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Berg, R. & Rowe, J.C. The Vietnam War and American Culture. New York: Columbia UP, 1991.
This collection of essays by different authors portrays the propaganda that was presented to American citizens during the Vietnam War and thereafter. Like other books on this subject, there are of course several sections that relate to media devices, such as television and film representations of the war. Oliver Stone is mentioned periodically in reference to his films Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July. However, the book is perhaps most useful in its exploration of the less obvious outlooks on Vietnam. For example, there is a chapter that covers tattoos and scars in relation to masculinity. Also, one author addresses the presence of women in the armed services, in Vietnam. Photography and poetry is an interesting addition to the essays.
Burgoyne, Robert. Film Nation: Hollywood Looks at U.S. History. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997.
Burgoyne shows that Stone's movie features a complex known as the "rescue motif." In other words, soldiers become heroes by rescuing their nation from weakness. He also explains melodrama and how it expresses a connection to the past, such as America's consciousness of WWII. In the same respect, memories of Vietnam that are shared by veterans have a presence in the film and in this article. Burgoyne writes that the veterans like Kovic escaped to places like Mexico to find a fraternity of men who understood one another's problems. Unfortunately, the environment merely perpetuated the hatred in these men, but Kovic was strong enough to find his way out of the brothels and into the public sphere.
Davis, Jack. "New Left, Revisionist, In-Your-Face History: Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July Experience." Film & History 28.3-4 (1998): 6-17.
Davis analyzes Oliver Stone's film career with a sense of admiration. He, like Stone, was heavily influenced by the Hollywood propaganda concerning wars and wanted desperately to be the strong soldier that he watched on the screen. Unfortunately, basic training in the Navy instantly destroyed his previous hopes and dreams of becoming a war hero. His similarities to Stone give Davis a keener eye when recognizing the accuracy with which Stone depicts the Vietnam War. He argues that Stone was both a filmmaker and a historian -- the revisionist motives were meant to correct both Hollywood's and the public's perception of the war. Stone examined history from the bottom up, paying attention to the soldiers and their stories, not the government's recollection. In other words, Davis reminds us of why Stone was truly a gift to history.
Doherty, Thomas. "Witness to War: Oliver Stone, Ron Kovic, and Born on the Fourth of July." Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television. Ed. Michael Anderegg. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1991.
Doherty explains several war films that have made a significant impact on society. With Oliver Stone, both Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July offer a darker side to war without apologies and forgiveness to the cause. Doherty feels that Born is more of a memoir film, or "a personal rite-of-passage" for veterans like Ron Kovic. This type of movie shows the aftermath of Vietnam and also the progression of one man as he overcomes his handicap and works for positive change. Another interesting aspect of Doherty's work is his comparison of other war films to Born. For example, To Hell and Back shares many of the same precursors to combat between the main characters. Both men are enchanted by major wars as children and want to become the soldiers they heard stories of. However, To Hell and Back lacks the full-circle effect that Born accomplishes, but Doherty's exploration helps readers understand the differences in the war film genre.
Kagan, Norman. The Cinema of Oliver Stone. New York: Continuum Publishing Company, 1995.
Kagan recalls the events that led Stone to become the infamous director that most Americans know him as. He begins with Stone's childhood, most of which was spent in New York City during the 1960's. With a native born-Jewish stockbroker father and a socialite French-Canadian mother, Stone's upbringing was torn between compassion and rigidity. After a year spent at Yale, Stone left for a teaching position in the Cholon district of Saigon. Though he enjoyed his time abroad, Stone joined the army and returned to Vietnam as a soldier. His exposure to the dark sides of combat and war left Stone jaded and angry. The writing and films that have emerged from Stone's career are products of his life experiences. Kagan's book documents all of Stone's films in great detail, and there is an entire chapter dedicated to Born on the Fourth of July. In this chapter, Stone explains the events that led to the production of Born and Kagan outlines the film from beginning to end.
