Be Good, Smile Pretty

A daughter embarks on an intense, personal journey to reclaim the memory of her father, who died in the Vietnam war when she was an infant.

Be good smile pretty 01
Independent Lens
Premiere Date
November 11, 2003
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2003 Los Angeles Film Festival-Documentary Feature Jury Prize
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    2003 Vietnam Veterans of America-President's Award for Excellence in Documentary Film
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    2003 Aspen Filmfest-Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature
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    2003 News and Documentary Emmy Awards-Best Documentary
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    2004 CINE Golden Eagle Awards-CINE Golden Eagle Award
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    2004 duPont Awards-Finalist - Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award
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    2005 American Library Association-Notable Film for Adults
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    2005 CINE/Eastman Kodak Funding Panel-Jury Prize
  • Tragos tracy filmmaker bio

    Tracy Tragos

    Be Good, Smile Pretty is Droz-Tragos's directorial debut. The film won the best documentary feature award at the 2003 IFP Los Angeles Film Festival, and was honored with the President’s Award for Excellence in Documentary Film from Vietnam Veterans of America. Droz-Tragos started her career at DreamWorks, SKG, where she rose through the ranks from an Show more assistant to a writer/producer on story-based CD-ROMs. Her DreamWorks credits include Dilbert’s Desktop Games, Goosebumps: Escape from Horrorland starring Jeff Goldblum and Isabella Rossellini, and The Neverhood. More recently, she has worked as a freelance writer and producer developing scripts and stories including Miss Whoopass, an original animated series, and Dancing Between Courses, a one-act play. Droz-Tragos is currently writing a book, and developing both narrative and documentary projects through her new production company, Dinky Pictures, named after her father. She is also the founder and president of Orphans of War Foundation, a nonprofit organization, whose ongoing purpose is to increase awareness and understanding of the impact of the Vietnam War on those who lost a parent there. Droz-Tragos holds a BA in English from Northwestern University and an MFA with honors in cinema/television from the University of Southern California. Show less

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    The Film

    On March 16, 2001, 32-year-old Tracy Droz Tragos typed her father's name into and hit 'Search.' Two and a half years later, the results of that search are chronicled in Be Good, Smile Pretty, a film that documents Tracy’s journey to find the father she lost in Vietnam. Lt. Donald Glenn Droz was 25 when he died; Tracy was three months old. What she found on the Web that night was "Death of the 43," a first-person, detailed account by a witness to an ambush in the Mekong Delta that destroyed a Navy swift boat and killed six men, including her father. After waiting two days, Tracy called her mother to tell her of the article. Thus began a conversation between the two on film, with Tracy gently but insistently probing her mother, Judy, to dredge up and piece together old memories and to flesh out and give life to the shadowy figure of her daughter's dreams.

    Tracy's film odyssey takes her from Berkeley, California to Rich Hill, Missouri, her father's hometown, and then on to the United States Senate, the United States Naval Academy, the cotton fields of Selma, Alabama, suburban Illinois, New York City, Santa Rosa, California, and places in between, to talk with relatives and her father's comrades from Vietnam. These men (including Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts), now in their 50s and 60s, are the age her father would have been had he survived. Grappling with their own painful memories, they have stories they need to tell about her father, to make a connection, to provide missing pieces of the puzzle.
    Haunting, evocative and moving, Be Good, Smile Pretty is a testament to the terrible loss that accompanies war, and the grief that continues to resonate for decades to come. But this time, Tracy has rewritten the ending to the story: "While I will always want more, one more second, one more breath, one more anything of him — for the first time in my life, I have just enough of him to remember and love and grieve. He would have been a great father. And when I smile, I have his eyes."