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The Great Santini (1979)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  26 October 1979 (USA)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 4,171 users  
Reviews: 38 user | 20 critic

As he approaches manhood, Ben Meechum struggles to win the approval of his demanding alpha male father, an aggressively competitive, but frustrated marine pilot.

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(novel), (written for the screen by), 1 more credit »
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Title: The Great Santini (1979)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Lt. Col. 'Bull' Meechum
...
Lillian Meechum
...
...
Mary Anne Meechum
Julie Anne Haddock ...
Karen Meechum
...
Matthew Meechum
...
Toomer Smalls
...
Arrabella Smalls
...
Red Petus
Paul Mantee ...
Col. Virgil Hedgepath
...
Col. Varney
Bennett Liss ...
Cpl. Atcherly
Joe Dorsey ...
Coach Spinks
David Frankham ...
Capt. Weber
Jan Stratton ...
Mrs. Weber
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Storyline

In 1962, the Marine Corps family, the Meechums - parents Lieutenant Colonel Wilbur "Bull" Meechum and Lillian Meechum, and their four children Ben Meechum, Mary Anne Meechum, Karen Meechum and Matthew Meechum - are moving like they do most years, this time to Beaufort, South Carolina. Bull - nicknamed "the Great Santini" - is known as a great pilot, but has gotten into much trouble in the past for his sophomoric behavior. He runs his family much as a military commander, where they are all to obey his orders without question. Everything he does within the family context he reasons is to build character, but in reality everything ends up being about him. The oldest Ben, approaching manhood, is the one of his offspring who has the greatest issue with his father. Ben wants his respect, but isn't sure if he really loves him. As Ben goes through his senior year in high school, his attempts to play varsity basketball and an incident between black Toomer Smalls - his friend and their cook ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The bravest thing he would ever do was let his family love him.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

26 October 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Great Santini  »

Company Credits

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 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to author Pat Conroy, Lt. Col. Bull Meecham is based entirely on his own father, Donald Conroy, a Marine fighter pilot who referred to himself in the third person as "The Great Santini." Donald Conroy took the nickname from a magician he'd seen as a child. Pat and Donald Conroy were on the set on the day that Robert Duvall and Michael O'Keefe filmed the scene where Bull Meecham bullies and taunts Ben after losing to him in a basketball game. A woman on the set asked Donald Conroy if he and Pat had really played games like that. Donald Conroy replied, "Every day, madam. Every single day." However, the book and movie gave Donald Conroy an opportunity to mend fences with his children, especially Pat. After the novel was published, Donald Conroy would often accompany his son to book signings, and would sign his son's novels with the signature, "Donald Conroy - The Great Santini." See more »

Goofs

As Santini's family is waiting at the hanger for him to arrive, Lillian's hair changes. With the wind blowing, sometimes her hair is messed up, sometimes it is combed nicely. See more »

Quotes

Bull Meechum: [to his subordinates] You're gonna hack it or pack it!
See more »

Connections

Featured in An Officer and a Movie: The Great Santini (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Great first half, then sputters (don't read if you haven't seen the movie)
24 March 2001 | by (Van Nuys, California) – See all my reviews

This movie is excellent for its first half: crisply delivered, well-developed, it takes chances that you don't see in films made today. Characters like Bull Meechum are usually, in contemporary films, greatly exaggerated or treated with utter contempt (the military dad in American Beauty as a typical example). This film delivers all the way through the basketball game episode.

Then it starts to fall apart. The episode with Toomer and Red seems like a mighty big price to pay just to show Bull's lack of sensitivity and empathy, or anything else it intends to show. Not too long after, Bull himself gets yanked right out of the movie. I really would have appreciated seeing all of these interesting characters resolve their differences - or see things come to a head. I just felt that the movie just quit with 30 minutes to go.

The music was also kind of hit and miss in the last half. For example, when Ben confesses that he prayed for his father's death, the music is inappropriately creepy. It resolves into sorrow, but the net result was kind of off-putting.


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