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Dr. Dean Brooks, had role in 'Cuckoo's Nest'

GRANTS PASS, Ore. -- Dr. Dean Brooks, 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.

Brooks died May 30 at a retirement home in Salem at age 96, family members said.

His daughter Dennie Brooks said yesterday 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 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 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 that 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."

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.

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.

Before giving his approval for the movie, Brooks went to every ward and discussed the idea with patients and staff.

Kesey visited the hospital while working on a screenplay, which was rejected, and he later penned a handwritten note to Brooks.

"What I thought was the greatest innovation was the eye-level way you deal with the men and women under your care, and the affection that created affection," Kesey wrote.


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