Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

R | 144 mins | Biography, Drama | 20 December 1989

Director:

Oliver Stone

Cinematographer:

Robert Richardson

Editor:

David Brenner

Production Designer:

Bruno Rubeo

Production Company:

Ixtlan
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HISTORY

       On 18 Oct 1976, Publishers Weekly announced that film rights to Ron Kovic’s autobiography, Born on the Fourth of July (New York, 1976) , were sold to Artists Entertainment Complex. Al Pacino was set to star as “Ron Kovic,” and Martin Bregman was attached to produce, with filming scheduled to begin in Jun 1977, according to a 1 Nov 1976 New York brief. HR confirmed the summer 1977 start date on 7 Mar 1977, and stated that Paramount Pictures would distribute. The project was delayed, and a 1 Jun 1978 HR item reported that United Artists had taken over as distributor. A 22 Jul 1978 LAT item later claimed that Born on the Fourth of July was originally set up at Universal Pictures, and noted that Daniel Petrie was hired to direct once United Artists took over; however, United Artists had since dropped out, and Orion Pictures was reportedly considering the project.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, writer-director Oliver Stone first met Ron Kovic in the late 1970s, and the two bonded over their shared experiences as Vietnam War veterans. Stone had also been wounded in action, and both men had received Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. According to a 22 Sep 1988 Rolling Stone item, Stone took over the option on Kovic’s book in 1978, and the two collaborated on the screenplay, but obtaining financing proved difficult, “even with Al Pacino cast in the lead.” Although German investors agreed to fund the project, as noted in a 17 Dec 1989 LAT article, they fell ... More Less