Kovic, Ron. Born on the Fourth of July. New York: Pocket Books, 1976.
In his autobiography, wounded Vietnam veteran Kovic tells the story of his life from a simple childhood in Massapequa, Long Island, to anti-war protests across the country. He describes such memories as playing baseball as a little boy and how he looked up to Hollywood stars like John Wayne because of their heroic roles and physique. He also mentions his dedication to fitness and desire to join the marines as soon as he was able. The book phases in and out of flashbacks from Kovic's experience in the war, suffering in a VA hospital, and then as a veteran leading protests from a wheelchair. Born on the Fourth of July reveals many untold truths from veteran accounts and the treatment of these soldiers upon their return to the U.S. Kovic collaborated with Oliver Stone to create the film version of his book, and it remains a classic docudrama on the Vietnam War.
Kunz, Don. The Films of Oliver Stone. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1997.
Similar to Kagan's book, Kunz presents a collection of essays on Stone. Each of his films has its own chapter, however Kunz offers an exceptional view into Stone's life with an interview between David Breskin and the director. For over sixty pages, Stone reveals his deepest desires and secrets from childhood to adulthood. He answers simple questions about his parents and then progresses into his painful memories from Vietnam. In the chapter on Born, Kunz addresses complex issues from the film: manhood, the responsibility for killing innocent people, heroism, and sexuality. This book provides a variety of quotations from Stone and research on the film.
Kunz, Don. "Oliver Stone's Film Adaptation of Born on the Fourth of July: Redefining Masculine Heroism." War, Literature, and the Arts 2.2 (1990): 1-25.
The retelling of Ron Kovic's book as it appears in the film is Kunz's focal point. He explains that the film adaptation relied on several parties for its success. First, Tom Cruise had a difficult task of playing a deeply troubled veteran, nothing of which he understood first hand. He adds Cruise's responses in an interview with Playboy, where the young actor was overwhelmed with the sense of hopelessness that Kovic felt from impotence. Kunz takes a closer look at the importance of manhood to Kovic and how his physical handicap led him to believe that he also failed as a soldier and an American. As he tries to adapt to life after the war, Kovic is constantly conflicted by the pressures of masculinity. This article is helpful for information on soldiers and the concept of manhood.
McInerney, Peter. "'Straight' and 'Secret' History in Vietnam War Literature." Contemporary Literature 22.2 (1981): 187-204.
McInerey, after studying multiple war memoirs and literature, has found the presence of both "secret" and "straight" documentation. In other words, he feels that the secret aspect is more dramatic and part of personal accounts, where straight is the factual information that you would commonly find in a text book. For Kovic, there is a fine balance between both realms in his book. First, he uses narrative form and also third person to explain his own story, which is more secretive. However, in the film and book there are very rigid facts about Vietnam that are non-disputable. Also, there seems to be more of a secretive value to Kovic's youthful memories, versus the years after his service in Vietnam. Overall, Kovic's historical contributions give a variety of information in multiple styles.
Pickering, Barbara. "Born on the Fourth of July: A Reflection of Value Transformation in Vietnam Veterans." Popular Culture Review 8.2 (1997): 53-74.
Pickering examines how the conflict between two myths of the American Dream -- materialism and moralism -- are dealt with in films about the Vietnam War. The materialistic myth is grounded in the Puritan work ethic and relates to the values of effort, persistence, initiative, achievement, self-reliance, etc. Moralism is based on the premise of equality, and the basic tenets of tolerance, charity, compassion, and a regard for human dignity and worth are values inherent in moralism. In the beginning of the film, Pickering believes that Ron Kovic reflects both the materialistic and moralistic myths. But after he returns from the war -- a broken man confined to a wheelchair and without the use of his legs and unable to father children -- Kovic eventually becomes an anti-Vietnam war activist. By focusing attention on the anti-war efforts of Ron Kovic, Pickering believes that Stone is trying to portray the Vietnam veterans' rejection of the materialistic myth and their affirmation of moralism.
Riordan, James. Stone: The Controversies, Excesses, and Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker. New York: Hyperion, 1995.
