From Hanoi to Hollywood: The Vietnam War in American Film (1990)

Viet Nam Generation Journal & Newsletter – V4, N1-2 “In the last fifteen years hundreds of books have been published on the Viet Nam War. They range from memoirs, to novels, to comic books. There is, however, one area where very few books dealing exclusively with Viet Nam have appeared: cinema. Nonetheless, a number of books have been published that have one chapter treating the relationship between the war and filmmaking (John Hellmann’s 1986 American Myth and the Legacy of Vietnam is a very good example); other writers, such as Susan Jeffords in her 1989 The Remasculinization of America, have analyzed this association in a larger context linking cinematic narratives to print. Before the publication of Linda Dittmar and Gene Michaud’s collection, only three volumes have been devoted to cinema and Viet Nam. … In view of this scarcity of studies, Dittmar and Michaud’s book is very welcome. Theirs is an anthology of essays that came out of a three-day conference on ‘The War Film: Contexts and Images,’ held at the University of Massachusetts at Boston in 1988. Their goal, as stated in the preface, is ‘to provide new ways of seeing the representations of [the Viet Nam] conflict, and [they hope] that this process will in turn result in a fuller understanding of the past and positive action for the future.’ The publication of this compilation accomplishes just that. This said, a book like this puts me, as a filmographer, in an awkward position. The editors have given us, for the first time, a collection of intelligent and responsible essays on the dramatic interaction between social and ethical cataclysm produced by the war in Viet Nam, and our national escapist pastime–the movies. Nineteen essays (plus the co- editors’ insightful introduction) address widely differing issues ranging from documentaries, to the Viet Nam War construction of Chuck Norris, to interpretations of well- known films. The investigators have defined their area of expertise and have accomplished their goals with penetrating perspicacity, and students of the Viet Nam era are the better for it. So what is the problem? The problem is that very few people in Hollywood and academia realize, that following Dittmar and Michaud’s own principles of classification (p. 350), there are about 500 U.S. feature movies related to the experience of the war in Vietnam, and another 100 available from Viet Nam. …”
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