7.2/10
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The Great Santini (1979)

PG | | Drama | 26 October 1979 (USA)
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2:40 | Trailer

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

Director:

Lewis John Carlino

Writers:

Pat Conroy (novel), Lewis John Carlino (written for the screen by)
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Director: Richard Pearce
Stars: Robert Duvall, James Earl Jones, Michael Beach
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Duvall ... Lt. Col. 'Bull' Meechum
Blythe Danner ... Lillian Meechum
Michael O'Keefe ... Ben Meechum
Lisa Jane Persky ... Mary Anne Meechum
Julie Anne Haddock Julie Anne Haddock ... Karen Meechum
Brian Andrews ... Matthew Meechum
Stan Shaw ... Toomer Smalls
Theresa Merritt ... Arrabella Smalls
David Keith ... Red Petus
Paul Mantee ... Col. Virgil Hedgepath
Michael Strong ... Col. Varney
Bennett Liss Bennett Liss ... Cpl. Atcherly
Joe Dorsey ... Coach Spinks
David Frankham David Frankham ... Capt. Weber
Jan Stratton 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 October 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Ace See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$4,702,575, 31 December 1980
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Bing Crosby Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to Pat Conroy, Lieutenant Colonel "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

When the Santini family is in their station wagon, in the process of moving, Santini wakes his son up. The pillow that Lillian was using is missing in the shot of the awakened boy and Santini. See more »

Quotes

Lt. Sammy: [Paying tribute to Bull Meechum] To the greatest marine fighter pilot that ever crapped between two shoes!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Moon River
(uncredited)
Music by Henry Mancini
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Great story on the irony of being a Marine
16 December 2002 | by rlcsljoSee all my reviews

I have not seen this film in over 20 years, but having been in the Marines, it will always be burned in my memory. You may also have to be, or have been, a Marine to fully appreciate the film (although anyone that has lived under authoritarian rule must feel some sympathy for the situations presented).

Although the film may have been re-cut for video release, I remember Duvall's character as being a fully fleshed out dichotomy of a man who rebelled against authority when submission was called for (his practical jokes while performing military duties) and invoking authoritarianism when more compassion and understanding were called for (his family life).

This is what it was like to be a Marine: The Corps was your family and your family was just an inconvenient duty to be performed for society.

If the movie has been re-edited, I suggest you try to see the original theatrical release, if possible. I found it to be a thoughtful and powerful motion picture.


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