Commentary Magazine


“The Green Berets”

To the Editor:

COMMENTARY’s present effort to prove the lack of a generation gap in this country [“The Non-Generation Gap,” by S. M. Lipset and Earl Raab, August] can be argued from many angles, but it should not entail swallowing whole John Wayne’s calculated propaganda on the commercial success of his movie, The Green Berets.

While The Graduate earned more money for its distributor than any other movie which had its major “playoff” during 1968, it was not joined by The Green Berets to form “the two top money-making films of 1968,” as Messrs. Lipset and Raab state in the article. The Graduate earned more than $43 million; Berets about $9.5 million; and between the two came eleven other big grossers. . . .

My figures come from the latest anniversary issue of Variety, usually considered authoritative on these matters. But I have a more subjective comment to make, based on my experience of two years as a Variety reporter. Messrs. Lipset and Raab seem convinced that the success of the film . . . can be attributed to its “attract[ing] multitudes of young people,” as did The Graduate. I cannot agree with that conclusion, based on following the business done by this picture on a week-by-week basis for almost a year as part of my chores as a Variety reporter. Berets was simply a successful John Wayne action picture, drawing exactly the same working-class and rural audience which came to see El Dorado the previous year and True Grit the next. It did its business in “action houses,” not in theaters near campuses or in shopping centers drawing young marrieds. On the other hand, such films on the “other” side of the generation gap as The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? were successful precisely because of their appeal to youth elements.

Stuart Byron
New York City

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