Hollywood and Vietnam


“In writing to President Johnson in December 1965 about his intention to make a film about the Green Berets, John Wayne explained that it was ‘extremely important that not only the people of the United States but those all over the world should know why it is necessary for us to be there . . . The most effective way to accomplish this is through the motion picture medium.’ He thought he could make the ‘kind of picture that will help our cause throughout the world.’ According to Wayne, it would ‘tell the story of our fighting men in Vietnam with reason, emotion, characterization, and action. We want to do it in a manner that will inspire a patriotic attitude on the part of fellow Americans—a feeling which we have always had in this country in the past during times of stress and trouble.’ Unlike earlier wars, however, the Vietnam War did not unite the nation to a common cause, but tore it apart. On its part, the White House willingly embraced the project. Jack Valenti, then an advisor to President Johnson, advised him that while John Wayne’s politics might be wrong, ‘insofar as Vietnam is concerned, his views are right. If he made the picture, he would say the things we want said.’ Wayne himself freely admitted he was doing more than playing his usual soldier role. He saw the movie as ‘an American film about American boys who were heroes over there. In that sense, it was propaganda.’ Of all the filmmakers in Hollywood, whether Hawk or Dove, only Wayne was willing to take a financial gamble and make a movie about an increasingly unpopular war. But The Green Berets did not inspire other filmmakers to use Vietnam as a subject for war movies. … As the vehicle for his explorations, Coppola selected John Milius’s six-year-old screenplay based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Shifting Conrad’s story of civilization’s submission to the brutality of human nature from the jungles of Africa to Vietnam, the script told the story of a Green Beret officer who defects and sets up his own army across the Cambodian border where he proceeds to fight both American and Vietcong forces. Throughout the film’s production, Coppola shifted his intended focus from an anti-war film to an action adventure film and back again. At one point, he characterized Apocalypse Now as pro-American, denying it was anti-Pentagon or even anti-war. During filming in the Philippines, he described Apocalypse Now as ‘anti-lie, not an anti-war film. I am interested in the contradictions of the human condition.’ …”
Film Comment: September-October 1979 Issue
PBS: 12 Documentaries About the Vietnam War on the American Homefront (Video)
Esquire: The 10 Best Movies About the Vietnam War (Video)

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Cronkite, Lyn. Johnson, Movie, R. McNamara, SDS, Vietnam War, Weather Underground and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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