Coming Home (1978)

R | 127 mins | Drama | 15 February 1978

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HISTORY

       On 25 Nov 1975, DV announced that producer Jerome Hellman was teaming with director John Schlesinger and screenwriter Waldo Salt for a United Artists (UA) production with the “working title” Coming Home. The three filmmakers had previously collaborated on Midnight Cowboy (1969, see entry) and The Day of the Locust (1975, see entry). At the time of the DV report, Jane Fonda had already been cast as “Sally Hyde” and Fonda’s business partner, Bruce Gilbert, was listed as associate producer. Principal photography was scheduled to begin Dec 1976.
       The project remained in limbo over the next year, until a 6 Oct 1976 Var column announced that Hal Ashby was taking over Schlesinger’s role as director. A 20 Oct 1976 DV brief explained that Schlesinger left Coming Home to direct Yanks (1979, see entry) and Ashby had just completed postproduction on UA’s Bound for Glory (1976, see entry). Jack Nicholson, who had previously worked with Ashby on The Last Detail (1974, see entry), was “being pitched” at that time for the role of disabled Vietnam veteran “Luke Martin,” and the production had been approved for a 3 Jan 1977 principal photography start date in Southern California. According to DV, Fonda and Gilbert originated the story of the film, and Fonda hired Nancy Dowd to write an early version of the script, then titled Buffalo Ghosts. When Fonda and Dowd “disagreed on concept,” Salt took over as screenwriter. Film editor and Ashby collaborator, Robert C. ... More Less

       On 25 Nov 1975, DV announced that producer Jerome Hellman was teaming with director John Schlesinger and screenwriter Waldo Salt for a United Artists (UA) production with the “working title” Coming Home. The three filmmakers had previously collaborated on Midnight Cowboy (1969, see entry) and The Day of the Locust (1975, see entry). At the time of the DV report, Jane Fonda had already been cast as “Sally Hyde” and Fonda’s business partner, Bruce Gilbert, was listed as associate producer. Principal photography was scheduled to begin Dec 1976.
       The project remained in limbo over the next year, until a 6 Oct 1976 Var column announced that Hal Ashby was taking over Schlesinger’s role as director. A 20 Oct 1976 DV brief explained that Schlesinger left Coming Home to direct Yanks (1979, see entry) and Ashby had just completed postproduction on UA’s Bound for Glory (1976, see entry). Jack Nicholson, who had previously worked with Ashby on The Last Detail (1974, see entry), was “being pitched” at that time for the role of disabled Vietnam veteran “Luke Martin,” and the production had been approved for a 3 Jan 1977 principal photography start date in Southern California. According to DV, Fonda and Gilbert originated the story of the film, and Fonda hired Nancy Dowd to write an early version of the script, then titled Buffalo Ghosts. When Fonda and Dowd “disagreed on concept,” Salt took over as screenwriter. Film editor and Ashby collaborator, Robert C. Jones, was added as co-screenwriter sometime between late Dec 1976 and 7 Jan 1977, according to Var production charts. A Mar 2008 Vanity Fair article stated that Salt suffered a heart attack in winter 1976 with only thirty-six pages of the shooting script completed, and the remaining content was invented throughout the production, with Jones’s additions as well as contributions by actors, filmmakers, and improvised scenes.
       A 13 Nov 1976 LAT news item announced that Jon Voight and Nicholson were “close to signing on,” with Voight in the role of “Capt. Bob Hyde.” Just over a week later, on 24 Nov 1976, LAT reported “rumors” that Nicholson was leaving the film and Bruce Dern had been hired in his place. However, Voight was now set to play the role of Luke Martin and Dern was cast as Capt. Bob Hyde. A 3 Dec 1976 HR news item confirmed the LAT story and a 3 Jan 1977 DV advertisement announced that filming was set to begin that day in Los Angeles, CA.
