The Great Santini (1980)

PG | 118 mins | Drama | 14 July 1980

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HISTORY

       A 7 Feb 1977 DV news item announced that Bing Crosby Productions (BCP) had optioned the Pat Conroy novel The Great Santini to adapt as a theatrical film set for a 1978 release. Conroy was hired to write the screenplay. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, writer-director Lewis John Carlino, a New York playwright, later replaced Conroy.
       A 17 Aug 1980 Washington Post article reported that BCP executive Charles A. Pratt loved the story from the beginning, and convinced United Artists Corp. executives to provide half the financing. However, when a top UA executive left to form Orion Pictures, the project was in limbo until it was put on the slate at Orion.
       According to a 18 Oct 1978 Var brief and a 1 Nov 1978 Var article, principal photography began on 18 Oct 1978 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, a training facility on Parris Island, SC, as part of an eight-week schedule. The Washington Post reported that the budget was $4 million. A 12 Dec 1978 HR news item stated that the production left SC, and relocated to Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood, CA, for additional filming, and a brief in the 15 Dec 1978 DV announced that principle photography was completed on that day.
       According to the Washington Post, and articles in the 17 Jan 1981 LAHExam and 11 Mar 1981 NYT, the film failed to capture an audience in several markets throughout the county, and filmmakers resorted to alternate titles including Sons and Daughters, ... More Less

       A 7 Feb 1977 DV news item announced that Bing Crosby Productions (BCP) had optioned the Pat Conroy novel The Great Santini to adapt as a theatrical film set for a 1978 release. Conroy was hired to write the screenplay. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, writer-director Lewis John Carlino, a New York playwright, later replaced Conroy.
       A 17 Aug 1980 Washington Post article reported that BCP executive Charles A. Pratt loved the story from the beginning, and convinced United Artists Corp. executives to provide half the financing. However, when a top UA executive left to form Orion Pictures, the project was in limbo until it was put on the slate at Orion.
       According to a 18 Oct 1978 Var brief and a 1 Nov 1978 Var article, principal photography began on 18 Oct 1978 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, a training facility on Parris Island, SC, as part of an eight-week schedule. The Washington Post reported that the budget was $4 million. A 12 Dec 1978 HR news item stated that the production left SC, and relocated to Samuel Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood, CA, for additional filming, and a brief in the 15 Dec 1978 DV announced that principle photography was completed on that day.
       According to the Washington Post, and articles in the 17 Jan 1981 LAHExam and 11 Mar 1981 NYT, the film failed to capture an audience in several markets throughout the county, and filmmakers resorted to alternate titles including Sons and Daughters, Reaching Out, and The Ace to drum up business. Although the original title made audiences think of “an Italian juggling act,” and magicians, the new titles did little to excite audiences or generate revenue. A 10 Jul 1980 DV article stated that due to its poor performance in ten markets, and without playing in New York and Los Angeles, the film was withdrawn from distribution.
       The 10 Jul 1980 DV stated that a new advertising campaign was devised, and the film was reissued on 14 Jul 1980 under its original title at New York City’s 450-seat Guild Theater. It was also made available two weeks later to Home Box Office (HBO) subscribers by the title The Ace. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Carlino pushed heavily to keep the original title, and explained that it captured the essence of the marine pilot, who “…in a way..[is] a performer. He’s a juggler, a clown, a daredevil, a bully, a rogue, a man who thrives on danger, who has incredible energy and drive."
       The Washington Post reported that through word of mouth and positive reviews, the film broke the “Guild Theater’s all-time house attendance record.”

