The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Frequently Asked Questions
The Manchurian Candidate is a 1959 thriller novel written by American novelist Richard Condon. It was adapted for the screenplay by American screenwriter, playwright, and director George Axelrod [1922-2003].
Those who have both seen the movie and read the book say that the movie was very true to the novel. Outside of the extraneous backstories, characters, and details that are unable to be squeezed into a reasonable-length movie, there are only a few notable differences. For example, at the end of the movie, Raymond (Laurence Harvey) turns the gun on himself, unprovoked, whereas in the novel Marco (Frank Sinatra), using the Queen of Diamonds, causes him to do this. In addition, Raymond describes his mission to Marco during the debriefing scene in the book. In the movie, it's Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury) from whom we hear about the mission. The novel also contains more about Raymond's mother and her incestuous relationship with her father as well as more about Iselin (James Gregory) (an account of how his war record was faked and how he passed off an injury to his foot as a war wound, when in fact he was bitten in the foot by an Eskimo woman whose igloo he visited when he was searching for sex).
The Manchurian candidate is Senator Iselin (James Gregory).
Rose is a special character since she doesn't even show up until later in the movie and her first scene is shrouded in mystery. Her wording, while not outright gibberish, is rather odd, and clearly seems to be some kind of code. Her dialogue in the train scene was taken, according to the director's commentary, directly from the novel. Its meaning is a matter of debate among fans and is up to interpretation. But it isn't clear what is her purpose is in the story, since she clearly isn't just somebody he happened to meet on the train.
One idea, endorsed by critic Roger Ebert who theorised that Rosie was Marco's "American operator," working with the conspiracy and trying to control Marco. This would make sense since he was also brainwashed in Manchuria, and it would have been likely they would have implanted him with suggestions that could be triggered when someone said the right words to him. But the rest of the movie doesn't bear this out as Marco didn't seem to have been overly effected.
The other possibility, endorsed by the 2004 remake, is that she was working with the U.S. government. This would make some sense, especially since she was so intent on making sure he remembered her name and phone number. But if this were the case that would mean that Marco would have had to have been subjected to some kind of brainwashing by the U.S. government in order for her code words to work on him, something many people would have found unacceptable in 1962. The fact that her purpose in the story is never explained is one of the enduring mysteries of the film.