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The Quiet American (1958 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Quiet American
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay byJoseph L. Mankiewicz
Edward Lansdale (uncredited)[1]
Based onThe Quiet American
1955 novel
by Graham Greene
Produced byJoseph L. Mankiewicz (uncredited)
StarringAudie Murphy
Michael Redgrave
CinematographyRobert Krasker
Edited byWilliam Hornbeck
Music byMario Nascimbene
Color processBlack and white
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • February 5, 1958 (1958-02-05)
Running time
122 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.5 million[2]

The Quiet American is a 1958 American drama romance thriller war film. It was the first film adaptation of Graham Greene's bestselling 1955 novel of the same name,[3] and one of the first films to deal with the geo-politics of Indochina.[4] It was written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and stars Audie Murphy, Michael Redgrave, and Giorgia Moll. It was critically well-received, but was not considered a box-office success.

The film flips the plot of the novel on its head; it turns a cautionary tale about foreign intervention into an anticommunist advocacy of the use of American power abroad. In writing the script, Mankiewicz received uncredited input from CIA officer Edward Lansdale, who was often said to have been Greene’s inspiration for the American character he had called "Pyle" in the novel. (In the 1958 film, this character, though unnamed, was played by Murphy).[3][1] However, in fact, Greene did not meet Landsdale until after completing much of the novel. According to Greene, the inspiration for the character of Pyle was Leo Hochstetter, an American serving as public affairs director for the Economic Aid Mission in Indochina who was assumed by the French to “belong to the CIA”; they had lectured him during the “long drive back to Saigon on the necessity of finding a ‘third force in Vietnam.’”[5]

The film stirred up controversy. Greene was furious that his anti-war message had been excised from the film, and he disavowed it as a "propaganda film for America."[3]

(The Quiet American was remade in 2002. That version, directed by Phillip Noyce and starring Brendan Fraser and Michael Caine, was more faithful to the plot of Greene's novel.[3])

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  • @1jour1film - 11/04/12 - Un Américain Bien Tranquille



In Saigon in 1952, as Vietnamese insurgents are delivering major strikes against the French colonial rulers, an innocent and enigmatic young American economist (Audie Murphy), who is working for an international aid organization, gets caught between the Communists and the colonialists as he tries to win the "hearts and minds" of the Vietnamese people. By promising marriage, he steals away a young Vietnamese woman (Giorgia Moll) from an embittered and cynical English newspaperman (Michael Redgrave), who retaliates by spreading the word that the American is actually covertly selling arms to the anti-Communists.



Filming of The Quiet American began in Saigon on January 28, 1957, then moved to Rome, where it finished in late April.[7][8] It was the first time a feature film had been shot in Vietnam.[9] The crew had some difficulty filming there: they had to avoid shooting at midday because of the harsh shadows; they had trouble getting permission to shoot inside a Buddhist temple because of religious scruples related to the phase of the moon; and they inadvertently helped a political protest take place that would otherwise have been shut down by the police, because the authorities assumed it had been staged for the film.[4] In addition, filming was interrupted when Audie Murphy fell ill with appendicitis during a weekend shopping trip to Hong Kong and had to have emergency surgery.[10]

It was reported that Humphrey Bogart had been considered for the lead role; in fact it was offered to Montgomery Clift, with Laurence Olivier set to play "Fowler". But Clift withdrew for health reasons, and Olivier then also left the project; Clift was replaced by Audie Murphy.[9][10]

Graham Greene had been a war correspondent in Indochina, and was critical of the growing American involvement there. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the writer, director, and producer of the film, significantly diluted the political impact of Greene's story by making the character of Pyle an aid worker and private citizen rather than a representative of the American government, and by focusing on the love-triangle aspects of the story rather than the geo-politics of the war.[9] These changes led Greene to disavow the film.

The character of Phuong, a young Vietnamese woman, was portrayed by actress Giorgia Moll, an Italian.

Audie Murphy said that he never would have participated in the movie if the story’s tone had not been changed from anti-American to pro-American, and he called his part "one of the greatest I've ever had".[11]

Critical response

The film's obscuring of Greene's political points was mentioned by some critics, but the acting was nevertheless noted for its high quality, especially the performance by Michael Redgrave. Also praised were the locations. In The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote: "Scenes shot in the streets of Saigon have a vivid documentary quality and, indeed, the whole film has an aroma of genuine friction in the seething Orient."[12]


  1. ^ a b Stephen Kinzer. The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War, Times Books, 2013. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-8050-9497-8
  2. ^ "Figaro Signs Susan Hayward". Variety. 9 October 1957. p. 21.
  3. ^ a b c d Phillips, Richard. "A haunting portrait of US-backed terror in 1950s Vietnam" World Socialist Web Site, 2002
  4. ^ a b Steffen, James (October 6, 2006). "The Quiet American (1958)". TCM. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  5. ^ Boot, Max (2018-01-10). "Meet the Mild-Mannered Spy Who Made Himself the 'American James Bond'". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2020-07-30.
  6. ^ Crowther, Gosley (Feb 6, 1958). "Movie Review: The Quiet American (1958)". The New York Times. Retrieved Feb 28, 2016.
  7. ^ IMDB Filming locations
  8. ^ TCM Overview
  9. ^ a b c TCM Notes
  10. ^ a b Don Graham, No Name on the Bullet: The Biography of Audie Murphy, Penguin, 1989 p 268
  11. ^ Hopper, Hedda (December 14, 1956). "Audie Murphy Will Do 'Quiet American'". Los Angeles Times. p. B8.
  12. ^ Crowther, Bosley (February 6, 1958). "Quiet American: Mankiewicz Version of Novel by Greene". The New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2021.

External links

This page was last edited on 3 June 2024, at 22:10
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