       On 18 Oct 1976, Publishers Weekly announced that film rights to Ron Kovic’s autobiography, Born on the Fourth of July (New York, 1976) , were sold to Artists Entertainment Complex. Al Pacino was set to star as “Ron Kovic,” and Martin Bregman was attached to produce, with filming scheduled to begin in Jun 1977, according to a 1 Nov 1976 New York brief. HR confirmed the summer 1977 start date on 7 Mar 1977, and stated that Paramount Pictures would distribute. The project was delayed, and a 1 Jun 1978 HR item reported that United Artists had taken over as distributor. A 22 Jul 1978 LAT item later claimed that Born on the Fourth of July was originally set up at Universal Pictures, and noted that Daniel Petrie was hired to direct once United Artists took over; however, United Artists had since dropped out, and Orion Pictures was reportedly considering the project.
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, writer-director Oliver Stone first met Ron Kovic in the late 1970s, and the two bonded over their shared experiences as Vietnam War veterans. Stone had also been wounded in action, and both men had received Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. According to a 22 Sep 1988 Rolling Stone item, Stone took over the option on Kovic’s book in 1978, and the two collaborated on the screenplay, but obtaining financing proved difficult, “even with Al Pacino cast in the lead.” Although German investors agreed to fund the project, as noted in a 17 Dec 1989 LAT article, they fell out four days before shooting was set to begin.
       According to the 17 Dec 1989 LAT, Martin Bregman became convinced that the film was “impossible to make,” partly because the Academy Award-winning Coming Home (1978, see entry) dealt with similar subject matter and had utilized Kovic as a consultant. The producer was no longer involved with the project when Stone came back to it in 1986, following through on a promise to Kovic that he would revisit the project if he ever “made it” as a director. With the success of his first Vietnam film, Platoon (1986, see entry), which won several Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Stone felt he finally had the ability to get Born on the Fourth of July made. Although Tom Cruise was “connected with the revived project from the start,” according to production notes, his casting was officially announced in a 25 May 1988 LAT news brief. The 17 Dec 1989 LAT stated that Sean Penn, Charlie Sheen, and Nicolas Cage were also considered for the role.
       Items in the 24 May 1988 HR and DV stated that Hemdale Film Corporation would fund the $20 million picture, its most expensive project to date. However, Universal Pictures replaced Hemdale as the financier, as stated in the 17 Dec 1989 LAT, after the studio’s new president, Tom Pollock, decided that Born on the Fourth of July was one of the best unproduced screenplays of the past fifteen years. Pollock offered to finance the film for $14 million. Although both Stone and Cruise agreed to forgo their salaries in exchange for profit participation, the project still went over budget, with production costs amounting to $17.8 million.
       Twelve to fourteen weeks of principal photography were expected to begin Sep 1988. However, 26 Oct 1988 Var production charts listed the start date as 12 Oct 1988, while the 8 Nov 1988 HR cited the first day of principal photography as 11 Oct 1988. According to a 17 Dec 1989 NYT article, former Marine captain Dale Dye led the actors portraying Marines on two training missions, each a week long, in the U.S. and the Philippines. Meanwhile, Abbie Hoffman, an antiwar activist who appeared in the film as a "strike organizer" but died before the film was released, was hired to educate cast members about the peace movement. Kovic visited the set daily and sometimes participated in rehearsals with Cruise.
       Filming locations included the Philippines, which stood in for Vietnam and Mexico, and Dallas, TX, which doubled as Massapequa, NY. Nearly 12,000 extras were utilized for Fourth of July parade sequences, presidential conventions, and student protests, with background actors recruited from organizations like the Campfire Girls, American Legion, and National Paralysis Foundation. As stated in a 22 Jan 1989 LAT article, the Dallas Convention Center doubled as the site for the Republican National Convention in Miami, FL, and one and a half weeks of shooting took place at the Oak Parkland Hospital, which stood in for the Bronx, NY, veterans hospital where Kovic convalesced. Cruise stated that the hospital sequences, in which he was strapped to a bed for a large part of the time, were the “most grueling” to film.
       A 6 Aug 1989 LAT item stated that, after viewing a rough cut of the film, Universal ordered a re-shoot of the 1976 Democratic National Convention, which originally included a crowd of 600 extras. Requesting that Stone make the sequence “bigger and better,” the studio provided a $500,000 budget, and 6,000 extras were hired. The re-shoot was accomplished in one day at the Forum arena in Inglewood, CA.
       As stated in an 11 Dec 1989 DV brief, the film opened on 20 Dec 1989 in five theatres in Los Angeles, CA; New York City; Chicago, IL; and Toronto, Canada. A 2 Jan 1990 NYT item, which described the opening as “strong,” noted that the release date coincided with the U.S. invasion of Panama. The film’s gross box-office earnings had reached $67 million as of 3 Apr 1990, according to an LAT article of the same date.
