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