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A Yank In Vietnam

Remember Marshall Thompson (star of the tv show ‘Daktari’ and numerous movies in the ’40’s and ’50’s)? In the early ’60’s, he came to Vietnam to make a movie, ‘A Yank In Vietnam’ (alternate title “Year of the Tiger.”) My dad, Donald Seely, was port operations officer in Saigon…and his secretary was a young Vietnamese then-part-time actress by the name of Kieu Chinh. She had met Thompson and had been signed to play the female lead in the film; she also knew Thompson and my dad shared the same hometown, Peoria, Illinois. When Marshall Thompson came over, she introduced him to my dad and they became quick friends…a friendship that lasted for decades. Thompson offered my dad a small part in the film…the role of a helicopter pilot, ‘Major Kastens.’ During and after the filming, Thompson and other stars in the film (Mario Barri, Enrique Magalona, and others) were frequent guests at our house, along with Kieu Chinh and other Vietnamese who were involved in the film’s production.

Following our return to the states, Marshall Thompson invited us to Los Angeles, where we stayed for several days. He picked us up at the hotel and took us to the studio lot (can’t remember which one it was…maybe Paramount??) and showed us the completed film, which was soon to be released. The film was in theatres for awhile, made some late-night tv showings, and seemingly disappeared. For decades, I tried to find a copy of the film, to no avail. Marshall Thompson died in 1992…my dad died in 2005. In 2007, I happened to stumble upon a motion picture source who agreed to make a dvd copy of the movie for me, to my great relief and joy! After I landed my copy of the movie, I had copies made for my sons and their families so they can all enjoy their grandpa’s brief journey into motion pictures. I tried for months to contact Kieu Chinh who now is a distinguished actress living in L.A. (‘Joy Luck Club,’ ‘Legends of the Fall,’ and others; also numerous television roles over the years). She and I are now in contact with each other, and have enjoyed reminiscing about our mutual years in Saigon. I’ve also established contact with Marshall Thompson’s daughter and keep in touch with her.

You can still find tidbits about ‘A Yank In Vietnam’ (this link here ). The Seely family’s time in Saigon, like everyone else’s, was enjoyable — and the fact that we were able to make other long-lasting friendships has made the experience even more wonderful!

Best regards! Randy Seely

10 comments to A Yank In Vietnam

  • Admin

    Great post Randy! 🙂

    I recall somewhere in years past, seeing the movie, but only recall the title “Year of the Tiger” and that it was about Marines in VN. Probably, saw it on late night TV on of those night when I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep … so started channel surfing … LOL

    It ceases to amaze me and interest me all the things we Saigon Kids were a part of, and for the most part, didn’t even realize we were a part of, until years later. Or, as one of the Saigon Kids said previously on here … ‘we are a part of history’ … how very true!

    I think it is really great that in today’s world of HiTech we are able to share and preserve all the experiences, memories and history we were a part of and/or made.

    That is really awesome you’ve been able to reconnect with Kieu Chinh and Marshall Thompson’s daughter … what a beautiful thing to be able to do! 🙂

    Again, a great post … thanks for sharing this with us.

    Bob

  • RandySeely

    Thanks, Bob! My dad was very proud of his association with both Marshall Thompson and Kieu Chinh, AND his small part in what certainly was NOT a box-office smash. They all kept in touch over the years…til Thompson’s death. Then, Dad and Kieu Chinh maintained telephone contact quite a bit. After he died, I was going thru some old papers, phone numbers, etc, and found her old phone number (no longer in use…). Thru sources on the internet, I was finally able to get in touch with her again. She and my dad were very good friends…I was happy to be able to ‘pick up the ball’ and continue that family friendship! Thompson’s widow is the sister of Richard Long (Jarrod Barkley on ‘Big Valley’). My dad put together a very entertaining photo album of his involvement in the film, which my sons truly enjoy thumbing through. Good times…good times.
    Randy

  • Admin

    Awwww but IT IS … THE GREATEST movie ever made in the eyes of GRAND KIDS!! 🙂

    Bob

  • Alice Blackburn

    Hey Randy,

    Cool! Really interesting to hear about your dad’s adventures in the movies. What year was that? Got a question for you….why is my sister’s name listed under the description of you in the 1963 Gecko? Alice

  • Randy Seely

    Hi, Alice…nice to hear from you! Lynn and I were going with each other for awhile — up to the time I left Saigon. How her name ended up beneath my pic would have to be addressed to whoever the Gecko editor was back then.

    As for the movie…it was shot in ’63, was released in ’64 to theaters for a relatively short run…then to late-night tv for awhile…before disappearing entirely from public view. At least…until I managed to get my hands on a dvd copy!

    Take care! Randy

  • Alice Ahlgren Blackburn

    Randy….I had forgotten that…hmmm…because I have reason to remember better the guy she was dating her senior year. Well, Michele Laughlin was editor and in case YOU have forgotten, you and she were voted Wittiest. That is so much cooler than being Miss Dependable. Still love that bowtie…Alice

  • RandySeely

    Hi, Alice…nope, I remember Michele Laughlin…and the fact (with the photo)we were voted ‘Wittiest.’ One day, while googling names from the Gecko, I tried to see if I could find out where she…and others…might’ve ended up! Maybe she’ll pop up on this site, too! As for
    your being named ‘Miss Dependable’ that’s nothing to sneeze at! 🙂 Glad you like the bowtie…hmmm, wonder if they’ll ever make a comeback!! Oh, well…we can only hope! By the way…it’s great to run into old names here on the SK site. My best to your sister Lynn and your brother! Randy

  • Teni Leakehe

    Where can I get a copy of the DVD? I saw this movie when I was 6 years old. I have been searching for it as I did not remember the name. I googled a list of 1960s Vietnam moves and came across and the poster and postings. I’d love to have a copy of this movie.

    • Teni – There is no known *legal* source of this movie available to the public. It is only available to the public on *illegal pirate* sites on the Internet (I would not recommend obtaining a copy from *illegal pirate* sites, as it is in violation of copy right laws to do so).

      Bob

  • Mike Zimmerman

    Randy,
    Like Teni above, I have been looking for a copy of A Yank in Vietnam, for a long time. I saw the movie once in 1965 at the state hospital where I worked.In 1966, I found myself in the First Air Cavalry Division, in the central highlands, of Vietnam. I recently saw another movie, Fate is The Hunter that, I saw at about the same time, and realized how little of it I truly remembered. I would Love to see A Yank In Vietnam once again, to see what I truly remember Any help or assistance, that you can give me, would be helpful. In Advance, Thank You,
    Mike Zimmerman

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