       Critical reception was largely positive, and Tom Cruise’s performance widely praised. Academy Awards went to Oliver Stone for Directing, and David Brenner and Joe Hutshing for Editing. Additional Academy Award nominations included: Actor in a Leading Role (Tom Cruise); Cinematography; Music (Original Score); Sound; Writing; and Best Picture. Born on the Fourth of July won Golden Globe awards for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama (Tom Cruise), Best Director – Motion Picture, and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, and received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score – Motion Picture.
       In a syndicated article that appeared in the 28 Feb 1990 NYP, former White House Communications director under President Ronald Reagan, Patrick J. “Pat” Buchanan, detailed the ways in which Stone’s film deviated from Kovic’s book, including the following examples: while in the film, Kovic’s Vietnam commander dismisses his claim that he may have killed a fellow Marine, the real-life officer found Kovic innocent after an investigation; Kovic visits the dead soldier’s grave and family in Venus, Georgia, in the film, however Venus was a made-up location and no such trip took place; Kovic is seen as a victim of police brutality during a protest at Syracuse University in the film, while in real life Kovic did not attend the peaceful protest, nor did police break it up; similarly, Kovic was not assaulted at the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami, FL, as the film portrays, although he was removed after making “a five-minute ruckus.” Buchanan concluded by calling Stone a “propagandist” in the “artistic elite[‘s]…war of subversion against popular culture.” One month after the article was published, a 28 Mar 1990 LAT brief, which noted that Stone and Kovic had received criticism for “liberarlly dramatizing” the screenplay, reported that Stone apologized to the Syracuse police department for unfairly depicting the Syracuse University protest.
       An 11 Jan 1990 DV news item reported that at least ten moviegoers had fainted or received medical treatment for shortness of breath while viewing Born on the Fourth of July in theaters.
       Items in the 4 Jan 1990 DV and 5 Jan 1990 LAT announced that producer Mel Goldberg sued Ron Kovic for breach of contract, claiming that Kovic sold him the rights to his book for $10,000 in 1985 and promised to set up meetings with actors and financiers. Claiming that Kovic did not arrange meetings as promised and failed to “allow renewal of the movie option,” Goldberg sought $1 million in general damages, in addition to “unspecified punitive damages.” The outcome of the lawsuit has not been determined as of the writing of this Note.
       After extensive editing, a network television-friendly version of the film was scheduled to debut 21 Jan 1992 on the Columbia Broadcasting System television network (CBS), according to the 28 Dec 1991 issue of TV Guide, which stated that the picture was originally set to air one year earlier but was not shown due to impending war in the Persian Gulf.
      The following dedication appears after cast credits in the end credits of the film: “In Memoriam, Abbie Hoffman, November 30, 1936 – April 12, 1989.” End credits also include the following statement: “The producers gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and assistance of: Everest and Jennings Wheelchairs; Rand McNally; Miller Beer; Pepsi-Cola; Waveframe Digital Audio Workstations; Philippine Airlines; Department of National Defense, Philippines; Stoneleigh Hotel; the people of the city of Dallas; the people of the republic of the Philippines.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 May 1988
p. 1, 46.
Daily Variety
11 Dec 1989.
---
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1989.
---
Daily Variety
4 Jan 1990.
---
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 May 1988
p. 3, 80.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Nov 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1989
p. 4, 123.
Los Angeles Times
22 Jul 1978
Section B, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
25 May 1988.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Jan 1989
Calendar, p. 24.
Los Angeles Times
6 Aug 1989
Calendar, p. 38.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1989
Calendar, p. 38.
Los Angeles Times
20 Dec 1989
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
5 Jan 1990
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
28 Mar 1990
Calendar, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times
3 Apr 1990
Calendar, p. 1.
New York
1 Nov 1976.
---
New York Times
17 Dec 1989
Section A, p. 1.
New York Times
20 Dec 1989
p. 15.
New York Times
2 Jan 1990
Section C, p. 14.
NYP
28 Feb 1990
p. 19.
People
17 Apr 1989.
---
Publishers Weekly
18 Oct 1976.
---
Rolling Stone
22 Sep 1988.
---
TV Guide
28 Dec 1991
p. 27.
Variety
26 Oct 1988.
---
Variety
20 Dec 1989
p. 21.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
The Kovic family
Villa Dulce
Massapequa
The Kovic family
Massapequa
The Kovic family
+