      The following statement appears in opening credits: “Over Spain 1962.” End credits state: “We gratefully acknowledge the technical assistance of the U. S. Marine Corps in the production of this motion picture,” and, “Filmed on location in South Carolina and in Samuel Goldwyn Studios, Hollywood, Calif.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
7 Feb 1977.
---
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1978.
---
Daily Variety
10 Jul 1980
p.1, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Oct 1979
p. 3.
LAHExam
17 Jan 1981
Section C, p. 1, 10.
Los Angeles Times
17 Aug 1980
p. 28.
New York Times
14 Jul 1980
p. 14.
New York Times
11 Mar 1981
Section C, p. 19.
Variety
18 Oct 1978.
---
Variety
1 Nov 1978
p. 3, 30.
Variety
31 Oct 1979
p. 14.
Washington Post
17 Aug 1980
Section L, p.1, 5.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Also Starring:
Bill Nelson
Basketball Players:
Cheerleaders:
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PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Orion Pictures Release Thru Warner Bros. A Warner Communications Company
BCP Presents
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr/1st asst dir
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
Written for the screen by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
Aerial seq
Aerial cam
Asst aerial cam
Gaffer
2d elec
Key grip
2d grip
Dir of photog, New York crew
Cam op, New York crew
1st asst cam, New York crew
2d asst cam, New York crew
Still photog, New York crew
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Consulting ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Propmaker
Leadman
Leadman
Const coord
COSTUMES
Costumer
Costumer
MUSIC
Scoring mixer
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
Makeup, New York crew
PRODUCTION MISC
Post prod coord
Casting
Local casting
Asst to prod exec
Prod coord
Prod asst
Dog trainer
Bee consultant
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Scr supv
Loc auditor
Unit pub
Asst to unit pub
BCP development exec
Exec in charge of prod
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Great Santini by Pat Conroy (Boston, 1976).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Ace
Sons and Heroes
Reaching Out
The Gift of Fury
Release Date:
14 July 1980
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 14 July 1980
Los Angeles opening: 17 August 1980
Production Date:
18 October--15 December 1978 in Beaufort, SC, and Hollywood, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Orion Pictures Company & Bing Crosby Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
22 February 1980
Copyright Number:
PA58661
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
118
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At a restaurant in Spain in 1962, U.S. marine fighter pilots celebrate their victory over the navy in an aerial contest, and throw a going-away party for Lt. Col. Bull “The Great Santini” Meechum. Soon, a navy captain orders the squadron to leave the premises over making excessive noise. Bull pretends to cooperate, then gropes the navy captain’s wife as he spins her around in a dance. He releases her, and then simulates vomiting on some musicians by squirting the contents of a Campbell’s soup can on the floor. When several of Bull’s fellow soldiers eat the “vomit” with spoons, Bull clears out the restaurant. Back in Atlanta, Georgia, Bull returns home to his family. There, his wife, Lillian, congratulates him on his promotion, and they make love. When Bull’s alarm clock rings at 3:00 a.m., he rouses his children for moving day, despite Lillian’s protests. With their station wagon piled high with suitcases, the family sings patriotic songs on the road at Bull’s insistence. Later, Bull wakes his oldest son, Ben, to talk about sports. Ben wonders aloud what might happen if he changed his mind about becoming a marine. However, Bull is only half listening. He says Ben can attend a four-year college first, but he is most certainly going into the Marine Corps. When Ben asks his father if he would like to die in combat, Bulls responds that it would beat dying of hemorrhoids. The Meechums arrive in Beaufort, South Carolina, and the children are unimpressed with their new town. When Bull reports to Col. Virgil Hedgepath, the officer warns him not to try any more stunts like those in the Spanish restaurant. ... +