       At the time, Fonda was known, and publicly criticized, for her political activism, particularly her opposition to the Vietnam War. After a series of controversial public statements and the publication of a photograph in which she was seated on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft battery in Hanoi, North Vietnam, the actress’s activism became widely decried as “anti-American” among military personnel and political conservatives. During production of the film, several contemporary sources suggested that Coming Home was a vehicle for Fonda’s political convictions. However, the 7 Feb 1977 LAT quoted Fonda taking the position that the picture was not moralistic or heavy-handed, but rather “an affirmation of human potential in the face of adversity.” Fonda also told LAT that she wanted the picture to acknowledge the complex issues faced by Vietnam veterans, especially those who returned home physically and emotionally impeded, because their dilemma had been previously “swept under the rug” by society. In the Mar 2008 Vanity Fair, Fonda recalled that she was inspired by fellow anti-war activist and disabled Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, who shared the stage with her at a rally in 1973 and said, “I may have lost my body, but I gained my mind.” Kovic’s 1977 autobiographical book, Born on the Fourth of July, was later adapted by Oliver Stone into an 1989 Academy Award winning feature film by the same name (see entry).
       The 7 Feb 1977 LAT also reported that principal photography was underway at that time in a Downey, CA, hospital. Producer Jerome Hellman noted that Voight had been “living in a wheelchair for two months” to accurately portray his character. The picture remained on Var production charts until mid May 1977, when an 18 May 1977 Var news item announced that Fonda, Dern, and a twenty-three-person crew were recently filming for one week in Hong Kong, China, before finishing principal photography.
       Coming Home was released one year later, on 15 Feb 1978, to generally positive reviews. While the 15 Feb 1978 HR hailed the picture for focusing on the emotional lives of its characters rather than politics, noting that the film was “less a movie about the war in Vietnam than the whole question of consciousness-raising among the women in this country,” the 16 Feb 1978 NYT review complained that the three-sided love story transformed the narrative into a facile “woman’s picture.” The 15 Feb 1978 DV wrote: “Fonda’s real-life identification with Vietnam protest could obscure full appreciation of her performance here, since audiences may tend to add in that extraneous element. That would be unfortunate, because, if anything, she and Ashby have reined in any tendencies to be smug or pedantic.”
       A 12 Jun 1978 New York brief reported that the Regency I theater in San Francisco, CA, was forced to close down after running the film for two weeks when groups of disabled people blockaded the entryway. The protesters objected to the theater’s lack of ramps, making it inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. Fonda and the film’s producers pressured UA to remove the picture from that venue and the print was transferred to an accessible San Francisco theater.
       Coming Home won three Academy Awards in the categories: Actor in a Leading Role (Jon Voight), Actress in a Leading Role (Jane Fonda), and Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. It was also nominated for five Academy Awards in the following categories: Actor in a Supporting Role (Bruce Dern), Actress in a Supporting Role (Penelope Milford), Directing, Film Editing, and Best Picture. According to UA press releases in AMPAS library files and a 30 May 1979 Var article, the film grossed over $2.5 million domestically in the week following the 9 Apr 1979 Academy Awards broadcast, adding to the $16 million box-office receipts to date. Anticipating Academy Award recognition, UA had earmarked approximately 400 new prints for release in “key situations” following the awards show. By the end of May 1979, the picture had added another $5 million to its total domestic gross, as well as over 100 additional prints. Var pointed out that Coming Home’s main Academy Award competitor, Deer Hunter (1978, see entry), which won Best Picture, was also themed around the Vietnam War.
       Later that year, Coming Home filmmakers, including Fonda, were sued for $100 million in federal court for copyright infringement by author Sonya Jason, who claimed that “substantial” portions of the movie were lifted from her 1973 book, Concomitant Soldier: Women and War, as reported in the 8 Dec 1979 LAT. Similarly, the film became subject of a $5 million lawsuit several years later, when Rutgers University African American Studies professor, George Davis, contended that Coming Home “deliberately and intentionally copied” his 1971 book, also titled Coming Home. According to Davis’s lawyer in a 1 Dec 1981 DV article, the author had rejected UA’s “$5-10,000” out of court settlement offer. On 16 Mar 1983, DV announced that UA had won a “summary judgment” in the Davis suit, as the court ruled that “there was no similarity between the two works other than the common title and the Vietnam War subject.”