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
The Kovic family
Villa Dulce
Massapequa
The Kovic family
Massapequa
The Kovic family
Villa Dulce
Villa Dulce
Massapequa
Veterans hospital
Veterans hospital
The Kovic family
The Kovic family
Veterans hospital
Veterans hospital
Villa Dulce
Villa Dulce
The Kovic family
The Kovic family:
William Baldwin
Massapequa:
Veterans hospital:
Villa Dulce:
Arthur's bar:
Democratic convention:
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Universal Pictures Presents
An A. Kitman Ho & Ixtlan Production
An Oliver Stone Picture
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d 2d asst dir
Prod mgr, The Philippines crew
2d 2d asst dir, The Philippines crew
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Philippines prod
WRITERS
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
B cam op
B 1st asst cam
Steadicam
Film loader
Still photog
Cam intern
Video playback
Best boy
Elec
Key grip
Grip
Grip
Dailies by
Cam asst, The Philippines crew
Focus puller, The Philippines crew
Focus puller, The Philippines crew
Key grip, The Philippines crew
Dolly grip, The Philippines crew
Best boy grip, The Philippines crew
Head elec, The Philippines crew
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art prod asst
Art prod asst
Art prod asst
Art prod asst
Art prod asst
Art prod asst
Art prod asst
Art prod asst
Art prod asst
Art dir, The Philippines crew
FILM EDITORS
Co-ed
Assoc film ed
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice film ed
Apprentice film ed
Negative cutter
Post prod editing facility
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Prop master
Standby props
Asst props
Const coord
Const foreman
Gang boss
Gang boss
Key painter
Stand by painter
Sign graphics coord
Sign writer foreman
Sign writer
Sign writer
Draftsman
Leadman, The Philippines crew
Prop master, The Philippines crew
Const mgr, The Philippines crew
Master carpenter, The Philippines crew
Head greensman, The Philippines crew
Head painter, The Philippines crew
Head armorer, The Philippines crew
Greenery by
Airbrush artist
Metal fabrication by
COSTUMES
Cost des
Asst cost des
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Extras cost supv
Extras cost supv
Extras cost supv
Extras cost supv
Cost shop supv
Extras ward asst
Extras ward asst
Extras ward asst
Cost shop asst
Cost shop asst
Cost shop asst
Head ward, The Philippines crew
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Sd mixer
Dial ed
Dial ed
Foley ed
Digital audio rec
Addl audio
Addl audio
Addl audio
ADR supv
ADR ed
Asst sd ed
Voice casting
ADR Voice Services
Foley artist
Foley artist
ADR facility L.A.
ADR mixer
Re-rec at
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Cableman, The Philippines crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff coord
Spec eff asst
Opt line-up
Opt cam
Title des and opt supv by
Spec eff coord, The Philippines crew
Spec eff 1st asst, The Philippines crew
Spec eff 2d asst, The Philippines crew
MAKEUP
Spec eff make-up
Key make-up
Make-up asst
Make-up for Tom Cruise by
Wigs des by
Key hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Prod supv
Prod coord
Asst auditor
Post prod supv
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Casting assoc
Casting assoc
Casting asst
Texas casting
Texas casting asst
Extras casting
Extras coord
Casting asst
Casting asst
Casting asst
Asst loc mgr
Loc asst
Loc asst
Asst prod coord
Asst prod coord
2d asst auditor
Asst accounting
Key prod asst
Key prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Military tech adv
Military tech adv
Military tech adv
Military tech adv
Military tech adv
Military tech adv
Tech adv
Medical adv
Wrestling adv
Parade adv
Demonstration adv
Demonstration adv
Unit pub
Pub consultant
Pub consultant
Prod's representative
