The Oscar-winning film “Forrest Gump” was released in theaters on this day in history, July 6, 1994.
An adaptation of the 1986 novel of the same name by author Winston Groom, the movie was a smash success and earned $678.2 million worldwide.
It was the second-highest grossing film in 1994, coming in only behind “The Lion King,” says the website Box Office Mojo.
Starring Tom Hanks as the titular character, “Forrest Gump” tells of the life and times of a man “a bit on the slow side” — a man who also leads an extraordinary life amid some of history’s biggest events.
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The film is narrated by Gump, who sits on a bench waiting for a bus. He begins to tell anyone who’s sitting next to him the story of his life, beginning with his childhood in the 1950s.
Raised in Alabama by a single mother, played by Sally Field, Gump becomes close to Jenny (played by Robin Wright), the only person who will let him sit down on the school bus.
Teased and harassed one day at school, Gump discovers that he can run quite fast.
His athletic skill eventually leads to scouting by the University of Alabama to play football — which sets the rest of the story in motion.
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After college, Gump joins the Army and is sent to Vietnam to fight in the Vietnam War.
In the Army, he befriends “Bubba,” and the two aspire to open a shrimp boating business once they return to the United States after the war.
Hanks was awarded Best Actor, the first time someone had won back-to-back Best Actor awards since the 1930s.
Bubba, sadly, does not make it home from Vietnam.
In the film, Gump saves the life of his commanding officer, Lieutenant Dan (played by Gary Sinise), as well as others. Gump is awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism — and becomes a ping-pong star as he recovers from his war injuries.
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At an anti-war rally, Gump runs in to the now-adult Jenny and Lt. Dan — and discovers that Jenny has fallen into the hippie lifestyle of the ’70s.
Reunited with Lt. Dan, Gump fulfills his and Bubba’s dream of buying a shrimping boat, creating the “Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.”
Both Lt. Dan and Gump become extremely wealthy after Lt. Dan invests the profits “in some fruit company” — later revealed to be Apple.
Gump proposes marriage to Jenny — which she declines.
In response to her rejection of him (and her disappearance, once again, from his life), Gump begins to run across the United States.
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Returning finally to Alabama after a few years, Gump discovers he is the father of Jenny’s child, Forrest Jr. — and that she is dying of an unnamed illness implied to be AIDS.
Forrest and Jenny finally marry before her death.
Reviews were mixed when the film was released.
Some critics called it an “American staple” — while others called the narrative “programmed” and the film “hogwash.”
Wrote Malcolm Johnson of The Hartford Courant, “Hanks’ power as an actor makes us believe in Forrest. He also draws us into Forrest’s mind and morality system. And he sets out a singular film persona who will be watched and loved as long as people embrace movies.”
Jay Carr of The Boston Globe said, “‘Forrest Gump,’ the new Tom Hanks movie directed by Robert Zemeckis, is a one-of-a-kind treat.”
The film received the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 67th Academy Awards in 1995, notes the Academy’s website.
Hanks was awarded Best Actor, the first time someone had won back-to-back Best Actor awards since the 1930s, said the Academy. (In 1994, Hanks won for his role in “Philadelphia.”)
In taking the Best Actor Oscar for “Forrest Gump,” Hanks beat out fellow nominees Morgan Freeman, Paul Newman, John Travolta and Nigel Hawthorne that year.
“Forrest Gump” also won Oscars for Best Directing, Film Editing, Visual Effects, and Writing–Screenplay based on material previously produced or published.
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