       Coming Home ranked #78 on AFI's television special, 100 Years... 100 Passions.

      End credits include the following statement: “Hong Kong sequence photographed with Panavision® equipment.” The last name of actress Rita Taggart is misspelled onscreen as “Taggert.” Actor Willie Tyler's name is spelled correctly in opening credits, but misspelled "Willy Tyler" in end credits. During production, a 21 Jan 1977 HR “Film Assignments” column listed Edward Warschilka as film editor and Don Zimmerman as assistant editor; however, Warschilka is not credited onscreen and Zimmerman receives sole credit as film editor.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Nov 1975.
---
Daily Variety
20 Oct 1976.
---
Daily Variety
3 Jan 1977.
---
Daily Variety
15 Feb 1978
p. 3, 11.
Daily Variety
1 Dec 1981.
---
Daily Variety
16 Mar 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Feb 1978
p. 3, 12.
Los Angeles Times
29 Nov 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Nov 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Nov 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Feb 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Feb 1978
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
8 Dec 1979.
---
New York
12 Jun 1978.
---
New York Times
16 Feb 1978
p. 20.
Vanity Fair
Mar 2008.
---
Variety
6 Oct 1976.
---
Variety
7 Jan 1977.
---
Variety
15 Feb 1978
p. 19.
Variety
30 May 1979
p. 1, 39.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Also Starring:
Co-Starring:
Marines at gate:
Surveillance men:
[and]
Marines at party:
FBI agents:
[and]
Men & women at hospital who played themselves:
Tom Walker
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Jerome Hellman Production
A Hal Ashby Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
2nd asst cam
Still photog
Gaffer
Key grip
Processing by
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Grip
Projectionist
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const coord
Leadman
Swing
Asst prop master
Asst prop master
Standby painter
Prop maker
Prop maker
Prop maker
Prop maker
Prop maker
Prop maker
Prop maker
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Labor
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
Men's cost
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Boom man
Sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
Sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Ms. Fonda's make up
Ms. Fonda's hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Loc mgr
Scr supv
Tech adv
Accountant
Casting
Addl casting
Friend who did everything [Res]
Friend who did everything [Prod asst]
Friend who did everything [Secy to Mr. Ashby]
Friend who did everything [Secy to Mr. Hellman]
Transportation coord
Asst transportation coord
Loc mgr
Prod coord
Asst auditor
Video res
Video res
Video res
Addl casting
Craft service
First aid
Catering driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver -- Ashby
Driver -- Fonda
STAND INS
Stunt double [Bob]
SOURCES
SONGS
"Hey Jude," "Strawberry Fields Forever," Beatles
"Call On Me," Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin, Columbia Records
"Once I Was," Tim Buckley, Elektra Records
+
SONGS
"Hey Jude," "Strawberry Fields Forever," Beatles
"Call On Me," Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin, Columbia Records
"Once I Was," Tim Buckley, Elektra Records
"Expecting To Fly," "For What It's Worth," Buffalo Springfield, Atlantic Recording Corporation
"Time Has Come Today," Chambers Brothers, Columbia Records
"Just Like A Woman," Bob Dylan, Columbia Records
"Save Me," Aretha Franklin, Atlantic Recording Corporation
"Follow," Richie Havens, MGM Records, Inc.
"Manic Depression," Jimi Hendrix, Warner Bros. Records
"White Rabbit," Jefferson Airplane, RCA Records
"Out Of Time," "No Expectations," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "My Girl," "Ruby Tuesday," "Sympathy For The Devil," Rolling Stones, ABKCO Records Inc.
