“Dick Cavett’s Vietnam” Offers a Unique Window on the Vietnam War and America, airing April 27 at 10 p.m. on PBS
Documentary marks the 40th Anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War with memorable interviews conducted by Dick Cavett
The Vietnam War was the first “television war.” Night after night, the evening news broadcast the conflict into living rooms across America. As the country watched coverage of the fighting, Dick Cavett’s late night talk show featured thoughtful conversations and often-times spirited debate about the war from all sides of the political spectrum, mirroring the public’s growing unrest and the divisiveness that was ripping the country apart.
This April, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon (April 30, 1975) and the end of America’s presence in Vietnam, Dick Cavett’s Vietnam examines the conflict and its impact on America through the prism of interviews conducted by the iconic host of “The Dick Cavett Show.” Dick Cavett’s Vietnam, airing nationally Monday, April 27, 2015 from 10-11 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), is part of a special block of programming related to the Vietnam War.
“While I started out to do an entertaining talk show, you couldn’t keep Vietnam out of the conversation,” says Dick Cavett in a new interview in the documentary. Joining Cavett are a mix of actor/entertainers (Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Jane Fonda, Groucho Marx and Paul Newman), politicians (Senators Barry Goldwater, Wayne Morse, Edmund Muskie, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey), sports figures (Muhammad Ali) and more.
Historian and former Director of the Richard Nixon Library and Museum, Timothy Naftali is featured in the documentary and describes the prevailing sentiment captured in Cavett’s interviews this way, “It’s that America that is wounded, scarred by this commitment in Southeast Asia and is now trying to figure out a way to get out.”
Dick Cavett’s Vietnam combines interviews from Cavett shows with archival footage, network news broadcasts and recently filmed interviews with Dick Cavett, General Wesley K. Clark of the United States Army (retired); Pulitzer Prize-winning author Fredrik Logevall (Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam); and Naftali (who was also featured in Dick Cavett’s Watergate) to provide insight and perspective on this controversial chapter of American history.
The documentary explores many key figures and moments in the Vietnam War including:
– United States Senator Wayne Morse, who voted against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (1964) which allowed President Lyndon B. Johnson to engage United States troops without a formal declaration of war;
– CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite who, in the wake of the Tet Offensive (1968), delivered an editorial declaring the war a stalemate;
– audio recording of a conversation between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara;
– audio recording of a conversation between President Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger;
– President Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia (1970) which sparked protests across the United States including those at Kent State University where federal troops shot unarmed college students;
– United States military analyst and strategist Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers (1971); and more.
– Click here for a complete list of interviewees.
“In terms of what the war means to Americans today, I think it continues to be to some extent an open wound in the American body politic,” says Logevall. How much did we learn?
Not enough, says retired General Wesley K. Clark who served in Vietnam. “And to see us go into Iraq in 2003 or Afghanistan in 2001 and end up in a counter resurgence campaign and not have appreciated those lessons and to have to relearn them the hard way is a very painful thing to see.”
Dick Cavett’s Vietnam is a production of Crew Neck Productions in association with Daphne Productions and THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. Director is John Scheinfeld. Executive Producers are Robert S. Bader and John Scheinfeld. Producer is Dave Harding. Executive in Charge for WNET is Stephen Segaller. Executive Producer for THIRTEEN is Steve Burns. Coordinating Producer for THIRTEEN is Stephanie Carter.
As New York’s flagship public media provider and the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore App where users can stream PBS content for free.
About PBS Stories of Service
“DICK CAVETT’S VIETNAM” is part of a special block of programming related to the Vietnam War, and will be preceded by THE DRAFT at 9:00 p.m. ET, which takes a look at the turbulent history of this American institution and dives into the discussion of how mandatory military service has defined our nation. Anchoring the block is Academy Award®-nominated LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM, presented by AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, which recounts the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, airing at 10:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, April 28. The program will be preceded at 8:00 p.m. ET by THE DAY THE ‘60s DIED, which chronicles the nation’s upheaval during May 1970, the month in which four students were shot dead at Kent State University during a protest against the Vietnam War. LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM and THE DRAFT are part of PBS Stories of Service.