The Quiet American ’58: Why the CIA shouldn’t make movies

A surprise addition to the schedule! This was on PBS tonight, and it’s not the well-known recent film with Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser, but a far older version starring Audie Murphy and Michael Redgrave. Had I seen it in complete ignorance, I might think of it as a half-decent thriller with wooden acting (Audie Murphy, in particular, fails to exude any particular traits; Brendan Fraser captured Pyle’s naïveté and earnestness far better). But I’m not completely ignorant: I’ve read the novel on which it’s based and assess it on those grounds. It’s far more literalist than the 2002 film, lifting most of the dialogue and situations directly from the book instead of utilizing pastiche to compress them, but the literalism is shown to be something they only do when convenient, since about 75 minutes into the film the script deviates alarmingly from the Greene stance. Pyle’s a private citizen involved in absolutely nothing shady, Fowler’s a dupe of the Communists, and the entire fucking theme of the original story goes out the window. This one pissed Graham Greene off mightily, and I can see why.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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