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Siegfried Morozov
Siegfried Morozov

Good Morning Vietnam

In 1965, Airman Second Class Adrian Cronauer arrives in Saigon to work as a DJ for Armed Forces Radio Service. Private Edward Garlick takes him to the radio station, where his attitude and demeanor contrast sharply with those of many staff members. Cronauer's show starts with his signature "Good morning, Vietnam!", and consists of reading strictly censored news and irreverent humor segments mixed with rock and roll music, which is frowned upon by his superiors, Second Lieutenant Steven Hauk and Sergeant Major Phillip Dickerson. Hauk adheres to strict Army guidelines in terms of humor and music programming while Dickerson is generally abusive to all enlisted men. However, Brigadier General Taylor and the other DJs quickly grow to like Cronauer and his eccentric brand of comedy.

Good Morning Vietnam

Back at the base, Dickerson tells Cronauer that he is off the air for good after Tuan is revealed as a VC operative known as "Phan Duc To" and the one responsible for the bombing of Jimmy Wah's; Dickerson has arranged for Cronauer's honorable discharge. General Taylor informs Cronauer that, regrettably, he cannot help him since his friendship with Tuan would damage the reputation of the US Army. After Cronauer leaves, Taylor informs Dickerson that he is being transferred to Guam, citing his vindictive attitude as the reason.

While this film is incredibly funny, there are some downright serious moments. Williams handles both in full stride. Rather than gloss over the conflict, director Barry Levinson and writer Mitch Markowitz manage to provide some very poignant commentary on the war, with scenes ranging from Williams' wild cries of "Good morning, Vietnam!" to his harrowing experience being stranded behind enemy lines.

ROBIN WILLIAMS: (As Adrian Cronauer) Good morning, Vietnam. Hey, this is not a test. This is rock 'n' roll. Time to rock it from the delta to the DMZ. Is that me, or does that sound like an Elvis Presley movie? Viva Da Nang. (Singing) Oh, Viva Da Nang.

GROSS: That's Robin Williams in the 1987 film "Good Morning, Vietnam" playing a fictionalized version of Adrian Cronauer. Cronauer died last Wednesday at the age of 79. In 1965, during the war in Vietnam, he was a DJ in Saigon on Armed Forces Radio hosting a Top 40 radio show called Dawn Buster in which he signed on each morning with the now-famous words, good morning, Vietnam. After returning to the States, he continued working in broadcasting. But with the money he earned from the movie, he went to law school.

CRONAUER: No. The reaction that's shown in the film is way overblown. We did not get mailbags full of letters and cards, and we did not have a bank of phones taking requests. First of all, there was nobody - no place where anybody could phone in from anyway. But secondly, there was a reaction that I would get mostly when I went out into the field. We would get an occasional card and letter. But if I'd go out doing interviews, people would say, you're who? And I'd say Cronauer. And they'd say, oh, yeah, I think I - and I'd say, good morning - oh, yes, of course. And I found out later on that many times the GIs, although the program was popular and they enjoyed it, if I'd do the good morning, Vietnam, on a particularly bad day, they'd boo and hissed, and occasionally some would yell at their radio the GI equivalent of get stuffed, Cronauer.

I checked all this with Mark Frost, too (and you can find his website here). He confirmed that he did indeed write the screenplay, that it turned out to be a good script, and that Disney wanted to make it. Noting that it was an era where sequels were still not quite as commonplace, there was still interest.

With a good deal of material to draw from, Williams then had to perform it. The in-booth Cronaur scenes only make up about 12 minutes of screentime in the movie, but they are the defining feature of it.

In the beginning scenes, Cronauer arrived in Saigon, Vietnam, and began his time as a morning show host for Armed Forces Radio Service. Cronauer's superiors, however, were less than satisfied with his show's content, especially the jokes about the military. One day, Cronauer was on the scene when a local GI bar was suddenly blown up by a bomb, attributed to the Viet Cong, a South Vietnamese terrorist group.

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