China Beach is an American dramatic television series set at an evacuation hospital during the Vietnam War.
The title refers to My Khe beach in the city of Đà Nẵng, Vietnam, nicknamed “China Beach” in English by American and Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War. The ABC TV drama aired for four seasons, from 1988 to 1991.
In 1967, McMurphy bonds with Dodger, treats an injured Vietnamese girl with the help of Dodger and his gorilla suit, and deals with most of the base mistakenly believing it is her birthday. She tries to resist Boonie and Dodger giving her a birthday “baptism” by ocean but ends up frolicking in the water with them. That night, she surprises her friends at her birthday celebration with the gorilla costume before they serenade her with Happy Birthday to You.
In 1970, a civilian McMurphy lives with her mother in Lawrence, Kansas. The two frequently clash in the empty house over her mother’s push to renovate most of the rooms and her criticism of McMurphy’s drinking and her dogtags from Vietnam. Back at work at the local hospital, she is bored by the monotony of nursing work on her quiet post-op floor and seeks a transfer to the trauma unit, but is denied by her supervisor. She is instead transferred to the maternity ward, where she works alongside a pregnant Nellie. At Nellie’s baby shower, McMurphy snaps at her mother when she begins to talk over the party about her father. She leaves the party and heads to a bar, where she gets drunk and picks up a man with the story about her mistaken birthday in 1967. She brings the man home and he is made uncomfortable by their behaviour singing to Peggy Lee’s Fever and leaves. After the man leaves, McMurphy tells her mother that her father talked of dancing with her mother on his last night and that he loved her more than anything, but her mother solemnly responds that McMurphy was with him on his final night, not her. The next day, Nellie asks McMurphy to be her baby’s godmother and tries to talk to her about Vietnam. Nellie acknowledges that her experiences in Saigon removed from the most intense combat were much different than McMurphy’s at China Beach, but McMurphy shuts her down. On her way off-duty one night, she turns around to help in the emergency room after a major accident, giving her flashbacks to triage at China Beach. She prays for clarity in the maternity ward, arriving home drunk in her still bloodied uniform, shocking her mother. The two dance in the pouring rain together, sharing a happy moment, but McMurphy tearfully confides in her that she is unable to come to terms with her time in Vietnam and must leave Lawrence for good. At the bus station, she gives a young girl her dogtags and boards a bus, her destination unknown.
China Beach Series
You can find a full index and overview of China Beach here.
Production & Filming Details
- Release Date: 03 November 1990.
- Running Time: 46-47 minutes.
- Rating: Unknown.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.