"Bookends," Simon & Garfunkel, Columbia Records
"Born To Be Wild," Steppenwolf, ABC Records Inc.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Buffalo Ghosts
Release Date:
15 February 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 15 February 1978
Production Date:
3 January--mid May 1977 in Southern California and Hong Kong
Copyright Claimant:
United Artists Corporation
Copyright Date:
24 April 1978
Copyright Number:
PA3275
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Prints
DeLuxe®
Duration(in mins):
127
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At a Southern California Marine base hospital, disabled Vietnam veterans play pool and consider justifications for their sacrifice to the war. Elsewhere on base, Capt. Bob Hyde jogs and eagerly trains for his deployment the following day. Bob’s wife, Sally, is afraid of Bob’s departure but proud of his military service. Before dawn, Sally delivers Bob to the base and gives him a gold ring as a parting gift; he promises to never take it off. As Bob leaves, he introduces Sally to another enlistee, Sgt. Dink Mobley, and his free-spirited girl friend, Viola “Vi” Munson. When Sally asks Vi to join her for a drink, Vi invites the captain’s wife to her attic apartment. There, Sally explains that she must move from the officers’ quarters, now that Bob has shipped out, and Vi talks about her brother, Bill, who came home from Vietnam to be hospitalized for mental illness. Vi works at the base’s Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospital to be close to Bill. Sometime later, paraplegic veteran Luke Martin uses a pair of canes to propel himself through the hospital on a gurney. He complains to a male nurse nicknamed “Pee Wee” that his catheter bag needs changing. Meanwhile, Sally arrives at the hospital to apply as a volunteer. She and Luke accidentally collide and Luke’s catheter bag drops, squirting urine on Sally. Overcome with rage, Luke pummels his cane against nearby trays and wails about the mistreatment of patients. He is restrained and carted away. Sally later moves to a beachside house next door to Vi’s apartment, despite Bob’s insistence that she live ... +


At a Southern California Marine base hospital, disabled Vietnam veterans play pool and consider justifications for their sacrifice to the war. Elsewhere on base, Capt. Bob Hyde jogs and eagerly trains for his deployment the following day. Bob’s wife, Sally, is afraid of Bob’s departure but proud of his military service. Before dawn, Sally delivers Bob to the base and gives him a gold ring as a parting gift; he promises to never take it off. As Bob leaves, he introduces Sally to another enlistee, Sgt. Dink Mobley, and his free-spirited girl friend, Viola “Vi” Munson. When Sally asks Vi to join her for a drink, Vi invites the captain’s wife to her attic apartment. There, Sally explains that she must move from the officers’ quarters, now that Bob has shipped out, and Vi talks about her brother, Bill, who came home from Vietnam to be hospitalized for mental illness. Vi works at the base’s Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospital to be close to Bill. Sometime later, paraplegic veteran Luke Martin uses a pair of canes to propel himself through the hospital on a gurney. He complains to a male nurse nicknamed “Pee Wee” that his catheter bag needs changing. Meanwhile, Sally arrives at the hospital to apply as a volunteer. She and Luke accidentally collide and Luke’s catheter bag drops, squirting urine on Sally. Overcome with rage, Luke pummels his cane against nearby trays and wails about the mistreatment of patients. He is restrained and carted away. Sally later moves to a beachside house next door to Vi’s apartment, despite Bob’s insistence that she live with his mother during his absence. Unpacking boxes, Sally shows Vi her high school yearbook and points out a picture of Luke, who was captain of the football team. Back at the VA, Luke stages a hunger strike, protesting his restraints. Sally arrives for her first day of work and checks on Luke, who remembers her as a cheerleader and asks her to remove his shackles. She reluctantly complies, but her efforts are thwarted by Pee Wee and a female nurse, who order Sally to leave before dislodging Luke, themselves. Later, Sally’s car breaks down and she buys a Porsche Speedster. She writes a letter to Bob, telling him that she is a volunteer, despite his wishes that she remain out of work, but she refrains from mentioning the beach house and sports car. Back at the hospital, Luke criticizes Sally for being a socialite and warns her that Bob will come home in