Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
November 15, 2014 10:57 AM - Subscribe

An unorthodox and irreverent DJ begins to shake up things when he is assigned to the US Armed Services Radio station in Vietnam.

Roger Ebert's review of Good Morning, Vietnam dissects how Robin Williams' persona was utilized by director Barry Levinson:
What is inspired about “Good Morning, Vietnam,” which contains far and away the best work Williams has ever done in a movie, is that his own tactics are turned against him. The director, Barry Levinson, has created a character who is a stand-up comic - he’s a fast-talking disc jockey on Armed Forces Radio during the Vietnam War, directing a nonstop monologue at the microphone. There is absolutely no biographical information about this character. We don’t know where he comes from, what he did before the war, whether he has ever been married, what his dreams are, what he’s afraid of. Everything in his world is reduced to material for his program.

Levinson used Mitch Markowitz’s script as a starting point for a lot of Williams’ monologues, and then let the comedian improvise. Then he put together the best parts of many different takes to create sequences that are undeniably dazzling and funny. Williams is a virtuoso.

But while he’s assaulting the microphone, Levinson is doing something fairly subtle in the movie around him. He has populated “Good Morning, Vietnam” with a lot of character actors who are fairly complicated types, recognizably human, and with the aid of the script they set a trap for Williams. His character is edged into a corner where he must have human emotions, or die.
Bits and bobs Trivia
  • "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." (imdb)
  • "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." (imdb)
  • "Robin Williams ad-libbed all of Adrian Cronauer's broadcasts." (imdb)
  • "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." (imdb)
  • "The film was mostly shot in Bangkok, Thailand, and at the time, 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. (imdb)
  • "The fourth-highest grossing film of 1987; making approximately $123 million in the U.S. alone." (imdb)
More trivia at IMDb.

What a Wonderful World
The song, "What a Wonderful World", sung by Louie Armstrong, is famously used ironically in this film.
Live performance on YouTube.
BBC News article: "How Political is What a Wonderful World?"

There were three taglines for the movie:
  • "Time to rock it from the Delta to the DMZ!"
  • "The wrong man. In the wrong place. At the right time."
  • "In 1965, military D.J. Adrian Cronauer was sent to Vietnam to build morale. His strategy: keep 'em laughing. His problem: staying out of trouble."
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Mitch Markowitz
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (2 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Adrian Cronauer spoke to vets a few years ago about the accuracy of the portrayal, with some remarkably prophetic insight into Williams. I see him implying he gets some sort of residuals from the film's continued popularity but he doesn't seem to have e.g. a story credit.

Another notable cast member is J.T. Walsh as Sgt. Dickerson, one of the original That Guy From That Thing/Hey It's That Guy character actors, who died of a heart attack aged 54. One of his last films was Pleasantville.
posted by dhartung at 2:39 PM on November 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's a great film that never fails to come to mind when I hear someone trying to start a car that's already running.
posted by tomboko at 5:13 AM on November 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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