Why ‘The Graduate’ Is a Vietnam Movie


The Graduate (1967)

“And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson, for your part in stopping the Vietnam War. True, Anne Bancroft’s seductress was hardly known for her interest in foreign affairs. But the movie in which she starred left an indelible mark on the Vietnam generation. Though it avoided all mention of an overseas military conflict, ‘The Graduate,’ which opened 50 years ago this month, surpassed every film of its era in connecting with the radically altered mood of American youth. The war was raging, but 1967 was a banner year for Hollywood. College-age baby boomers, flush with discretionary income, turned out for a wide array of movies defining the adult world they were poised to enter. Some of these, like ‘In the Heat of the Night’ and ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,’ reflected the concerns of the civil rights era. Others touched, however obliquely, on the American presence in Vietnam. The year’s summer blockbuster, ‘The Dirty Dozen,’ featured American soldiers battling Nazis in World War II, but was accused by many critics of trying to whip up public enthusiasm for America’s expanding foray into Southeast Asia. At the end of the summer, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ depicted a brutal true-crime spree that played out in rural byways during the Great Depression. Though the setting of ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ was pure Americana, its director, Arthur Penn, admitted that his film’s copious bloodshed was meant to mirror the carnage of Vietnam battlefields shown on the nightly news. Slightly later movies, like 1968’s flag-waving ‘The Green Berets’ and 1970’s flag-burning ‘Getting Straight,’ more directly addressed the war being waged overseas. None of these, however, could match the impact of ‘The Graduate.’ … Its filmmakers had imagined their tale as set in 1962, the year in which Charles Webb wrote the novel on which it was based. But in the late 1960s, it took on a different shading. In June 1967, while the film was still in production, President Lyndon Johnson signed a revamped Military Selective Service Act, signaling that within the year deferments for most graduate students would come to an end. And if an able-bodied male in his 20s was not enrolled in college, he was immediately draft fodder. …”
NY Times
A HISTORY OF AMERICAN NEW WAVE CINEMA – Part Three: New Hollywood (1967-1969)


In the Heat of the Night (1967)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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