Zack Mayo is a young man who has signed up for Navy Aviation Officer Candidate School. He is a Navy brat who has a bad attitude problem. Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley is there to train and evaluate him, and will clearly find Zack wanting. Zack meets Paula, a girl who has little beyond family, and must decide what it is he wants to do with his life.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to Louis Gossett, Jr. in his book "An Actor and a Gentleman", Richard Gere and Debra Winger did not get along during filming, and would distance themselves from each other significantly while the camera wasn't rolling. Publicly, she called him a "brick wall" while he admitted there was "tension" between them. Even though Gere was playing the title role and had top billing and more screentime, he reacted badly when he realized that Winger had the acting chops and charisma to steal every scene she was in, resulting in an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress. Thirty years later, Gere was complimentary towards Winger when he said that she was much more open to the camera than he was, and he appreciated the fact that she presented him with an award at the Rome Film Festival. See more »
During the graduation ceremony the students are wearing the Service Dress White uniform and the reviewing officers are wearing Service Dress Blues. In reality they would be wearing all the same uniform one way or the other but never different as uniform season requirements are dictated by a senior officer (usually an admiral in control of the Naval region). See more »
[whispered to sleeping father]
[flashback to Manila]
Hey, kid! Are you Zack?
I'm Byron; nice to meet you. Come on, let's get your bags, OK?
See more »
With special thanks to Art Kulman of the Washington State Dept. of Commerce & Economic Development, Fort Worden State Park, Gus Gustafson, Brent Shirley, and the people of Port Townsend, Washington. See more »
TV versions typically eliminate the pre-credits scenes with young Zack in the Phillipines, after his mother has died and he joins his father. See more »
Gamelan Gong: Barong Dance
from "Music from the Morning of the World" (1967)
Courtesy of David Lewiston and Nonesuch Records See more »
The best of its kind
Released in 1982, "An Officer and a Gentleman" was the obvious inspiration of films like Tom Cruise's "Top Gun" and "Days of Thunder." "An Officer and a Gentleman" was the first and best, by far.
The plot similarities are obvious: They all include the angry young man who needs to prove his gifting, the uncompromising mentor, the encouraging babe, the craft, the arena and the doomed buddy. In "An Officer" the angry young man is Richard Gere as Mayo, the mentor is Louis Gossett Jr. as Drill Instructor Folely, the babe is Paula (Debra Winger), the craft is aviation basic training, the arena is a Naval academy and the Puget Sound area of Washington (shot on location) and the buddy is Sid Worley (David Keith).
Thankfully, the film doesn't get bogged down telling the back-story of Mayo. Instead, it ingeniously shares his past in a matter of minutes at the very beginning. It's all we need to know to understand why Mayo is the way he is. And then we're off to basic training where he's tested. Does he have what it takes? Can someone as lowborn, aloof and un-trusting as Mayo make it as an officer?
Debra Winger and Lisa Blount shine here as Mayo and Worley's babes. Winger is alluring in a humble "girl next door" type of way (she out-shined Lynda Carter as Wonder Girl on "Wonder Woman," which is hard to believe), but Blount is even more alluring -- yes, despite the negative aspects of her character. I'll just put it this way, she really fills out a pair of jeans, lol.
Both couples get intimate way too quickly, but maybe this is one of the flaws of the "Puget Debs" and explains why they have a problems getting marriage material, if you know what I mean. Besides this, time has to be condensed in a two-hour film.
BOTTOM LINE: If you're in the mood for a film of this ilk "An Officer and a Gentleman" is the best of the lot.
INSIGHTS ABOUT THE ENDING (***SPOILER ALERT*** Don't read further unless you've seen the film):
An officer is a military leader. Drill Instructor Foley's job is to weed out those who can't hack it as an officer. It's an important job because people's lives in combat are dependent on the quality of the leaders and Foley takes his job seriously.
Foley rightly pegs Mayo as a lowlife loner from the outset -- a wannabe officer -- and therefore puts on the pressure. This is especially so on the one weekend where he has Mayo to himself. Foley does everything he can to make Mayo break AND quit, but Mayo doesn't. He breaks, indeed, but he refuses to quit on the grounds that he has no where to go. At the end of this scene you can see that Foley develops respect for Mayo (which you get a glimpse of earlier when Mayo does extremely well on the obstacle course).
Later, Mayo disregards breaking the record on the obstacle course (which he was definitely able to do) in order to encourage Seegar (the female recruit) to finally make it over the wall. Foley sees that Mayo's no longer the aloof and selfish loner he was when he rode in on his motorcycle. He's matured; he's developed character. It was already there, of course, but the boot camp training has brought it to the fore, and Foley sees it.
After Worley's tragic death, Mayo confronts Foley while he's drilling the platoon. Foley informs Mayo that they all know what happened and even tells him they're sorry about Worley. He didn't have to do this and it shows that Foley isn't just an honorable man, but also that he cared about Worley. After all, Worley was only one week away from graduating! In a sense, he was one of Foley's kids. In other words, Foley and the platoon were grieving too. But Mayo was closest to Worley and he's crazy with shock & grief at this point. He insists that he's going to quit, to which Foley tells him to meet him for a fight. Sure, there's some testosterone in his words, but he actually does this out of respect for Mayo as a last ditch effort to keep him from dropping out.
And Foley doesn't "kick his axx", as some claim. It was essentially an even match and Foley barely walks off the mat, which is the only reason he technically wins. But that's inconsequential. The purpose of the fight was to run Mayo's steam out so he didn't make a rash decision in an obvious moment of grief & anger. Foley accomplished his purpose. Once Mayo was no longer blinded by rage he makes the right choice and graduates.
This is why he thanks Foley at the end.
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