Riordan provides an impressive account of Stone's life -- more so than other books on the subject. He includes information on Stone's family, as well as the history between Lou and Jacqueline Stone. When Oliver turned fifteen, his parents divorced one another, shocking their son and sparking his jaded attitude. The novel also discusses the financial problems facing Lou Stone and the party life of Jacqueline. We also find out from this book that much of the inspiration behind scenes in Platoon and Born was based on his war experiences. Stone too suffered from guilt because of killing villagers throughout Vietnam and dealt with the lack of support within the U.S. when he returned. The chapter dedicated to Born includes quotations from Stone, Ron Kovic, and also Tom Cruise in reference to the creation to the film and their relationships to one another.
Seidenberg, Robert. "To Hell and Back." American Film Jan. 1990: 28-31, 56.
Seidenberg offers an intimate look at Ron Kovic late in his life. According to Seidenberg, Kovic wants his story to help protect future children from harm and war. Kovic seems to relive his horrors as he ages -- the first in battle, then authoring his book, and later with the film production of Born. Although most people would find these tasks too emotionally harmful, Kovic seemed to find a therapeutic quality about it. While the film was in progress, Kovic would visit the set and watch actors play out the events of his life. He formed a strong relationship with Tom Cruise, who looked so much like the younger version of himself that it was unsettling. Though he struggled with the film, Kovic eventually realized that he was not alone and many people wanted to bring the Vietnam veterans justice. Seidenberg includes an interview with Kovic at the end of the article in which Kovic opens up about his entire life for readers.
Shor, Fran. "Transcending the Myths of Patriotic Militarized Masculinity: Armoring, Wounding, and Transfiguration in Ron Kovic's Born on the Fourth of July." Journal of Men's Studies: A Scholarly Journal about Men and Masculinities 8.3 (2000): 375-85.
The mythological masculine form has long since dominated many of our country's armed services. Shor shows how Ron Kovic transcended from a believer in this mentality to discouraging it with protests against the Vietnam War. This type of denouncement was unlike anything America had ever seen, especially because of the stereotype that Vietnam soldiers were so cold and disconnected to the world because of their masculinity. In Born, Kovic is torn in two directions -- he enters the war with the hopes of achieving the ultimate male form and spends years afterward searching the same form that he lost. More importantly, Shor makes a connection between the loss of masculinity that Ron experiences with America's loss of bragging rights in the Vietnam War. We as a whole country searched for the solution to the blow to our egos. Until steps were made towards reconciliation with veterans and war victims, this wound was unable to heal.
Turner, Fred. Echoes of Combat. New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1996.
True accounts of veterans from the war and their lives afterwards. Some of the stories are painful to read and deeply personal. Veterans recall the horrific violence and their ways of coping within a warzone. One particular story compares a transvestite soldier's thrill of killing to the excitement of sex. Turner also discusses the battles that veterans faced with emotional distress after their tours of duty and the lack of support services in hospitals. In the chapter entitled "Lost Fathers: Repairing the Betrayal of Young Men," Turner explains the father figures of soldiers (including Ron Kovic), both real and "reel." The suffering found in this book supports the scenes in Born on the Fourth of July and extends beyond Kovic's own experiences.
Wilmington, Michael. "Oliver Stone and Born on the Fourth of July." Movie Talk from the Front Lines: Filmmakers Discuss Their Works with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Ed. Jerry Roberts, et al. Jefferson: McFarland, 1995. 133-54.
On August 16, 1990, Stone was interviewed by film critic Wilmington after a screening of the film. The interview -- which also includes questions from an audience that had just watched the film's screening -- covers a wide range of topics from questions about Ron Kovic's evolution over the course of the film, certain scenes in the film and directorial decisions that Stone made, a discussion about the difficulties in making political movies, and whether there's a conflict between telling the truth and telling an effective story (between real American history and reel American history, if you will), and whether he goes into a movie like Born on the Fourth of July and Platoon trying to make an antiwar film. The piece also includes a synopsis of the film, a smattering of reviews of Born on the Fourth of July, a short biography and filmography of Stone.

