Johnny got his gun (film)

Johnny got his gun – also known as Johnny took his rifle (in Latin America) and Johnny took his rifle (in Spain) – is a dramatic film directed by Dalton Trumbo based on his own novel Johnny got his gun . The film shows a clearly anti- war positionand could be interpreted as an apology to the medical practice known as euthanasia .


Joe Bonham aka Johnny ( Timothy Bottoms ) is an American soldier who is injured by an explosion during World War I (1914-1918). In that accident, Johnny loses all his limbs, and the senses of sight, hearing, smell and taste.

Reduced to a living torso, and almost completely isolated from reality, he recalls his most important memories, until they consume him in dreams and nightmares and he is unable to distinguish reality from fantasy.

After several years incapacitated, it manages to communicate with the doctors and generals in Morse code , moving in head spasms forwards and backwards .

At the end of the film, Joe tries to tell his doctors that he wants the Army to put him in a glass coffin (in a sort of public attraction) to demonstrate the horrors of war, or instead want him killed. However, he realizes that the Army will not grant his request, and will leave him in a state of death in life.

At the climax of the film, the nurse tries to euthanize her by holding her breathing tube, but her supervisor stops her before Joe can succumb. This situation does not occur in the novel.

The film ends in a somber way, with Joe faintly singing ” SOS , help me” . His useless and immobilized body is abandoned in a store, and preserved for the study and advancement of medicine.

Title of the film

A priori, the title of Dalton Trumbo’s novel and film bears no relation to the course of the book or the tape. The curious name of the anti-war work is the result of a song by the American nationalist George M. Cohan , who makes a great apology for the war and encourages the young Americans to participate in it. That song, Over there , begins with the phrase “Johnny, get your gun” and clearly urges any American patriotic youth to defend their country.

The title of Trumbo’s work is nothing more than the answer to that phrase, a message that can be interpreted as the consequence of Johnny taking his rifle and going to war (“Johnny took his rifle, went to war and returned Mutilated for life ‘).


  • Timothy Bottoms (1951-) as the protagonist, Joe Bonham
  • Kathy Fields (1947-), as Kareen, his girlfriend
  • Marsha Hunt (1917-), as Joe’s mother
  • Jason Robards (1922-2000), as Joe’s father
  • Charles McGraw (1914-1980), as Mike Burkeman, the father of Kareen
  • Donald Sutherland (1935-), as Jesus Christ
  • David Soul (1943-), as the Swedish soldier of World War I
  • Alice Nunn (1927-1988) as the fat nurse (the third).
  • Sandy Brown Wyeth (1941-), as the Californian prostitute Lucky
  • Don Red Barry (1912-1980), as Jody Simmons
  • Eric Christmas (1916-2000), as Corporal Timlon
  • Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976, director of the film, as Robert Cole), as a speaker
  • Diane Varsi (1938-1992), as the young and kind nurse (the fourth).
  • Milton Barnes , as first reader
  • Craig Bovia , as the child
  • Peter Brocco , as an elder priest
  • Judy Howard Chaikin , as the bakery girl
  • Kendell Clarke as Hospital Officer
  • Maurice Dallimore , as the British colonel
  • Robert Easton , as the third doctor
  • Larry Fleischman , like Russ
  • Eduard Franz , as Colonel / General Tillery
  • Anthony Geary (as Tony Geary, 1947-), as the red-haired soldier
  • Ed Gilbert (as Edmund Gilbert), as the priest
  • Ken Globus , as the waitress (uncredited).
  • Ben Hammer as the second doctor
  • Wayne Heffley as the captain
  • Lynn Hanratty , as Elisabeth at 6 years old
  • Ernestine Johnston , as a peasant
  • Joseph Kaufmann , as Rudy
  • Jodean Lawrence , as the second nurse (as Jodean Russo).
  • Mike Lee , as Bill Harper
  • Kerry MacLane (1958), Joe at 10 or 12 years old.
  • William Mims , as a gentleman
  • Byron Morrow , as Brigadier General
  • Marge Redmond , as the first nurse
  • Pepe Serna , as José (uncredited).
  • Arthur Tovey , as a man who goes to church (uncredited).
  • Etienne Veazie , as a young black man (uncredited).
  • Peter Virgo Jr. , as the assistant
  • Gigi Vorgan , like Catherine at 13
  • Jeffrey Walker (as Jeff Walker) as the fifth guy
  • Bruce Watson as the coach
  • Cynthia Wilson , as Catherine at age 7 (uncredited).
  • Winston Churchill , as himself, in the opening credits of the film, in archive images
  • Czar Nicholas II , like himself, in the opening credits of the film, in archive images
  • Zarina Alejandra , as herself, in the opening credits of the film, in archive images
  • Marshal Petain , like himself, in the opening credits of the film, in archive images
  • Woodrow Wilson , like himself, in the opening credits of the film, in archive images


The thrash metal band Metallica relied on this work to create one of their greatest songs, One . Both the lyrics and the video refer to the film Johnny took his rifle and, in more detail, one of the videos that the band recorded of the theme, shows the components in black and white playing in a store while interspersing images and dialogues of the movie.