a body bag. Sally takes her patients’ stories of mistreatment to a committee of high-ranking Marine wives, asking them to publish an article in the base newsletter, but the ladies refuse. When she reports back to her patients with indignation, Luke says, “You are beautiful when you are excited.” Sometime later, Sally changes her conservative hairstyle and Luke is transferred to a wheelchair, allowing him to become more mobile. She invites him to dinner. At a Veteran’s Day celebration, Sally and Luke join Vi and her brother, Bill, who breaks down sobbing while playing guitar. Luke, also in tears, embraces his fellow soldier. Afterward, Sally escorts Luke to her house and he confesses his attraction to her. Although Sally is reticent about being unfaithful to Bob, she accepts a ride on Luke’s lap when they return to the hospital, and responds tentatively to his farewell kiss. The following day, Sally receives a telegram announcing that Bob and Dink are scheduled for leave in Hong Kong. She invites Vi to come along, but the young woman refuses to leave her brother. Outside, Luke joyously tells Sally that he is being discharged from the hospital in several days, but his mood shifts when he learns about Sally’s reunification with Bob. In Hong Kong, Bob is angered by news that Sally is working and Dink is upset by Vi’s absence. Following Sally’s advice, Dink decides to marry Vi and gives Sally a letter with his proposal. In their hotel room, Bob expresses his disillusion with the war, confessing that his soldiers wanted to decapitate their victims for sport. However, he snubs Sally’s attempts at consolation. Meanwhile, back in California, Vi’s brother Bill emotionally unravels in the hospital and commits suicide by injecting his arm with an empty syringe. Sally comes home that day to find Vi grieving for her brother. In the evening, the two women go to a club and Vi decides to accept Dink’s proposal, but flirts with intoxicated would-be suitors. They escort the ladies to a hotel room, where Vi performs a strip tease before breaking down in tears. Elsewhere, Luke loads his customized Mustang with chains, drives to a Marine recruit depot, and shackles himself to the gates in an act of civil disobedience. As Sally leads Vi through the hotel lobby, the friends see a television news broadcast of Luke, who tells reporters that he wants to prevent others from killing themselves in Vietnam to commemorate Bill’s suicide. Sally bails Luke out of jail and expresses her desire to make love, but the couple is unwittingly followed to Luke’s apartment by men who are conducting surveillance. That night, Sally experiences an orgasm for the first time. In the coming days, Sally and Luke become inseparable, unaware that they are being watched. One day, Luke picks Sally up from work with an opened letter from Bob, who has been shot in the leg and is coming home. Sally and Luke make love one last time and vow to remain friends. At the base airfield, Sally reunites with Bob, who is displeased by her transformation but delighted by the sports car. The couple returns to the beach house and Bob reports that he accidentally shot himself in the leg, but Vi suggests that his actions were intentional. Angry, Bob leaves Sally to drink with fellow Marines. Sometime later, Bob is summoned to Marine intelligence headquarters by the FBI and learns of his wife’s affair. Bob goes to Luke’s apartment to tell him about the surveillance and claims that Sally has also been informed. However, Luke phones Sally to discover that Bob has not mentioned the news to her and he becomes concerned about Bob’s mental state. Bob returns home with a loaded bayonet rifle and Sally admits to the affair, but she argues that she still loves Bob and wants to work on their relationship. Bob is further incensed when Luke arrives at the beach house expressing compassion, and he holds his wife and her lover at gunpoint. Luke explains that Sally always defended her marriage, and she wants to help her husband recover from the ravages of war. As Bob lets down his guard and Sally consoles him, Luke unloads bullets from the bayonet and leaves. Sometime later, Bob receives medals for his supposed heroism, but feels undeserving. Meanwhile, Luke gives a speech to high school boys considering enlistment and tells them they have a choice to save their own lives. Back at home, Sally leaves Bob to go to the grocery store. Alone and despondent, Bob walks to the beach, removes his clothes, including his ring, and jogs into the waves. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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