Asst to Oliver Stone
Asst to A. Kitman Ho
Asst to Tom Cruise
Asst to Tom Cruise
Naijo No Ko
Transportation coord
Picture car coord
Catering
Craft service
"Laugh In" courtesy of
"Laugh In" courtesy of
"Laugh In" courtesy of
"Laugh In" courtesy of
"Laugh In" courtesy of
Historical news footage
Philippines prod supv
Loc mgr, The Philippines crew
Prod office coord, The Philippines crew
Accountant, The Philippines crew
Office prod asst, The Philippines crew
Office prod asst, The Philippines crew
Philippines casting
Extras casting, The Philippines crew
Transportation capt, The Philippines crew
Asst transportation capt, The Philippines crew
Prod physician, The Philippines crew
Picture car coord, The Philippines crew
Military liaison, The Philippines crew
Security, The Philippines crew
Craft services, The Philippines crew
Parade floats by
STAND INS
Stunt coord, The Philippines crew
COLOR PERSONNEL
Dailies col adv
Deluxe col timer
Opt col timer
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Born on the Fourth of July by Ron Kovic (New York, 1976).
AUTHOR
MUSIC
"Principal Trumpet Original Score," Tim Morrison, Boston Pops Orchestra.
SONGS
"You're A Grand Old Flag," written by George M. Cohan, performed by the Pride of the 48, Courtesy of Alshire International, Inc., published by George M. Cohan Music Publishing Co.
"Rock Around The Clock," written by Jimmy De Knight, Max Freeman, performed by Rodney Lay and the Wild West, courtesy of Sun Entertainment Corp., c/o Original Sound Entertainment, published by Myers Music
"Venus," written by Ed Marshall, performed by Frankie Avalon, courtesy of Chancellor Records, c/o Celebrity Licensing, published by SBK April Music Inc. and Welbeck Music
+
SONGS
"You're A Grand Old Flag," written by George M. Cohan, performed by the Pride of the 48, Courtesy of Alshire International, Inc., published by George M. Cohan Music Publishing Co.
"Rock Around The Clock," written by Jimmy De Knight, Max Freeman, performed by Rodney Lay and the Wild West, courtesy of Sun Entertainment Corp., c/o Original Sound Entertainment, published by Myers Music
"Venus," written by Ed Marshall, performed by Frankie Avalon, courtesy of Chancellor Records, c/o Celebrity Licensing, published by SBK April Music Inc. and Welbeck Music
"Soldier Boy," written by Luther Dixon, Florence Green, performed by The Shirelles, courtesy of Original Sound Record Co., Inc., published by ABKCO Music, Inc., Ludix Publishing Co., Inc.
"The Times They Are A Changin, written by Bob Dylan, published by Warner Bros., Inc.
"My Girl," written by William Robinson/Ronald White, performed by The Temptations, courtesy of Motown Records, published by Jobete Music Co., Inc.
"Moon River," written by Johnny Mercer, Henry Mancini, performed by Henry Mancini, courtesy of RCA Records, published by Famous Music Corporation
"American Pie," written by Don McLean, performed by Don McLean, under license from Cema Special Markets, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc., published by Music Corp. of America, Inc. & Benny Bird Music
"Brown Eyed Girl," written by Van Morrison, performed by Van Morrison, courtesy of CBS Records Music Licensing Department, published by Songs of Polygram International, Inc.
"San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)," written by John Phillips, performed by 101 Strings, courtesy of Alshire International, Inc., published by MCA Music Publishing, a division of MCA, Inc.
"Love Is Blue (L'Amour Est Blu)," written by Pierre Cour/Andre Charles Popp, performed by 101 Strings, courtesy of Alshire International, Inc., published by Intersong-USA, Inc. & Radmus Publishing, Inc.
"A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall," written by Bob Dylan, performed by Edie Brickell, courtesy of Geffen Records, published by Warner Bros., Inc.
