One of the main things about Rebel Without a Cause is that it’s not only a movie about teens, it’s a movie that was MADE for them. It shows an empathy towards them and, even if various tragic events happen, these are here to make us realize the injustices they are victims of. The camera shows a lot of empathy towards the characters: how can we not have a tight throat as we watch Natalie Wood in tears saying to the inspector that her father doesn’t love her? How can we not feel sorry for Plato who has been abandoned by both his mother and father? How can we not be disappointed for Jim when he doesn’t succeed so much to make friends. However, as he becomes good friend with Plato and Judy, we understand that quality wins over quantity. It’s better to have a few good friends than many friends who aren’t really friends after all. The trio can really support each other because their parents are obviously not doing their best to give them a decent life. In one night, they mature a lot.

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Apart from the difficulty of growing up, teenage delinquency,, and tragic deaths, Rebel Without a Cause deals with a pretty taboo subject (for the time): homosexuality. Today more and more films using this subject are made but, at the time (during the Production Code era), it was a pretty risqué subject. Of course, none of it is mentioned explicitly, but it’s pretty obvious. The idea of it is embodied by Sal Mineo character, Plato. It is not said that he is homosexual or bisexual, but many clues are given to us. In his article “Dangerous Talents” written for Vanity Fair, Sam Kashner writes how Sal Mineo portrayed what could be considered the first gay teenager in a Hollywood movie. According to the author, Nicholas Ray knew about Sal Mineo’s bisexuality and recommend him to use it in some scenes. To help him in this task, James Dean suggested to Sal Mineo to look at him the way Jim looks at Judy. And this worked wonder but remained subtle. Other clues are given to us, such as Alan Ladd photos in Plato’s locker at school and even the name Plato itself (many agree that the Greek philosopher was himself homosexual). I’m not sure if this is true, but according to IMDB, the film was initially supposed to have a kissing scene between James Dean and Sal Mineo but it wasn’t done. Too bad it didn’t happen, because this could have been truly revolutionary. Anyway, we understand it wouldn’t have been approved by the code of censor. Fortunately, times have changed, but kudos to Nicholas Ray and the actors for trying something.

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Sal Mineo, an underrated actor, after all, received an Oscar nomination for his poignant performance as John Crawford.

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Natalie Wood was also just a teen when she starred in this film, but this one was far from being her first movie as she already had a career in films as a child actress. However, always according to Kashner’s article, Rebel Without a Cause was the occasion for her to break into more mature roles. The young Natalie is at the time lovely and heartbreaking. She starts the film in force with this scene at the police station I previously discussed, and shows many facets as the story goes by. She might be one of the characters who learn the most from what happens during that uncommon day. Her chemistry with James Dean gives place to a beautiful teenage romance. This one is just as good with Sal Mineo and makes us believe in an honest new friendship. Natalie Wood would later be seen in other poignant teenager roles, such as Maria in West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1961), and Wilma in Splendor in the Grass (Elia Kazan, 1961). Just like Sal Mineo, she received an Oscar nomination for her strong and unforgettable performance in this 50s classic.

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James Dean had a short but memorable career. Already with his first credited role (East of Eden), he received an Oscar nomination. I used to feel a bit indifferent toward his performance in Rebel Without a Cause, but now I understand how true it is. Was it due to method acting? Well, this certainly helped, but we also feel James Dean had a special maturity in his acting. The method acting probably helped him to remind natural and truly feel the strong emotions. James Dean was a symbol of rebellion and was perfect for the role. The only thing we can reproach is the fact that he was in fact 24 when he played a 16 years old teenager. But hey, everybody looked older than they were in these days anyway.

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If I could mention one last actor, it would be Dennis Hopper. Rebel Without a Cause was his first role and, even if he doesn’t talk much, we notice him. I thought he had a pretty interesting presence even at the time when I didn’t know who Dennis Hopper was. And who thought he would later direct THE counter-culture movie by excellence: Easy Rider (1969) and play the creepy Frank Booth in Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)?

 

 

The evolution of Dennis Hopper

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Apart from the two nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress (Sal Mineo/Natalie Wood), Rebel Without a Cause was also nominated for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story (Nicholas Ray). The film indeed presents a perfectly structured story that shows a great evolution of the characters and respects the main thematic. It also contains some memorable lines:

1- Jim Stark: You’re tearing me apart! (certainly the most famous quote of the film)

2- Jim Stark: Nobody talks to children.

