An intelligent, articulate scholar, Harrison MacWhite, survives a hostile Senate confirmation hearing at the hands of conservatives to become ambassador to Sarkan, a southeast Asian country where civil war threatens a tense peace. Despite his knowledge, once he's there, MacWhite sees only a dichotomy between the U.S. and Communism. He can't accept that anti-American sentiment might be a longing for self-determination and nationalism. So, he breaks from his friend Deong, a local opposition leader, ignores a foreman's advice about slowing the building of a road, and tries to muscle ahead. What price must the country and his friends pay for him to get some sense?Written by
The film's opening prologue reads, "We are grateful to the people and the tourist organization of Thailand where much of this picture was filmed. The events portrayed, while drawn from recent history, do not reflect the politics or history of Thailand." See more »
As it is landing, the TWA plane is a Convair 880. When it arrives at the gate for deplaning, it has turned into a Boeing 707. See more »
Ambassador Harrison Carter MacWhite:
I'd like to interrupt, eh, gentlemen, to point out that the only thing that is clear so far is that there's no clarity at all. So if you don't mind, we'll stop this squabbling and I'll present you with some facts. About three hours ago, there were several people trampled to death, a policeman was pistol-whipped until his face looked like raspberry jam, and the man who represents the person of the president of United States was almost killed, along with his wife, and other members of his party. ...
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"The Ugly American" was released right before the Vietnam War started (depending on which stage of it), and now it seems more relevant than ever. Harrison MacWhite (Marlon Brando) becomes ambassador to the Southeast Asian nation of Sarkhan, which is on the verge of civil war between the Communists and the pro-US government. In Sarkhan, MacWhite begins to suspect that US intervention in this country might be prompting people to rebel. While he refuses to accept it, the situation becomes more and more tense, and MacWhite's officially neutral position becomes less and less sustainable.
You can't say for certain what the movie's political message is, but we might take MacWhite's speech at the end as a good reminder. Either way, this is one of the many movies that showed how great an actor Marlon Brando was.
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