Saturday, June 15, 2013

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

Adrian Cronauer: Goooooooood morning, Vietnam! Hey, this is not a test! This is rock and roll! Time to rock it from the Delta to the D.M.Z.!

The backdrop is the Vietnam War and the Armed Forces Radio has a new Disk Jockey shipped in from Crete: Adrian Cronauer.  Adrian is not your typical DJ.  He's hilarious and gives the troops entertainment which is great as it helps to take their mind off the war.  In doing so, he becomes very popular.  Not just with the troops (which is great), but with those in command over him (which is not so great).  When Adrian is on the air, he breaks tradition with his creative antics and humor.  When he is off the air, he's getting to know the Vietnamese people, especially one girl in particular.

Loosely based on a true story, "Good Morning, Vietnam" made its limited premiere on December 23, 1987 before making a wider release on January 15, 1988.  With an estimated $13 million budget, it would go on to gross almost $124 million in the U.S. alone, the fourth largest grossing film for that year.

This was the fifth film directed by acclaimed Barry Levinson who had previously brought us such hits as "Diner," "The Natural," and "Tin Men," and it was the first feature film for writer Mitch Markowitz who had written for various TV shows including "M*A*S*H," "Benson," and "The Facts of Life."

"Good Morning, Vietnam" stars Robin Williams (Adrian) who won a Golden Globe for his performance and was also nominated for an Academy Award.  Other actors include Forest Whitaker (Edward), Bruno Kirby (Lt. Steven Hauk), J.T. Walsh (Sgt. Major Dickerson), Noble Willingham (Gen. Taylor), Tung Thanh Tran (Tuan), and Chintara Sukapatana (Trinh).

This film was and is a favorite of mine.  Robin Williams is at his usual comedic genius level, but "Good Morning, Vietnam" isn't just about comedy.  It has touching moments as well.  People were dying every day during that war, both U.S. soldiers as well as Vietnam civilians.  In his own way, Adrian Cronauer went against the flow and tried to bring peace into their slice of hell.

Rated R and running just slightly over two hours in length, here are some behind-the-scenes bits of information you might appreciate...

1.  The script went through a number of revisions after it was originally drafted by Adrian Cronauer in 1979. Cronauer first pitched it as a TV series, then a Movie-of-the-Week. It was the latter treatment that landed in the lap of Robin Williams, who realized the DJ role would be the perfect outlet for his brand of comedy. The original treatment by Cronauer was completely re-tooled for Williams.

2.  This movie was filmed in Thailand, not Vietnam. On the back cover of early copies of the film, street signs can be seen in Thai.  Mostly shot in Bangkok, several hundred male students from the International (American) School of Bangkok (ISB) were recruited as extras to perform in the multitude of shots showing American GI's throughout the film. As a courtesy, Robin Williams actually came to ISB and put on a stand up routine for all students in the 10th grade and above.

3.  In order to give the trailers a more military feel, scenes of Cronauer on the air in military fatigues were shot specifically for the trailers.

4.  Robin Williams ad-libbed all of Adrian Cronauer's broadcasts.

5.  As Adrian chases Tuan through the alley, the background music is actually a cut from Alex North's unused score for "2001: A Space Odyssey."

6.  Ralph Tabakin (Chaplain Noel) has appeared in every Levinson picture from "Diner" to "Liberty Heights."

7.  The soldiers in the transport trucks that Adrian Cronauer entertains are from the U.S. Army's famed 1st Infantry Division. You can tell by their distinctive "Big Red One" shoulder patches.

8.  Robin Williams's portrayal of Adrian Cronauer has led to confusion as to the beliefs of the real Cronauer. Cronauer has said that the film is about 45 percent accurate, according to a biography on Robin Williams. Cronauer has said that the film misrepresented him to make him seem anti-war, when he was, in his own words, "anti-stupidity". In fact, today Cronauer - who is now a lawyer - remains an active Republican and was a vice-chairman of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. Furthermore, Cronauer has also said that if he'd done half the things Williams did in the film, he would've been court-martialed and sent to Fort Leavenworth.

