Eric Spiegelman says: "John Ford produced a pro-Vietnam [war] documentary on behalf of the US Government right before he died. The film was never released in the US, and very few people have seen it. I just put it online."
The last film ever produced by the legendary John Ford was a work of propaganda commissioned by the United States government in support of the Vietnam War. Production of the documentary, “Vietnam! Vietnam!,” began a few months after the Tet Offensive, and by the time the film was completed at the end of 1971, American policy toward the war shifted toward withdrawal and negotiation for peace. As such, the film’s message was obsolete and embarrassing the moment it was ready for distribution. It was never released.
Federal law at the time prohibited the domestic exhibition of any motion picture financed by the U.S. Information Agency, which included “Vietnam! Vietnam!.” Ford’s last documentary remained locked away in a vault for the next 27 years, when a change in the law allowed the National Archives to make it available to the public.
I learned about the existence of “Vietnam! Vietnam!” three years ago. Curiosity led me to pull the ancient reels from the National Archives and have them digitized. Years of neglect badly damaged the audio portion of the first half of the film, and my cousin painstakingly restored the soundtrack to the best of his ability.
The documentary is, actually, quite terrible. Nothing about it even approximates a John Ford masterpiece. Accounts vary as to the extent that Ford was actively involved in the production — he apparently spent time on location in Vietnam toward the beginning of the shoot, but his advanced age and poor health kept him home during almost all of the principal photography. According to Ford scholar Tag Gallagher, Ford supervised the editing of the film and rewrote it’s scenario. Regardless, John Ford clearly wanted his name associated with “Vietnam! Vietnam!” — it reflected his strong belief in the cause — and it is incontrovertibly part of his repertoire.
I offer the film here because it’s a little piece of American history that very few people have seen, and for that reason alone it belongs on the Internet.
Vietnam! Vietnam! from Eric Spiegelman on Vimeo.