Coming Home (1978 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Hal Ashby|
|Produced by||Jerome Hellman|
|Screenplay by||Waldo Salt|
Robert C. Jones
|Story by||Nancy Dowd|
|Edited by||Don Zimmerman|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$36 million|
Coming Home is a 1978 American drama film directed by Hal Ashby from a screenplay written by Waldo Salt and Robert C. Jones from a story by Nancy Dowd. It stars Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, Bruce Dern, Penelope Milford, Robert Carradine and Robert Ginty. The film's narrative follows a perplexed woman, her Marine husband, and a paraplegic Vietnam War veteran she meets while her husband is stationed in Vietnam.
The film was released theatrically on February 15, 1978. Upon release, the film was a critical and commercial success with critics acclaiming the direction, screenplay and performances while the film grossed $36 million worldwide against a budget of $3 million becoming the 15th highest-grossing film of 1978, while receiving eight nominations at the 51st Academy Awards, winning the Oscars for Best Actress (Fonda), Best Actor (Voight) and Best Original Screenplay. Coming Home is one of only 12 films in history to be on two lists of rare Oscar accomplishments; nominations for the "Big Five" Oscars and nominations in all acting categories.
In 1968 California, Sally, a loyal and conservative military wife, is married to Bob Hyde, a captain in the United States Marine Corps, who is about to be deployed to Vietnam. As a dedicated military officer, Bob sees it primarily as an opportunity for progress. At first, Sally dreads being left alone, but after a while, she feels liberated. Forced to find housing off the base, she moves into a new apartment by the beach and buys a sports car. With nothing else to do, she decides to volunteer at a local veterans' (VA) hospital. This, in part, is motivated by her bohemian friend Vi Munson, whose brother Billy has come home after just two weeks in Vietnam with grave emotional problems and now resides in the VA hospital.
At the hospital, Sally meets Luke Martin, a former high school classmate. Like his friend Billy, Luke had gone to Vietnam but came back wounded. He is recuperating at the hospital from the injuries he sustained which left him a paraplegic. Filled with pain, anger and frustration, Luke is now opposed to the war. Luke at first is a bitter young man, but as he is increasingly thrown into contact with Sally, a relationship starts to develop. Eventually, Luke is released from the hospital, and, newly mobile with his own wheelchair, begins to rebuild his life. His relationship with Sally deepens. She is also transformed by him and her outlook on life starts to change. They have happy times, play at the beach, and the two fall in love. Meanwhile, Billy, traumatized by his experiences at war, commits suicide by injecting air into his veins. Driven by Billy's suicide, Luke padlocks shut and chains himself to the gates of a local recruitment centre in a vain attempt to stop others from enlisting.
Sally and Luke eventually make love, confronting his handicap. It is the first time Sally has had an orgasm. However, she remains loyal to her husband, and both she and Luke know their relationship will have to end when her husband returns home. Bob does return, too soon, claiming he accidentally wounded himself in the leg. He is also suffering from post traumatic stress disorder from what he has seen in combat. Bob discovers Sally's affair from Army Intelligence, who have been spying on Luke since the gate incident, and both Sally and Luke agree that Sally should try to patch things up with Bob. Bob loses control, confronting the lovers with a loaded rifle, but ultimately turns away. The film ends with Luke speaking to young men about his experience in Vietnam, intercut with Bob placing his neatly folded Marine dress uniform on the beach, taking off his wedding ring, and swimming naked out into the ocean to commit suicide.
- Jane Fonda as Sally Hyde
- Jon Voight as Luke Martin
- Bruce Dern as Captain Bob Hyde
- Penelope Milford as Vi Munson
- Robert Carradine as Bill Munson
- Robert Ginty as Sergeant Dink Mobley
- Mary Gregory as Martha Vickery
- Kathleen Miller as Kathy Delise
- Beeson Carroll as Captain Earl Delise
- Willie Tyler as Virgil
- Lou Carello as Bozo
- Charles Cyphers as Pee Wee
- Olivia Cole as Corrine
- Tresa Hughes as Nurse Degroot
- Bruce French as Dr. Lincoln
Coming Home was conceived by Jane Fonda as the first feature for her own production company, IPC Films (for Indochina Peace Campaign), with her associate producer Bruce Gilbert, a friend from her protest days. Fonda had in mind to make a film about the Vietnam War inspired by her friendship with Ron Kovic, a paraplegic Vietnam War Veteran, who she met in an antiwar rally. At that time, Kovic had recently completed his autobiographical book Born on the Fourth of July which would later become an Oscar-winning motion picture of the same name directed by Oliver Stone, starring Tom Cruise as Kovic.