9.  Contrary to the character in the movie, the real Adrian Cronauer did not use comedy in his radio broadcast, nor was he kicked out of the military. He left Vietnam because his tour of duty was over.

10.  As of 2013, this was the first and only film for Tung Thanh Tran (Tuan), and the first American film for Chintara Sukapatana (Trinh).  It was also the first film for Cu Ba Nguyen (the flamboyant and green, Jimmy Wah).
And now you know.

With a classic soundtrack including such songs as "Beach Blanket Bingo" by Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, "I Get Around" by The Beach Boys, "Nowhere to Run" by Martha and the Vandellas, "What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong, and certain selections from Lawrence Welk (if you're into that sort of thing), the images as well as performances by a talented cast are just two factors that help make "Good Morning, Vietnam" a favorite among millions.

Here are some movie stills from the film as well as a picture of the real Adrian Cronauer...

Adrian Cronauer: Good morning, Vietnam! Hey, this is not a test. This is rock and roll. Time to rock it from the delta to the DMZ! Is that me, or does that sound like an Elvis Presley movie? Viva Da Nang. Oh, viva, Da Nang. Da Nang me, Da Nang me. Why don't they get a rope and hang me? Hey, is it a little too early for being that loud? Hey, too late. It's 0600 What's the "0" stand for? Oh, my God, it's early. Speaking of early, how about that Cro-Magnon, Marty Dreiwitz? Thank you, Marty, for "silky-smooth sound." Make me sound like Peggy Lee. Freddy and the Dreamers! Wrong speed. We've got it on the wrong speed. For those of you recovering from a hangover, that's gonna sound just right. Let's put her right back down. Let's try it a little faster, see if that picks it up a little bit. Those pilots are going, "I really like the music. I really like the music. I really like the music." Oh, it's still a bad song. Hey, wait a minute. Let's try something. Let's play this backwards and see if it gets any better. Freddy is a devil. Freddy is a devil. Picture a man going on a journey beyond sight and sound. He's left Crete. He's entered the demilitarized zone. All right. Hey, what is this "demilitarized zone"? What do they mean, "police action"? Sounds like a couple of cops in Brooklyn going, "You know, she looks pretty to me." Hey, whatever it is, I like it because it gets you on your toes better than a strong cup of cappuccino. What is a demilitarized zone? Sounds like something out of The Wizard of Oz, Oh, no, don't go in there. Oh-we-oh Ho Chi'Minh Oh, look, you've landed in Saigon. You're among the little people now. We represent the ARVN Army The ARVN Army Oh, no! Follow the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Follow the Ho Chi Minh Trail. "Oh, I'll get you, my pretty!" Oh, my God. It's the wicked witch of the north. It's Hanoi Hanna! "Now, little GI, you and your little 'tune-ooh' too!" "Oh, Adrian. Adrian. What are you doing, Adrian?" Oh, Hanna, you slut. You've been down on everything but the Titanic. Stop it right now. Hey, uh, hi. Can you help me? What's your name? "My name's Roosevelt E. Roosevelt." Roosevelt, what town are you stationed in?. "I'm stationed in Poontang." Well, thank you, Roosevelt. What's the weather like out there? "It's hot. Damn hot! Real hot! Hottest things is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking." Well, can you tell me what it feels like. "Fool, it's hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun? It's damn hot! I saw - It's so damn hot, I saw little guys, their orange robes burst into flames. It's that hot! Do you know what I'm talking about." What do you think it's going to be like tonight? "It's gonna be hot and wet! That's nice if you're with a lady, but it ain't no good if you're in the jungle." Thank you, Roosevelt. Here's a song coming your way right now. "Nowhere To Run To" by Martha and the Vandellas. Yes! Hey, you know what I mean! Too much?

Tung Thanh Tran...

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