   Judy: No, they just tell them. ( I think this one reflects perfectly the atmosphere of the film)

3- Jim Stark: If I had one day when I didn’t have to be all confused and I didn’t have to

feel that I was ashamed of everything. If I felt that I belonged someplace. You know?

4- Judy: I love somebody. All the time I’ve been… I’ve been looking for someone to

loveme. And now I love somebody. And it’s so easy. Why is it easy now?

Jim Stark: I don’t know; it is for me, too.

Judy: I love you, Jim. I really mean it.

Jim Stark: Well, I’m glad.

5- Jim Stark: [sitting down, hugging his father’s legs helplessly] Help me!

Frank Stark : Look, Jim. You can depend on me. Trust me. Whatever comes, we’ll, we’ll fix it together. I swear it. Now Jim, stand up. I’ll stand up with you. I’ll try and be as strong as you want me to be. Come on.

6- Plato: Do you think the end of the world will come at nighttime?

Jim Stark: Uh-uh, at dawn.

 

7- Crawford Family Maid: You talk nice to the man, John, he’s going to help you.

 Plato: Nobody can help me.

And so on. Rebel Without a Cause is a movie that has a lot to say. That’s why you have to watch it as a teenager and then as an adult because you will understand different things.

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 On it’s released, Rebel Without a Cause was praised for the actors’ performances.
However, the film was banned 1955 in New-Zealand under the pretext that it would provoke teenage delinquency. The ban stopped the next year, but scenes were cut. In the UK, the film was X rated and scenes were cut as well. Well, I guess they couldn’t face the truth.
Rebel Without a Cause is a film that marked the American movie history and that has many reasons to still be seen today. It’s a film that doesn’t lose its meaning. It also reminds memorable for its powerful trio formed of Sal Mineo, James Dean and, of course, Natalie Wood.
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A big thanks to Samantha for hosting this blogathon!
Make sure to take a look at the other entries here.
See you!
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Sources:
– “Rebel Without a Cause – Trivia.” IMDB. nd. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048545/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv. Accessed Jul 11, 2018.
– “Rebel Without a Cause.” Wikipedia. 8 July 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebel_Without_a_Cause. Accessed Jul 11, 2018.
– Kashner, Sam “Dangerous Talents.” Vanity Fair. 10 October 2010. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2005/03/rebel200503. Accessed Jul 11, 2018.

Exploring Olivia de Havilland’s Performance in ‘The Snake Pit’ (1948)

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Today, the legendary Olivia de Havilland is turning 102 years old! What a victory! For a third consecutive year, Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are hosting the Annual Olivia de Havilland Blogathon. I’m happy to take part in the celebrations with an article about The Snake Pit, a movie based on the successful novel by Mary Jane Ward. Last year for the blogathon, I presented a top 10 of my most favourite Olivia de Havilland’s films and ranked this one #3 behind Gone With the Wind and The Heiress.

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The following article will mostly focus on Olivia de Havilland’s performance.

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The Snake Pit is a 1948’s psychological drama directed by Anatol Litvak. The cast includes Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn, Celest Holm, Ruth Donnelly, Beulah, Betsy Blair, and more. The story revolves around Virginia Cunningham (Olivia d Havilland), a woman who has been admitted to a mental institute after a nervous breakdown. Not “herself” anymore, she will receive the help of Dr. Kik (Leo Genn) to get better and understand the origin of her mental condition.

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In the late 40s and 50s, more and more Hollywood movies depicting mental health were being made. If Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock, 1945) was the first movie about psychoanalysis, it reminded quite “innocent” in comparison to The Snake Pit. Litvak’s film indeed presents more shocking scenes. It might not be a film about psychoanalysis as much as Spellbound is, but the general theme remains the same: trying to understand the psychological state of a person.

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Olivia de Havilland received an Oscar nomination for her troubling portrayal of Virginia Cunningham. This was not the first time she was playing a character suffering from mental illness: The Dark Mirror (Robert Siodmak) was released two years prior. Movie director Anatol Litvak insisted on the actors (and the crew!) to visit mental institutions and such in order to prepare their roles and certainly give a realism to their delicate portrayals of patients, doctors or relatives. Olivia de Havilland took the task seriously and visited hospitals, assisted to electroshock therapy and to social events organized by the institutions. Her serious researches were successful as it helped her to develop a complex character. Playing such roles is not only about doing mimics to look “crazy”. It’s also about understanding what you are doing in order to do it correctly and not fall into the trap of ridicule.

