John Wayne’s production of “The Green Berets” (it would be ludicrous to ascribe credit to another individual) was the only Hollywood studio film to directly deal with the Vietnam War during the conflict, and would remain so for another decade. That the film tackled what could be modestly considered a hot-button topic makes it a subject of interest, but that its depiction of that topic was in direct opposition to the growing, violent national mood of the time shows a rare example of American filmmaking bravura that in itself cannot be ignored as a foundation for further industry critical evaluation.
That Hollywood would in the following several years produce so-called “anti-establishment” films is an irony lost on the entrenched industry “establishment” yielding to the increasing weight of corporate merging which demanded productions which would find a more empathetic viewpoint that would speak directly to a troubled youth (i.e., separating the youthful suckers from their money) resulting in a plethora of films filtered through Beverly Hills-colored glasses that depicted a sense of youthful societal discontent (Being that rock throwing campus riots are highly cinematic anyway, and violent action means big box office.) but without any attempted insight as to what was driving that discontent. (Thoughts? What are those? Not so cinematic. Bad box office.) The fact is that none of these films were driven by a desire to reflect American society introspectively- that was never the case in Hollywood, otherwise why would a movement such as Italian neorealism create such a stir?- but out of typical industry mammon. After all, “Easy Rider” had made a fortune on very little investment, why couldn’t the industry leaders replicate that success tenfold? Antiwar sentiment became a mere decorous backdrop in empty headed films which attempted the quick cash grab until Hollywood could formulate the next lucrative trend to supplant their prodigious bankrupting failure of their previous misguided enthusiasm: the overproduced musical.
And so, there was “The Green Berets”, the lone film whose subject dealt directly with Vietnam and would receive the brickbats from all sides generated by the increasing frustrations aimed at the inflammatory military conflict. For all of its flaws (and they are legion) or admirable qualities (Yes Virginia, there are a few.), the film has always been reviewed as an extension of an increasingly unpopular (though at the time of its release, the unpopularity of the war was not as universal as current myth making would insist) conflict, and the star’s unpopular (amongst Liberal commentators) personal Conservative politics rather than through any objective critical prism.
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