6.8/10
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The Quiet American (1958)

A young naive American and a cynical older British diplomat disagree over politics in 1952 Vietnam and over a beautiful young native girl.
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
...
...
Fred Sadoff ...
Dominguez
...
...
Peter Trent ...
Eliot Wilkins
Georges Bréhat ...
French Colonel (as Georges Brehat)
...
Joe Morton
...
Rendezvous Hostess
Nguyen Long ...
Boy with Mask
C. Long Cuong ...
Boy in Watchtower
Tu An ...
Boy in Watchtower
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Storyline

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>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Where He Walked - All Hell Broke Loose! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | Thriller | War

Certificate:

TV-PG | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

8 February 1958 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El americano tranquilo  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (TCM Print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Source novelist Graham Greene said of his source novel of the same name in 'Ways of Escape', pp.139-140: "When my novel was eventually noticed in the New Yorker the reviewer condemned me for accusing my "best friends" (the Americans) of murder since I had attributed to them the responsibility for the great explosion - far worse than the trivial bicycle bombs - in the main square of Saigon when many people lost their lives. But what are the facts, of which the reviewer needless to say was ignorant? The Life photographer at the moment of the explosion was so well placed that he was able to take an astonishing and horrifying photograph which showed the body of a trishaw driver still upright after his legs had been blown off. This photograph was reproduced in an American propaganda magazine published in Manila over the title 'The work of Ho Chi Minh' although General Thé had promptly and proudly claimed the bomb as his own. Who had supplied the material to a bandit who was fighting French, Caodaists and Communists? . . . Perhaps there is more direct rapportage in the The Quiet American than in any other novel I have written. I had determined to employ again the experience I had gained with The End of the Affair in the use of the first person and the time shift, and my choice of a journalist as the "I" seemed to me to justify the use of rapportage. The Press conference is not the only example of direct reporting. I was in the dive bomber (the pilot had broken an order of General de Lattre by taking me) which attacked the Viet Minh post and I was on the patrol of the Foreign Legion paras outside Phat Diem. I still retain the sharp image of the dead child couched in the ditch beside his dead mother. The very neatness of their bullet wounds made their death more disturbing than the indiscriminate massacre in the canals around." See more »

Quotes

Thomas Fowler: You'd have made a good priest, Vigot. What is there about you that would make it so easy to confess... if there were anything to confess?
Inspector Vigot: [Keenly] You mix for yourself a drink, but you're not drinking it.
Thomas Fowler: It might be unwise. There are no secrets of the confessional in your profession.
Inspector Vigot: Secrecy is seldom important to a man who confesses. He has other motives.
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Connections

Referenced in Anatomy of a Scene: The Quiet American (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

La Cathédrale engloutie
(uncredited)
Composed by Claude Debussy
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User Reviews

 
French colonial Vietnam, and a desperate cynical British reporter whose life, and love, are crumbling
25 August 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The Quiet American (1958)

I think this is an extraordinary film. At the time, Americans didn't like it because it made them look bad, and the writer of the book it is based on, Graham Greene, didn't like it because it changed too much of his anti-American plot. But as a film, whatever its blurring of truth to history, is true about human nature. The credit for this goes not only to Greene, the enormously gifted writer and co-screenwriter, but also to the director, one of the lesser known American masters at telling a romantic story, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who also helped with the screenplay.

The two are a perfect match, really, because both are all about subtlety and observation. Greene in particular has a way of bringing up the biggest issues in the most intimate and delicate ways, never grandiose, always psychologically sharp. And that is carried forward here in Vietnam a decade before the American War of the 1960s. The Communists are already fighting in the north, the French are getting ready to abandon the country to the Americans, and a British reporter is the center of our attention, not quite on anyone's side.

There are two key characters, the reporter played with astonishing depth and acumen by Michael Redgrave, and "the American", played toward a caricature by Audie Murphy, with enough twists to his character to avoid over-stereotyping.

Greene's observations of American do-good naiveté are fascinating, and the way this gets mixed (poisoned) with American meddling and military subversion is way ahead of its time. Or is it? It might be simply observant of the facts in 1950s Vietnam. Greene was a reporter himself there then, and after this book was published he was followed by American Intelligence until his death in 1991. One of the brilliant aspects of this movie is how it is not simply a love story, but has a trenchant, disturbing comment to make about world affairs, from the inside.

Still, love intrudes, and the crossed loves of the two men for the same young Vietnamese woman is less clichéd than you might expect. The story is moving without being sentimental. And all of this is layered up with the actual Imperialist/Colonialist facts of the time. The conflicting sides of a war that few really understood (it seems) until twenty years later are here in their full formed germinations. Unlike the Michael Caine version of the same story (from 2002), this one was made before history had unfolded. It's endlessly almost chillingly fascinating, even though Greene's anti-war (and somewhat anti-American) tone was largely removed. The later movie might be closer to the book, but it feels like a movie made about history, not one that predicts it.

There are some scenes here, priceless ones, shot in Vietnam in 1958, the rest is done (with terrific light and set design) in an Italian film studio. Greene was British and the production Italian, but Mankiewicz was American, and fully steeped in American filmmaking and myth making. It's this last aspect that is key--the movie is made to the highest standards of 1940s American melodramas, even having an echo (in terms of light and drama and style) of William Wyler's "The Letter" also set in Southeast Asia. The filming is astonishing--the photography is in the hands of Robert Krasker, who shot "The Third Man" and "Brief Encounter" to give you an idea of the moody richness of his style.

And as a melodrama it comes down to the crumbling personal world of Fowler. At the end, in the busy night streets of a chaotic Saigon, he says, "I wish there was someone to whom I could say I'm sorry." I found it the final moving, beautiful strain of truth and pathos in a very special movie.


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