"Up, Up And Away," written by Jimmy Webb, used by permission of Charles Koppelman Music, Martin Bandier Music and Jonathan Three Music, performed by The Fifth Dimension, courtesy of Arista Records
"Born On The Bayou," written by John C. Fogerty, performed by The Broken Homes, courtesy of Jondora Music & MCA Records, Inc.
"We Don't Need Arms," written and performed by James Palmer
"Hace Un Ano," written by F. Valdes Leal, performed by Luis Albert Del Parana and his Los Paraguayos, courtesy of Polygram Special Products, a division of Polygram Records, Inc., published by Peer International Corp.
"Que Voy A Hacer," written by Gustavo Pimentel, performed by Gustavo Pimentel, courtesy of Orefon Video Vox, S.A., published by Super Pegasus Music Publishing Corporation
"Malaguena," written by Ramirez/Galindo, performed by Luis Alberto Del Parana and his Trio Los Paraguayos, courtesy of Polygram Special Products, a division of Polygram Records, Inc., published by Peer International Corp.
"Cielito Lindo," traditional, arranged by Trini Lopez, perfumed by Trini Lopez, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records, Inc., by arrangement with Warner Special Products, published by Polygram International Publishing, Inc.
"You're A Grand Old Flag," written by George M. Cohan, performed by Catalina Strings, courtesy of Audio Book Co., Inc., c/o Celebrity Licensing, published by George M.Cohan Music Publishing Co.
"Rebecca," written by Wello Rivas, performed by Perez Prado, courtesy of Orfeon Video Vox, S.A., published by Peer International Corp.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
20 December 1989
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 20 December 1989
Production Date:
began 11 or 12 October 1988 in the Philippines and Texas
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
7 February 1990
Copyright Number:
PA453830
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses/Prints
Filmed in Panavision® with Panavision cameras & lenses
Duration(in mins):
144
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29975
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1956 Massapequa, New York, young Ron Kovic plays “war” with his friends, then attends a parade on his birthday, the Fourth of July. He excitedly points out war veterans to his father, although some of the men are disabled and seem depressed. Years later, Ron is inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s speech urging Americans to sacrifice for their country, and when two Marine recruiters visit his high school, he announces plans to enlist and fight in the Vietnam War. Although his friend Stevie Boyer urges him against it, Ron insists that Communism must be stopped. While working at the grocery store his father manages, Ron sees Donna, a childhood friend, and asks her to the prom, but she already has a date. Secretly heartbroken, Ron feigns indifference, claiming he does not have time for the dance anyway. On prom night, he packs for boot camp and argues with his father, who does not want his son to go to Vietnam. Ron reminds his father that he served in the armed forces and insists that Americans must sacrifice for their country. Mrs. Kovic comes to her son’s defense, and Ron returns to his room to pray for guidance. Ron leaves the house and runs through a rainstorm to his high school, where the dance is underway. Soaking wet, he finds Donna on the dance floor and, as they dance, kisses her. In October 1967, Ron, now a sergeant, leads his squadron on his second tour in Vietnam. After they accidentally shoot and kill innocent villagers in pursuit of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), Ron’s squad encounters enemy fire and evacuates the village, abandoning the lone survivor, a crying ... +


