Path to War

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Path to War
DVD cover
Written byDaniel Giat
Directed byJohn Frankenheimer
StarringMichael Gambon
Donald Sutherland
Alec Baldwin
Bruce McGill
James Frain
Felicity Huffman
Frederic Forrest
John Aylward
Philip Baker Hall
Tom Skerritt
Diana Scarwid
Sarah Paulson
Gerry Becker
Peter Jacobson
Music byGary Chang
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
Executive producersCary Brokaw
John Frankenheimer
Edgar J. Scherick
Howard Dratch
ProducersGuy Riedel
Shirley Davis
CinematographyStephen Goldblatt
Nancy Schreiber
EditorRichard Francis-Bruce
Running time165 minutes
Production companiesAvenue Pictures
Edgar J. Scherick Associates
Original networkHBO
Original release
  • May 18, 2002 (2002-05-18)

Path to War is a 2002 American biographical television film, produced by HBO and directed by John Frankenheimer. It was the final film directed by Frankenheimer, who died seven weeks after the film debuted on HBO. It was also the last film produced by Edgar J. Scherick during his lifetime—he died seven months after its initial airing on HBO.


The film deals directly with the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of United States President Lyndon B. Johnson and his cabinet members. The starting events portrayed begin in January 1965 with LBJ at the Inaugural Ball and ends on March 31, 1968, when he announces to the nation that he will not run for re-election.


The film stars Michael Gambon as President Johnson, Alec Baldwin as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Donald Sutherland as presidential advisor Clark M. Clifford, who succeeds McNamara as Secretary of Defense. Gary Sinise reprised his role as George Wallace from Frankenheimer's 1997 biopic of Wallace.[1]

Actor Role
Michael Gambon Lyndon B. Johnson
Donald Sutherland Clark M. Clifford
Alec Baldwin Robert McNamara
Bruce McGill George Ball
James Frain Richard N. Goodwin
Felicity Huffman Lady Bird Johnson
Frederic Forrest Earle Wheeler
John Aylward Dean Rusk
Philip Baker Hall Everett Dirksen
Gary Sinise George C. Wallace
Tom Skerritt William Westmoreland
Cliff De Young McGeorge Bundy
Chris Eigeman Bill Moyers
John Valenti Jack Valenti
Gerry Becker Walt Rostow
Sarah Paulson Luci Baines Johnson
Francis Guinan Nicholas Katzenbach
Curtis L. McClarin Martin Luther King Jr.
Randy Oglesby John Stennis
Patricia Kalember Margaret Craig McNamara
Diana Scarwid Marny Clifford
Madison Mason John McCone
Gina-Raye Carter Lynda Bird Johnson
Robert Cicchini Joseph Califano

In addition, future Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons portrays a briefer from the CIA.


Critical response[edit]

Television critic Matt Zoller Seitz in his 2016 book co-written with Alan Sepinwall titled TV (The Book) named Path to War as the 6th greatest American TV-movie of all time, writing: "This nearly three-hour epic plays like the greatest political drama that Oliver Stone never made.... This is easily the greatest of Frankenheimer's late-period TV work, which equals his finest work from the 1960s".[2]

According to The Washington Post: "Gambon is entirely up to the task of making a larger-than-life icon seem painfully -- and in the end, helplessly -- human. It is a performance of fire and brimstone".[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Levesque, John (May 19, 2002). "LBJ's vile realities pave HBO's 'Path to War'". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved December 6, 2020.
  2. ^ Sepinwall, Alan; Seitz, Matt Zoller (September 2016). TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time (1st ed.). New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing. p. 372. ISBN 9781455588190.
  3. ^ "HBO's Powerful 'Path to War': The Drama That Was LBJ".

External links[edit]