In 1972, Fonda hired Nancy Dowd, a friend from her days in the feminist movement, to write a script about the consequences of the war as seen through the eyes of a military wife. Originally, Dowd's story, tentatively titled Buffalo Ghosts, focused on two women, volunteers at a veterans' hospital, who must come to grips with the emotional toll the war takes on its casualties and their families. The project dragged on for six years, until Bruce Gilbert and producer Jerome Hellman took it. The screenplay was reshaped significantly by the circle of talent who would eventually bring it to the screen: Fonda, Ashby, Wexler, Jon Voight, producer Hellman, and screenwriters Waldo Salt and Robert C. Jones. They were united by their opposition to the Vietnam War, and by their concern for the veterans who were returning to America facing difficulties adapting to life back home. Rudy Wurlitzer did uncredited work on the script.
The film was going to be directed by John Schlesinger, who had worked with producer Hellman and Voight in Midnight Cowboy, but he left the project after feeling uncomfortable with the subject matter. He was replaced by Hal Ashby. Fonda was cast from the beginning as Sally Hyde, the housewife. A top box office star was sought for the male lead, to offset the grim nature of the story. Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, and Sylvester Stallone were all offered the part, but declined. Jon Voight had been considered for the role of the husband, but after becoming involved with the film, he campaigned to play the paraplegic veteran. Voight had participated in the anti-war movement, and was a friend of Fonda, who was instrumental in helping him land the role, even though he had fallen from popularity since his Midnight Cowboy day. Bruce Dern, long stereotyped in sadistic roles, was chosen as the husband. The screenplay was written and rewritten until the project could wait no longer. Jane Fonda, who just finished Julia (1977), was soon going to star in Alan J. Pakula's Comes a Horseman (1978). For director Ashby, this was his second film about the 1960s since his 1975 film Shampoo.
Ashby had cast singer-songwriter Guthrie Thomas to portray the role of Bill Munson in the film after reviewing Thomas' screen test. Thomas joined Ashby and the entire cast at a restaurant in Malibu Beach, California prior to the beginning of production. Thomas was a close friend to Ashby and had been cast in a previous Ashby film, Bound for Glory, starring David Carradine. Upon completion of the cast meeting Thomas privately spoke to Ashby and told his friend, "Hal, I am a singer-songwriter as you know and not an actor. In all fairness to you and this amazing cast you need an extremely talented actor for this role and not a poor singer. I recommend either Bobby Carradine or Keith Carradine." Robert Carradine was cast and portrayed the role of Bill Munson.
The film won three Academy Awards – for Best Actor (Jon Voight), Best Actress (Jane Fonda), and Best Original Screenplay (Waldo Salt, Robert C. Jones, and Nancy Dowd). It was also nominated for six Academy Awards, including for Best Supporting Actor (Bruce Dern), Best Supporting Actress (Penelope Milford), Best Director (Hal Ashby), Best Film Editing (Don Zimmerman), and Best Picture (Jerome Hellman).
The film was released in America in February 1978; it was a popular success with audiences, and generally received good reviews. Charles Champlin from Los Angeles Times commented that: "Despite an over-explicit soundtrack and some moments when the story in fact became a sermon, the movie effectively translated a changed national consciousness into credible and touching personal terms." The Toronto Sun called the film "The Best Years of Our Lives c. 1978 with the same high standards and the same lofty morals of an earlier era".
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 82% based on 22 reviews, with a rating average of 7.38/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Coming Home's stellar cast elevates the love triangle in the center of its story - and adds a necessary human component to its none-too-subtle political message."
American Film Institute lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – #78
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
- "Coming Home, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 27, 2012.
- Chong, Sylvia Shin Huey (9 November 2011). The Oriental Obscene: Violence and Racial Fantasies in the Vietnam Era. Duke University Press. p. 164. ISBN 0-8223-4854-3.
- Hillstrom, Kevin; Hillstrom, Laurie Collier (1 January 1998). The Vietnam Experience: A Concise Encyclopedia of American Literature, Songs, and Films. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-313-30183-4.
- Dawson, Nick (30 June 2009). Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel. University Press of Kentucky. p. 372. ISBN 0-8131-3919-8.
- Medavoy, Mike (25 June 2013). You're Only as Good as Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films, and 100 for Which I Should Be Shot. Simon and Schuster. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-4391-1813-9.
- Devine, Jeremy M. (1999). Vietnam at 24 Frames a Second: A Critical and Thematic Analysis of Over 400 Films about the Vietnam War. University of Texas Press. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-292-71601-8.
- Pallot, James; Monaco, James (June 1995). The Movie Guide. Berkeley Pub. Group. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-399-51914-7.
- "Festival de Cannes: Coming Home". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 10 May 2009.
- Coming Home at Rotten Tomatoes
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers Nominees
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) Ballot
- Norden, Martin F, The Cinema of Isolation: a history of physical disability in the movies, Rutgers University Press, 1994, ISBN 0-8135-2104-1
- Peary, Danny, Alternative Oscars, Delta, 1993. ISBN 0-385-30332-7
- Wiley, Mason & Bona, Damien, Inside Oscars, Ballantine Books, 1996, ISBN 0-345-40053-4
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