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 »
[after having some drinks in the bar]
I mean the defense of this country was conceived in the 19th Century and being fought in the 20th from Beau Geste forts that were built a century before the trenches of Verdun.
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Mankiewicz's Quiet American is interesting for reasons other than it is from a Graham Greene novel.
Audie Murphy is wooden in his portrayal of the American and, in a twist to the novel, is the hero of the piece. Not quite what Greene had in mind but relevant to events in the USA during the McCarthy era when this film was made (1958).
Phuong has not been given the importance she demands in the novel. The way in which she is 'colonised' by first Fowler and then the American (Pyle in the novel, but not named in this film) is a comment on the way in which the foreign landscape is depicted and also on how the country has been colonised. Despite this she is also manipulative.
However, having said some negative things about this production of The Quiet American, it is a MUST view for the portrayal of tensions in the cold war era and the USA's twist to events as they unfold. Remember that Audie Murphy and Joseph L. Mankiewicz testified for HUAC against their fellow actors and colleagues at the height of McCarthyism.
This film is totally relevant to events unfolding today and for all those interested in the effects of colonialism and the rise of the Vietnam War. What is interesting about this film is the different take on events portrayed in Greene's superb novel, unfortunately, some of which were omitted or subverted in the 1958 film.
This film should be followed by the Philip Noyce version of The Quiet American (2001) with Michael Caine as Thomas Fowler and Brendan Fraser as Pyle (the American in the Mankiewicz version). There is a good opportunity to contrast and compare the two versions which are very different, given that the Noyce Quiet American is closer to the novel.
I would also recommend for light relief that viewers watch the Mash Season 2 TV series in which we see Colonel Flag of the CIA raising a few loud laughs.
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