A look back at Good Morning, Vietnam on its 30th anniversary
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One of Robin Williams most memorable movie moments, Good Morning, Vietnam is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. A timeless classic that blends seamless comedy with inherently horrific real-life situations that occurred during the middle of the Vietnam war, both to the American soldiers and those who called the country their home.
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Loosely based on the experiences of Armed Forces Radio Service disk jockey Adrian Cronauer (portrayed by Williams), Good Morning, Vietnam explores the need for people such as Cronauer to bring humour and light into a dark war for American soldiers stuck in a foreign country, fighting a cause that was often fraught with war crimes led by corrupt sectors of the US government.
As do many films that Williams lends his comedic prowess to, his portrayal of Cronauer is absolutely mesmerizing to watch which makes Good Morning, Vietnam one of the best performances of his decade-spanning career. It’s probably a testament to the effort that Williams lent to the production of the film itself, taking Cronauer’s original treatment that was initially pitched as a sitcom and then as a TV movie of the week to director Barry Levinson and writer Mitch Markowitz.
Before Cronauer’s stories were transformed into a script by Markowitz, TV networks refused Cronauer’s pitch due to the combination of comedy and drama regarding the Vietnam War; an aspect that was somehow deemed controversial in the era of the successful war sitcom M*A*S*H*. To write, create, produce and release Good Morning, Vietnam was incredibly brave and ended up being entirely needed. It allowed audiences in America – and across the world – to see a conflict from a distant land dramatized on the big screen as both a comedy and a horrifically apt, non-fiction drama.
The film is expertly divided by Williams’ astoundingly improvised monologue broadcasts to the troops and Cronauer being placed right in the center of a Viet Cong bombing of a restaurant. One of the major aspects of the film is Cronauer’s honest nature in regard to reporting the truth to the troops across the airwaves, rather than listening to his superiors who (unsurprisingly) have something to hide, even within their own military.
Good Morning, Vietnam is often lauded as a classic film due to Williams’ performance (and rightly so), but Williams comedic talent often overshadows his immense ability to turn that switch off and become poignantly emotional at just the right moments. Once the film takes a drastic turn in light of horrendous events that unfold, Williams opens a tragically touching side of himself to fully convey the gravity of the situations towards the end of the film. As much as his improvisation is adored by many, its these small moments of captivating emotion that Good Morning, Vietnam should be more frequently known for.
Williams is also elevated by those around him, including Forest Whitaker as Eddie Garlick – a fellow soldier that Cronauer frequently explores the local Saigon bar scene with. The chemistry between himself and Williams is unpalpable, and fully propels one of Williams’ most notable performances that began his never-ending string of hits through the 1980s and for many years after, eventually cementing a legacy that is still as prevalent as ever, even after Williams’ sudden passing in the summer of 2014.
It may be thirty years since Good Morning, Vietnam first hit theatres, but it hasn’t faded at all from public consciousness … and neither has that famous catchphrase.
Good Morning, Vietnam celebrates the 30th anniversary of its UK release on 25th December 2017.