See Also

Anderegg, Michael. Inventing Vietnam: The War in Film and Television. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1991.

Appy, Christian. "Vietnam according to Oliver Stone." Commonweal 23 March 1990: 187-89.

Beaver, Frank Eugene. Oliver Stone: Wakeup Cinema. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1994.

Eilert, Richard. "Born of the Fourth: It's a Lie." St. Louis Post-Dispatch 26 February 1990: 3B.

Gibson, James W. The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam. Boston & New York: The Atlantic Monthly, 1986.

McCrisken, Trevor B., and Andrew Pepper, eds. "Oliver Stone and the Decade of Trauma." American History and Contemporary Hollywood Film. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2005. 131-59.

Prince, Stephen. American Cinema of the 1980s: Themes and Variations. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2007.

Rollins, Peter C. The Columbia Companion to American History on Film: How the Movies Have Portrayed the American Past. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Salewicz, Chris. Oliver Stone: Close Up. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1998.

Scheer, Robert. "Born on the third of July." Premiere Feb. 1990: 50-54.

Shewring, Anne L. "We didn't do that did we? Representation of the Veteran Experience." Journal of American and Comparative Cultures 23.4 (2000).

Sturken, Marita. "Reenactment, Fantasy, and the Paranoia of History: Oliver Stone's Docudramas." USC Spectator 20.1 (1999): 23-38.

Toplin, Robert Brent. Oliver Stone's USA. Lawrence: UP of Kansas, 2000.

Wood, Robin. "Radicalism and Popular Cinema: The Films of Oliver Stone." Cineaction 23 (Winter 1990): 60-69.

Video/Audio Resources

Born on the Fourth of July -- Trailer
The trailer for the original movie.
Oliver Stone's America: A Dialogue with Oliver Stone. Burbank: Warner Home Video, 2001.
This film documents Stone's personal life and work as a director. It includes an interview with Stone and footage, photography, and other clips from his films and his life. One of the movies discussed is Born on the Fourth of July.
Oliver Stone, Inside Out. New York: The Cinema Guild; distributed by West Glen Films, 1992.
This film features many well-known actors, Oliver Stone, and Ron Kovic as it explores the life of director Stone. The documentary seeks to find the reasoning for Stone's decision to make films, particularly controversial ones.

Online Resources

History at the Movies: Conversation with Oliver Stone. Conversations with History.

Oliver Stone Official Profile. MySpace.
Though this website is not the most professional, Oliver Stone's MySpace profile provides a unique glimpse into his life. The site includes many links to pictures of Stone throughout his life, as well as his work with actors on various sets. Stone has also added videos on his profile that highlight his newer films, but it's nice to actually hear from the man himself. Additionally, viewers can find quotes from Stone, a brief autobiography, and an extensive filmography section. Also, for film buffs, Stone lists all of his nominations and awards that he's received over the course of his career.
Oliver Stone: Our Greatest Film Director.
This website is a great source for information on Oliver Stone and his films. The site includes many links to essays on Stone and other publications. There are links to each of his films, blogs about Stone, and other sites to visit. In reference to Born on the Fourth of July, the specific page includes a video clip from the movie, several pictures from Born, and multiple links to more sites about the movie. Another compelling aspect of the site is the detailed discussion boards for all of the movies. People offer essays on the films or specific scenes and respond to others posts.
The Sixties Project
An excellent source for documents pertaining to the Vietnam War. The Sixties Project also has information on books, poetry, personal narratives, and exhibits.
The Vietnam Wall Controversy
"How do we remember a war that we 'lost'? Can we understand the emotions that caused Maya Lin's serene 'rift in the earth' to be denounced as a 'black gash of shame and sorrow'? Relive the multi-leveled controversy over the Vietnam Veterans Memorial."
Wood, Robin (updated by R. Barton Palmer). "Oliver Stone." Film Reference.
Facts and brief analysis of Stone's career.