Quiet American, The (1958)

Quiet American, The (1958)

“Don’t worry — I have no politics.”

A British journalist (Michael Redgrave) in 1950s Vietnam is confronted by ethical dilemmas when an American CIA agent (Audie Murphy) arrives and falls in love with his mistress, Phuong (Giorgia Moll).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Audie Murphy Films
  • Joseph L. Mankiewicz Films
  • Journalists
  • Love Triangle
  • Michael Redgrave Films
  • Vietnam War

Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s 1955 novel about the emergence of American interference in “Indo-Chine” remains a surprisingly mature and smart film about complicated geo-political and romantic maneuverings — albeit one that subverts Greene’s original anti-interventionist message in favor of a Communist conspiracy plot. Meek Phuong (Moll) serves as a clear proxy for Vietnam itself, treated like a mindless commodity that can be possessed and traded at will; it’s no surprise when her decision to leave Redgrave for Murphy sets off a chain of actions and reactions that lead to grave results. By centering the story on a self-absorbed middle-aged man (Redgrave) determined to keep his creature comforts above all else (he lies to Moll about his estranged wife’s willingness to divorce him, simply to prevent her from leaving), Mankiewicz shows how self-serving and short-sighted nations are — the fact that Redgrave is ultimately duped implies we must be wary of our well-intentioned but misguided involvement in foreign affairs. Sadly, Greene’s cautionary tale wasn’t heeded in the slightest. Watch for good use of on-location shooting in Saigon (this was the first American feature film shot in Vietnam). Remade in 2002 with Michael Caine in Redgrave’s role.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Michael Redgrave as Thomas Fowler
  • Fine authentic location shooting
  • Robert Krasker’s cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s worth viewing.


One thought on “Quiet American, The (1958)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    The intelligent observations made in the assessment are well-taken. (And certainly the penultimate scene between Redgrave and Dauphin is the film’s best scene.)

    Still – this is a rather (sometimes awkwardly) verbose, rather inert drama.

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