Apocalypse Now released - HISTORY
Year
1979

Apocalypse Now released

On this day in 1979, Apocalypse Now, the acclaimed Vietnam War film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, opens in theaters around the United States.

The film, inspired in part by Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella Heart of Darkness, among other sources, told the story of an Army captain (played by Martin Sheen) and crew of men who are sent into the Cambodian jungle to kill a U.S. Special Forces colonel (Marlon Brando) who has gone AWOL and is thought to be crazy. Apocalypse Now, which co-starred Robert Duvall and Dennis Hopper, became notorious for its long, difficult production, which included budget problems, shooting delays due to bad weather on the Philippines set, a heart attack for Sheen and a nervous breakdown for Coppola. Despite the production hurdles, the film became a commercial success and won two Academy Awards (Best Cinematography and Best Sound); it received six other Oscar nominations, including Best Director, Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Duvall). The film included such memorable lines as “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “The horror…the horror!”

At the time of the film’s release, Coppola, who was born in 1939, was already famous for writing and directing The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974). Following Apocalypse Now, he went on to direct such movies as The Outsiders (1983), The Godfather Part III (1990) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).

Prior to starring in Apocalypse Now, Martin Sheen’s movie credits included 1973’s Badlands, with Sissy Spacek. Sheen, who was born Ramon Estevez in 1940, would later co-star in such films as Wall Street (1987), opposite his son Charlie Sheen, and The Departed (2006). From 1999 to 2006, he played the fictional U.S. President Josiah Bartlett on the award-winning television show The West Wing, created by Aaron Sorkin.

Brando, who died at the age of 80 in 2004, was regarded as one of the greatest actors of his era. He won Best Actor Oscars for On the Waterfront (1954) and The Godfather and was nominated for his performances in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Viva Zapata! (1952), Julius Caesar (1953), Sayonara (1957), Last Tango in Paris (1973) and A Dry White Season (1989).

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Malcolm slays Macbeth

At the Battle of Lumphanan, King Macbeth of Scotland is slain by Malcolm Canmore, whose father, King Duncan I, was murdered by Macbeth 17 years earlier.Macbeth was a grandson of King Kenneth II and also had a claim to the throne through his wife, Gruoch, who was the granddaughter ...read more

Berlin Wall built

Two days after sealing off free passage between East and West Berlin with barbed wire, East German authorities begin building a wall–the Berlin Wall–to permanently close off access to the West. For the next 28 years, the heavily fortified Berlin Wall stood as the most tangible ...read more

Panama Canal open to traffic

The American-built waterway across the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, is inaugurated with the passage of the U.S. vessel Ancon, a cargo and passenger ship.The rush of settlers to California and Oregon in the mid 19th century was the initial impetus ...read more

India and Pakistan win independence

The Indian Independence Bill, which carves the independent nations of India and Pakistan out of the former Mogul Empire, comes into force at the stroke of midnight. The long-awaited agreement ended 200 years of British rule and was hailed by Indian independence leader Mohandas ...read more

The Japanese emperor speaks

On this day in 1945, Emperor Hirohito broadcasts the news of Japan’s surrender to the Japanese people.Although Tokyo had already communicated to the Allies its acceptance of the surrender terms of the Potsdam Conference several days earlier, and a Japanese news service ...read more

Japan gives ultimatum to Germany

On this day in 1914, the government of Japan sends an ultimatum to Germany, demanding the removal of all German ships from Japanese and Chinese waters and the surrender of control of Tsingtao—the location of Germany’s largest overseas naval bases, located on China’s Shantung ...read more

Woodstock begins in upstate New York

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair, “An Aquarian Exposition,” opens at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in upstate New York. Promoters expected the music festival, modeled after the famous Monterey Pop Festival, to attract up to 200,000 for the weekend, but nearly a half a million people ...read more

Regional Forces victorious

South Vietnamese officials report that regional forces killed 308 Communist troops in four days of heavy fighting along a coastal strip south of the DMZ. This was one of the biggest victories of the war for the regional forces in the war and was extremely significant since one ...read more

Charles Comiskey born

On August 15, 1859, Charles Albert Comiskey, namesake of Chicago’s famous Comiskey Park, is born in Chicago, Illinois. Comiskey went on to become the first and only player to later own a team.Before he was nicknamed “The Old Roman,” Charley Comiskey was just a kid who loved ...read more

Indian captive William Wells is killed

Potawatomi Indians kill William Wells, an Indian captive turned Indian fighter.Born in Pennsylvania in 1770, Wells migrated with his family to Kentucky when he was nine years old. Five years later he was captured by Miami Indians and adopted into the family of the Wea village ...read more

Edna Ferber, author of Show Boat, is born

Edna Ferber is born on this day in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Ferber went to work as a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal while still in her teens. She began publishing stories in her early 20s, and the reading public fell in love with her lively, no-nonsense character Emma McChesney, ...read more

Hurricane Alicia pounds Texas coast

Hurricane Alicia forms south of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico on this day in 1983. Three days later, the Texas Gulf Coast is slammed by the storm, causing 21 deaths, thousands of injuries and billions of dollars in damages.When Alicia hit Galveston, Texas, it was the first ...read more

Wife of slain minister released from jail

Mary Winkler, who confessed to fatally shooting her pastor husband Matthew Winkler in his sleep at their church parsonage in Selmer, Tennessee, is released from jail on $750,000 bail. Winkler was later convicted in his killing, but served only a short time in prison.On March 22, ...read more