In this adaptation of Graham Greene's prophetic novel about U.S. foreign policy failure in pre-war Indochina, Audie Murphy plays an innocent Young American opposite the older, cynical Brit Michael Redgrave. They play out their widely different views on the prospects struggle for the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people in their competition over a young woman. Murphy wants to reform her and make her a typical middle class American housewife; Redgrave accepts her inability to formulate or retain a political ideal and while promising her no real future, he objects to Murphy's attempts to change her. It's not clear whether Murphy is just what he appears - a bungling Yankee do-gooder - or a deliberate agent of U.S. covert operations. Written by
Rita Richardson <RRichar790@aol.com>
In Europe, director-writer Joseph L. Mankiewicz was savagely attacked for his film's infidelity to the source novel by Graham Greene, not least by Greene himself. The screenplay essentially turns the novel inside-out, so that the blundering "quiet American", whose extreme naiveté causes tragedy and his own death despite his having only the best of intentions, is transformed into a shrewd and heroic figure, far wiser and more honorable than his British rival. Mankiewicz later referred to the film as "very bad" (although he also liked to point out that Jean-Luc Godard had called it the best film of its year) and claimed that he had not been able to concentrate on the film because of the mental collapse of his wife, Rose Stradner, who committed suicide soon after he had finished it. See more »
[Noticing to the Vietnamese women who are reacting to him]
What's all the chattering and giggling about?
They think I have come back to you.
See more »
Audie Murphy was a good-looking man, and the most legitimate of decorated war heroes. However, to describe his acting style -- in any of his films -- as "wooden," in addition to identifying him by name, is unnecessarily redundant.
If we were to place some film samples into a time capsule for future generations, to illustrate an example of acting as "wooden," or, say, with a range of "A-to-B" -- Audie's work would be a perfect example (we could add some from Patrick Swayze, as well).
But in spite of this and other performances which are less than stellar, this work provides a glimpse of Vietnam and Southeast Asia, presented a decade before the onset of the Vietnam conflict of the 1960's, and is part of the post-war McCarthy era, where our government took paths which history has shown to be less than wise.
With this in mind, and viewing this film a half century after it was made, the sense of history it provides is its most powerful attribute.
I also could not help but imagine how a film depicting the events in Iraq and the Mideast during the period of the 1990's into the present circumstances, will appear to viewers when it is seen and commented upon, at a site such as this, say, around 2050 or 2060.
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