Gardens of Stone

Gardens of Stone

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola
Michael I. Levy
Screenplay by Ronald Bass
Based on Gardens of Stone by Nicholas Proffitt
Music by Carmine Coppola
Cinematography Jordan Cronenweth
Edited by Barry Malkin
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • May 8, 1987 (1987-05-08)
Running time
112 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $13 million
Box office $5,262,050

Gardens of Stone is a 1987 American drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, based on the novel of the same title by Nicholas Proffitt. It stars James Caan, Anjelica Huston, James Earl Jones and D. B. Sweeney.


A hardened Korean and Vietnam War veteran, Sergeant Clell Hazard (James Caan) would rather be an instructor at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, to train soldiers for Vietnam but instead he is assigned by the Army to the 1st battalion 3d Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) at Fort Myer, Virginia.

The Old Guard is U.S. Army's Honor Guard. It provides the ceremonial honor guard for the funerals of fallen soldiers and guards the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Hazard calls them the "toy soldiers" and hates his job until Jackie Willow (D. B. Sweeney), the son of an old friend and fellow veteran, is assigned to his platoon and he sees an opportunity to make sure at least one man comes home alive.

Hazard tries to warn Willow about Vietnam but the young man sees it as his duty as a soldier to fight for his country, no matter what kind of war. Hazard hates how the war in Vietnam is being fought and feels that good soldiers are being wounded and killed in the "wrong" war in which the U.S. is not fighting to win.

Among the others in Hazard's life are his longtime friend and superior, Sergeant Major "Goody" Nelson (James Earl Jones), and his girlfriend Samantha Davis (Anjelica Huston), a writer for the Washington Post who is against the Vietnam War for different reasons.

Willow marries a Colonel's daughter named Rachel Feld (Mary Stuart Masterson). Rachel at first refuses to marry Jackie as long as he is a soldier. Rachel also hates the war in Vietnam and is afraid for her husband.

Hazard is divorced and hasn't seen his son in years due to the bitter divorce. After Willow's father, who is a retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant and a former Korean War comrade in arms of Hazard's as well Sgt. Major Nelson's, dies of a heart attack, Hazard comes to look upon Willow as a "son." He tries to teach Willow all he can about soldiering and surviving in combat.

Willow in turn tries to teach his platoon mate Private Albert Wildman, a chronic screw-up, how to be a soldier. Wildman is later ordered to Vietnam, where he distinguishes himself as a heroic soldier and effective combat infantryman. He returns from Vietnam promoted to the rank of Sergeant and is a recipient of the Medal of Honor for heroism in combat. Sgt. Flanagan (Larry Fishburne), a fellow member of Sgt. Hazard's platoon, receives his orders for Vietnam at the same time.

Willow excels, is promoted to the rank of Sergeant and then is recommended to attend Officer's Candidate School, which he completes and is commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He is ordered to serve in a combat unit in Vietnam. Willow writes Hazard from Vietnam about all the good men in his platoon that he is losing in combat. Hazard then finds out that Jack Willow has been killed in action when he sees the burial orders for Jackie's remains at Arlington National Cemetery while on duty with the "Old Guard" at Fort Myer.

Hazard requests to be sent to Vietnam for his third tour of duty as a platoon sergeant in a combat infantry unit. He places his C.I.B. Combat Infantryman Badge, on Willow's flag-draped coffin at the chapel at Arlington National Cemetery. Jackie had aspired to serve in combat and receive his own C.I.B., just like his late father had in Korea. Wildman and Flanagan, at that time sergeants and just recently returned from Vietnam, are also present at Willow's funeral.

The film ends with military honors being rendered at Willow's graveside at Arlington and Hazard speaking to the mourners prior to the firing of the rifle salute and the playing of "Taps".

Main cast

Actor Role
James Caan Sergeant First Class Clell Hazard, Platoon Sergeant
Anjelica Huston Samantha Davis
James Earl Jones Sgt. Major "Goody" Nelson, Regimental Sergeant Major
D. B. Sweeney Specialist/Sergeant/2LT Jack "Jackie" Willow, Honor Guardsman
Dean Stockwell Captain Homer Thomas, Sgt. Hazard's Company Commander
Mary Stuart Masterson Rachel Feld
Dick Anthony Williams First Sergeant R. "Slasher" Williams, Company First "Top" Sergeant
Lonette McKee Betty Rae, Sgt. Major Nelson's wife
Sam Bottoms 1LT Lieutenant Webber, Sgt. Hazard's Platoon Leader
Elias Koteas Specialist Pete Deveber, Company Clerk
Larry Fishburne Sergeant Flanagan, Jack Willow's Squad Leader
Casey Siemaszko Sergeant Albert Wildman, Jack's friend in the platoon
Peter Masterson Colonel Feld
Carlin Glynn Mrs. Feld


The film earned mixed reviews from critics, as it currently holds a 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 14 reviews. The film was entered into the 15th Moscow International Film Festival.[1]

Box office

The movie had a limited release (612 theaters) and end up grossing $5,262,047. According to Box Office Mojo the movie also made $1,645,588 on its opening weekend. Given the film's $13M budget, it is a box office failure.

Replacement of Griffin O'Neal

Griffin O'Neal was initially cast in Gardens of Stone to play Pete Deveber, but was replaced by Elias Koteas after his involvement in the accidental speedboating death of Coppola's eldest son, Gian-Carlo Coppola, in May 1986.[2]


  1. "15th Moscow International Film Festival (1987)". MIFF. Retrieved 2013-02-21.
  2. Tatum O'Neal, A Paper Life, 0-060-75102-9 p. 158

External links

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