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Olivia de Havilland’s acting is done in a perfect way to make the spectator understand the evolution of her character. [SPOILER] Virginia does get better but this can’t be shown too “suddenly”. [END OF SPOILER] So, the actress adds a dose of serenity, a dose of confusion or a dose of sadness and solitude depending on the situation her character is facing. She chooses the right one so her acting remains natural and realistic. It’s almost like a recipe! There’s this scene at the beginning of the film where Virginia is introduced to us. She sits on a bench outside and smiles at the view of the singing birds. However, her apparent state of serenity doesn’t last long and a cloud quickly veils her face. Do you sometimes feel this way? You’re happy and suddenly you think about all the wrong things in your life and you are abruptly brought back to reality? The difference with Virginia is that she isn’t brought back to reality but to her “parallel” world created by her mental condition. This scene lasts only a brief moment but is well-done enough to make us feel this state of euphoria vanishing suddenly. Great job Livie!

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The electro-shock scene is quite shocking (!), maybe not as much as the one in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos Forman, 1974) as it is not as explicit but, for a film made in the 40s, it probably wasn’t something people back then were used to see. What is disturbing isn’t only the archaicity of the electroshock themselves but also to see Olivia de Havilland in such a vulnerable position. Of course, it’s only acting and she didn’t really receive electro-shock treatments (!) but, in this scene, we completely forget about the actress and really think of her as a patient. This is the same as we are viewing her crisis scenes; in the flashback when she has her nervous breakdown in presence of her husband (Mark Stevens) or in this scene where she hides in a bathroom and is then trapped in a straitjacket by the nurses. Once again, this movie doesn’t really give a “beautiful” role to the nurses, who always seem to be rude to the patients. Well, they aren’t as bad as Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but they still play the type of people we prefer to avoid. Dr. Kik is, however, a man with a lot of compassion and we’re happy he’s here to establish a balance!

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The Snake Pit probably was a psychologically challenging role (that’s why it was important to be well-prepared), but it also involved a certain physical challenge. Indeed, Olivia de Havilland had to lose weight in order to look like a sick woman. The actors don’t seem to wear any make up either or, if they do, it’s used to make them look sick, not glamorous. Moreover, Anatol Litvak insisted they didn’t show up at the hairdressing department.

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On its release in 1948, The Snake Pit was generally well-received an even created a certain impact on the medicinal world. If psychiatrist Herman F. Weinberg questioned the way the subject was treated in the film, it, however, led the mental institutions in the United States to change their conditions. I think this is a perfect example of how important cinema is, and not only for the Arts but for every aspect of our society.

Is everything 100% realistic in this film? It remains a movie, and I’m not specialist enough on psychiatry to judge that, but I think the movie team did their best to make it as believable as possible. Anyway, if one their desires was to make us experience what Virginia Cunningham was feeling, it worked well. On its side, the “why” aspect of the film, embodied by Dr. Kik, sparks our curiosity and also makes us see things in an objective point of view. I personally have always liked films like taking place in mental institutions or that just include characters with an unstable psychological situation because they are so interesting! The mind is a complex thing and they are various ways to approach it. If cinema can be one of them, well goo. Not everybody is a psychiatrist, but everybody likes to have explanations.

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Of course, in another article, we could explore the more technical aspects of the film, but, today, I preferred to focus uniquely on Olivia de Havilland!

With her portrayal of a complex character, the actress proved us that she had a great strength of character and that’s probably why she is still with us today! At 102, I wonder how she looks back at these days when she was shooting the film and if she is proud of herself. Because she should be!

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Thanks to Crystal and Laura for hosting The Third Annual Olivia de Havilland Blogathon! Once again, the lady is a fascinating subject to write about.

I invite you to check the other entries here.

Happy 102 Livie!

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QUEEN!!!

Sources:

Doll, Susan. ” The Snake Pit.” Turner Classic Movies, nd. http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/276838%7C0/The-Snake-Pit.html. Consulted on Jun 28, 2018.

“The Snake Pit, Trivia.” IMDB, nd. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040806/trivia?ref_=tt_trv_trv. Consulted on Jun 28, 2018.

“The Snake Pit.” Wikipedia. 13 Jun 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Snake_Pit. Consulted  on Jun 28, 2018.