In 1956 Massapequa, New York, young Ron Kovic plays “war” with his friends, then attends a parade on his birthday, the Fourth of July. He excitedly points out war veterans to his father, although some of the men are disabled and seem depressed. Years later, Ron is inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s speech urging Americans to sacrifice for their country, and when two Marine recruiters visit his high school, he announces plans to enlist and fight in the Vietnam War. Although his friend Stevie Boyer urges him against it, Ron insists that Communism must be stopped. While working at the grocery store his father manages, Ron sees Donna, a childhood friend, and asks her to the prom, but she already has a date. Secretly heartbroken, Ron feigns indifference, claiming he does not have time for the dance anyway. On prom night, he packs for boot camp and argues with his father, who does not want his son to go to Vietnam. Ron reminds his father that he served in the armed forces and insists that Americans must sacrifice for their country. Mrs. Kovic comes to her son’s defense, and Ron returns to his room to pray for guidance. Ron leaves the house and runs through a rainstorm to his high school, where the dance is underway. Soaking wet, he finds Donna on the dance floor and, as they dance, kisses her. In October 1967, Ron, now a sergeant, leads his squadron on his second tour in Vietnam. After they accidentally shoot and kill innocent villagers in pursuit of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), Ron’s squad encounters enemy fire and evacuates the village, abandoning the lone survivor, a crying baby. They take cover at a nearby beach, where Ron accidentally shoots William Charles Wilson, a young man from Venus, Georgia, who just joined the squad. Ron confesses to his superior, a major who ignores the claim and warns Ron not to say anything else. In January 1968, Ron is shot in the foot and the chest during a firefight. At a crowded medical tent, Ron begs for help while a chaplain reads him his last rights. Later that year, Ron convalesces at a run-down veteran’s hospital in the Bronx. Paralyzed from the waist down, Ron is told by a doctor that he will never walk again. He works hard to regain his upper body strength and practices walking by propping his arms on crutches and dragging his legs behind him. Despite warnings from a physical therapist not to overexert himself, Ron falls from the crutches and cries out in pain. A nurse sees a bone protruding from his leg and calls for a doctor. After another surgery, Ron fights to keep his leg, which the doctors want to amputate. Claiming that he should receive better treatment as a Vietnam veteran, Ron fights with an African American nurse named Marvin, who shows little sympathy. In 1969, Ron returns to his family home with both legs intact but still paralyzed. As his five siblings greet him, Ron’s politically liberal brother, Tommy, makes an empty excuse for not visiting the hospital. Mrs. Kovic hugs her son but rushes away in tears, while neighbors slowly approach and tell Ron that he looks good. Inside the house, Ron sees an old wrestling picture and stops short, prompting his dad to cry. Ron goes to his friend Stevie’s burger shop, and Stevie offers him a job as cashier. Ron declines, saying he receives $1700 per month from the Marines, but Stevie argues that disability pay is charity. Ron worries that people look at him differently because he went to Vietnam, but Stevie says no one cares and expresses his belief that Vietnam is a pointless war. At a family dinner, Ron complains about protestors burning the American flag, and Tommy leaves the table. Learning that Tommy is against the war, Ron yells at his brother to leave America if he does not love it. On the 4th of July, Ron is honored at the Massapequa parade. However, when he makes a speech in support of the war, he is distracted by the sound of a baby crying and suffers a flashback to Vietnam. When he cannot finish a sentence, Ron is wheeled away from the microphone. In the crowd, he sees his high school friend, Timmy, also a wounded veteran. Timmy joins Ron in his backyard for beers, and they discuss their friends, Phil and Harry, who died in action. Timmy reveals that he gets terrible headaches at night and feels like he is losing his mind, while Ron believes he was wounded for mistakes he made, and would give up his beliefs just to have his body back again. Ron visits Donna at college in Syracuse and learns that she has become an anti-war protestor. Busy organizing a protest against the Kent State shootings, Donna fails to respond to Ron’s romantic overtures. He joins her at the demonstration the next day and witnesses police brutality firsthand when local cops storm the crowd. Back in Massapequa, Ron gets drunk at a bar and argues with a World War II veteran who tells him he should not expect sympathy. As he flirts with a girl on the dance floor, Ron does a wheelie and falls. His friends take him home, where Mrs. Kovic reprimands him for returning home drunk once again. They argue loudly, waking up Ron’s siblings. Ron accuses his mother of encouraging false beliefs about God and country, and yells that he shot women and children. He pulls the tube from his catheter and complains about not having a penis, causing his mother to break down in tears. As his father helps him into bed, Ron cries and asks who will ever love him. In 1970, he travels to Villa Dulce, a Mexican resort populated by wounded veterans. Ron’s new friends drink excessively, play poker, and sleep with prostitutes. At a bar in town, Ron meets Maria Elena, a prostitute who takes him upstairs and tries to remove his pants. He stops her, explaining that his penis does not work, then performs oral sex on her. Elated after his first sexual experience, Ron buys Maria Elena jewelry and returns the next day but feels sheepish when she teasingly asks if they are getting married. Later, Ron accompanies a drunken Charlie to a brothel, but they fight with the taxi driver, who abandons them on the side of the road. In agony, Charlie shouts that he was forced to kill babies in Vietnam and demands to know Ron’s secret, but Ron reveals nothing. Charlie accuses Ron of not fighting with his soul, prompting a tussle in which the two knock each other off their wheelchairs. When a passerby stops to help them, Ron laments the turn his life has taken and wonders what he will do next. Returning to the U.S., Ron travels by bus to Venus, Georgia, to visit the grave of Wilson, the soldier he accidentally killed. He goes to Wilson’s family home and confesses to the dead soldier’s parents, widow, and young son, that he is responsible for Wilson’s death. Although Wilson’s widow, Jamie, says only the Lord can forgive him, her mother-in-law claims she understands. In 1972, at the Republican National Convention in Miami, Florida, Ron protests with other veterans. Speaking to a television news reporter, he argues that men are being killed senselessly in Vietnam. Ron is forced out of the convention hall by an undercover police officer as more policemen attack demonstrators outside. Although the undercover policeman knocks Ron out of his wheelchair in an attempt to arrest him, another activist carries Ron away. As mayhem erupts outside the convention hall, Ron organizes his fellow protestors to march back inside. Four years later, Ron has written a book and is invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention in New York City. Before he goes onstage, he tells a reporter that he finally feels at home. +

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

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Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.