The Great Santini is a 1979 film which tells the story of a Marine officer whose success as a military aviator contrasts with his shortcomings as a husband and father. The film explores the high price of heroism and self-sacrifice. It stars Robert Duvall, Blythe Danner, Michael O'Keefe, Lisa Jane Persky, Julie Anne Haddock, Brian Andrews, Stan Shaw and David Keith. Much of the film was shot on location in Beaufort, South Carolina. The setting of the Meechum house was later used in The Big Chill. The film is set in 1962 before widespread American involvement in the Vietnam War. Conroy makes the point that Santini is a warrior without a war, and in turn is at war alternately with the service that he loves and his family. The script was adapted by Lewis John Carlino from the novel of the same name by Pat Conroy, with assistance from an un-credited Herman Raucher. Carlino directed the film. The title character, Lt. Col. Wilbur "Bull" Meechum, aka "The Great Santini", was based on Conroy's father. The story, for the most part, follows the book. The movie's major divergence is the absence of Sammy, Ben Meecham's Jewish best friend.
An exceptional film, this odd combination of Top Gun and Ordinary People features Robert Duvall in one of his greatest performances (Oscar-nominated, too) as the difficult Marine family patriarch in the years leading up to the Vietnam War. This ain’t Major Dad, as Duvall’s ‘Great Santini’ drinks hard and pushes his kids to the limit. Or beyond. Some of it’s funny, some of its tragic, and with the exception of a misfired subplot about race relations, all of it’s stellar.