At a restaurant in Spain in 1962, U.S. marine fighter pilots celebrate their victory over the navy in an aerial contest, and throw a going-away party for Lt. Col. Bull “The Great Santini” Meechum. Soon, a navy captain orders the squadron to leave the premises over making excessive noise. Bull pretends to cooperate, then gropes the navy captain’s wife as he spins her around in a dance. He releases her, and then simulates vomiting on some musicians by squirting the contents of a Campbell’s soup can on the floor. When several of Bull’s fellow soldiers eat the “vomit” with spoons, Bull clears out the restaurant. Back in Atlanta, Georgia, Bull returns home to his family. There, his wife, Lillian, congratulates him on his promotion, and they make love. When Bull’s alarm clock rings at 3:00 a.m., he rouses his children for moving day, despite Lillian’s protests. With their station wagon piled high with suitcases, the family sings patriotic songs on the road at Bull’s insistence. Later, Bull wakes his oldest son, Ben, to talk about sports. Ben wonders aloud what might happen if he changed his mind about becoming a marine. However, Bull is only half listening. He says Ben can attend a four-year college first, but he is most certainly going into the Marine Corps. When Ben asks his father if he would like to die in combat, Bulls responds that it would beat dying of hemorrhoids. The Meechums arrive in Beaufort, South Carolina, and the children are unimpressed with their new town. When Bull reports to Col. Virgil Hedgepath, the officer warns him not to try any more stunts like those in the Spanish restaurant. Soon, Col. Varney, his commanding officer, criticizes Bull for being an alcoholic and a disgrace to the Corps, but he wants Bull to get the other pilots trained for a potential conflict with Cuba. Col. Varney warns Bull that if he screws up, it will end his career. At home, Bull addresses his children like soldiers, demands breakfast, and trades punches with Arrabelle Smalls, the new maid. Later, Ben and Bull play one-on-one basketball, while the rest of the family watches. When the score is two to one in Ben’s favor, Bull cheats. Ben retaliates by excessively dribbling the ball, tiring his father, then scoring. When Ben wins by one basket, Bull is a sore loser. He snaps at his daughter, Mary Ann, insults his wife, and demands that Ben score yet another point to win. When Ben refuses to play, Bull follows his son inside the house, taunting him and bouncing the basketball off his head. At night, Ben peers out his window, and sees his father shooting baskets in the rain. Soon, Ben confesses to his mother that he prays for another war so his father can fight a real enemy. Lillian insists that Bull loves Ben, but the boy is not convinced. Lillian denies that Bull abuses her, and believes that his behavior toward his children is designed to make them tough, and the best they can be. However, Ben is tired of the punches, kicks, and verbal abuse. According to Lillian, Bull knows that he now needs to practice if he wants to beat Ben. Lillian says it is Bull’s way of apologizing, and he would not do it for anyone else. One day, Arrabelle Smalls’s son, Toomer, a beekeeper, invites Ben to go salt-water fishing. Along the way, Red Pettus, the town bully, taunts Toomer about his stuttering. Toomer ignores him, and tells Ben that Red is a racist. At the Smalls converted school bus home near the river, Ben cautiously befriends Gray, the meanest of Toomer’s sixteen dogs. They spend the day on the river, and camp out under the stars. Sometime later, Bull wakes Ben at 4:00 a.m. to give him a birthday present. The gift is Bull’s leather WWII flight jacket, and it fits Ben perfectly. He is thrilled, and Bull swells with pride as he relives the day Ben was born eighteen years ago. One day, Bull is nervous and irritable before Ben’s home varsity basketball game against a strong opposing team. He appears in the locker room after a few drinks at the officers’ club, and demands the team score forty points. During the game, Bull rejoices over every point Ben scores. It is a tight contest, and Bull is angry when the referee misses fouls caused by Abbot, Ben’s rival. When Abbot causes Ben to fall, Bull rushes to the court, and instructs his son to injure the other player or not to come home. Ben misses two free throws and Bull runs down the sidelines, coaching his son. Ben is rattled, and, by mistake, passes the ball to Abbot, who misses the basket as Ben plows into him. Pandemonium breaks out when Abbot crumples to the ground, and the crowd races on court. In the locker room, coach Spinks tells Ben that Abbot has a broken arm. He says Bull’s behavior was wrong, and Ben is a coward for not fighting his father. One day, after Red Pettus bullies Toomer, and destroys his jars of honey, Toomer retaliates and grabs Red by the throat. Later, Arrabelle asks Ben to rescue Toomer when word gets out that Red and his gang are looking for revenge. Ben telephones his father about the situation, but Bull forbids him to get involved. As Red and his gang approach the house, Toomer stages a bee attack. The gang drives away, but Red returns after jumping in the lake to escape the bees. Red shoots Toomer’s favorite dog, then wounds Toomer. Although Red apologizes for hitting him by accident, Toomer releases his other dogs, and they kill Red. Soon, Ben carries Toomer to the car, but he dies. Bull arrives and screams at Ben for disobeying his orders. Ben’s justification is that he tried to follow his father’s example. Bull then realizes that Toomer is dead, and tells his son to take him to the hospital. When Bull wants to know why Ben did not explain the situation sooner, Ben confesses that it is impossible to communicate with him. Later at the officers’ club, Col. Virgil Hedgepath comments that Ben’s actions were heroic, but Bull only thinks about himself. He responds that it is tough being a warrior when there is no war to fight. Later, Bull and Lillian have a physical fight that wakes the children. They run to the kitchen and break up the battle. Reluctantly, Ben searches for Bull at his mother’s request, and finds him collapsed under a tree. He listens as his father’s mutterings dissolve into tears. Bull runs away when Ben says that he loves him. However, the son grabs his father, and takes him home. Sometime later, Ben and Mary Ann attend their high school prom, while Bull’s airplane catches fire during a test flight. In the morning, Colonels Varney and Hedgepath arrive at the Meechum home to inform Lillian of Bull’s death. Soon, Lillian instructs her children not to cry at the funeral. Later, Ben confesses that he often prayed for his father’s plane to crash so he could be free. Lillian comforts her son, telling him that he became free the night he helped Toomer. At the funeral, Col. Hedgepath eulogizes Bull, saying that he died because he stayed with his plane. Later, the Meechum family packs their belongings, and leaves town in their station wagon at 3:00 a.m. just as Bull would have done, singing patriotic songs.
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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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