Unused Footage from Hearts and Minds

Inside Criterion / Production Notes — Jun 26, 2014

Only a small fraction of the footage Peter Davis shot for Hearts and Minds made it into his 112-minute Academy Award­–winning documentary on the Vietnam War. Davis and his crew filmed hundreds of hours in the United States, Vietnam, and France—shooting more than 850 16 mm camera rolls. Along with extensive outtakes from the interviews with people who do appear in the film, there are many more hours of footage that were never even part of the editing process, including interviews with key historical figures who did not appear in the film.

For decades, producer Bert Schneider stored more than 1,400 elements from the film in Hollywood, a mixture of camera negatives, work prints, and ¼" location sound rolls. With the aid of the original production logs (and some trial and error), I was able to access the selections that Davis remembered most vividly. With the original transcripts as a guide, we undertook the complex job of transferring and syncing highlights from interviews with presidential adviser George Ball, broadcast journalist David Brinkley, French journalist and historian Philippe Devillers, and antiwar activist Tony Russo—none of which appear in the film, as Davis decided in editing to include only people who had at one point actively supported or participated in the war—along with outtakes from the interviews with U.S. General William Westmoreland and presidential adviser Walt Rostow that do appear in the film; we are pleased to now be able to present this footage on our new release. The excerpts below include Brinkley and Westmoreland presenting different views on the media’s response to the Vietnam War, as well as footage captured in a South Vietnamese village in the province of Quang Nam that had been accidentally bombed by Americans.

In 2013, Davis arranged to donate all of the materials from Schneider’s vault to the University of Massachusetts Boston, whose archive also manages the Vietnam War–related material for the university’s William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences. In response to Davis’s wishes to provide public access to all of this important documentary footage, the university is seeking funding to digitize it and make it all accessible online at OpenArchives.umb.edu.