The green berets actor John Wayne also passed behind the camera for the famous war film. Some of his fans praise the film, but others criticize it for its depictions of war. Composer Miklós Rózs recalled work with Wayne on The green berets. However, he explained the situation surrounding a time when the actor-turned-filmmaker made him use a popular song at the time that he really didn’t want to use.
Mervyn LeRoy persuaded John Wayne to use Miklós Rózsa for “The Green Berets”
Rózsa had plenty of impressive credits under her belt before joining Wayne on The green berets. He won three Oscars for his work on Bewitched, A double lifeand Ben Hur. However, Rózsa had 14 other nominations during her career.
According to Michael Munn John Wayne: the man behind the mythRózsa recalled exactly how he came to work on The green berets.
“I think it was Mervyn LeRoy who persuaded Wayne to use me,” Rózsa said. “Not that he did me any favors. I don’t like the movie, but I’ve written for a lot of other movies that I didn’t like.
LeRoy was a filmmaker who was not credited for The green berets as director. Some long-time moviegoers will recognize his name as the one who directed 1939 The Wizard of Oz.
John Wayne forced Miklós Rózsa to use “The Ballad of the Green Berets”
Rózsa told Munn about her experience working with Wayne on The green berets. However, it wasn’t always the most enjoyable time while they watched the movie together.
“I watched the movie when it was finished,” Rózsa said. “Wayne was sitting there holding an empty 35mm film canister that he spat tobacco out of. Not the most enjoyable way to watch a movie with someone chewing tobacco and spitting it out.
However, the worst came when Wayne wanted Rózsa to incorporate a popular song called “The Ballad of the Green Berets”.
“I’ve always hated songs in movies and I never went to the John Ford Film Music School where the cavalry sings as they go to fight the Indians,” Rózsa recalled. “So I said to Wayne, ‘You can’t make special forces sing the song. It would not only be old-fashioned, but it would be in bad taste.
Wayne replied that the song would help sell the film, but Rózsa made him a compromise. The composer said he would start and end the film with the song, but compose an original piece of music for the actual theme that captured a sense of heroism.
Additionally, Rózsa gave “The Ballad of the Green Berets” a different arrangement for the ending credits of the opening commercial, which he hoped was “quite moving.” He considered the final scene between Wayne and the little boy to be “cheesy,” but understood where that was going.
Rózsa continued, “It moved something in me and I wanted the music to help the audience be moved. But I promised to use that damn song, and I used it the best I could.
Critics were so mad at the movie that they didn’t talk about the music
The green berets totally won negative reviews from critics, especially for Wayne. They were particularly shocked at how much it simplified the Vietnam War, offending several parties involved. However, Rózsa explained to Munn that this controversy allowed him to walk away from the feature with clean hands.
“I don’t think anyone mentioned whether the music was good or bad,” Rózsa said. “Some film composers say that an audience shouldn’t notice the score, but who hasn’t noticed the music in Ben Hur? I think the critics who hated The green berets I was too shocked and mad at John Wayne to listen to music, so maybe I got off lightly.