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The Quiet American

The Quiet American(1958)

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Joseph L. Mankiewicz's onscreen credit reads: "Written for the screen and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz." The following written prologue appeared in the opening credits: "Saigon...1952; There was an emperor-who ruled by permission of France to whom it belonge-and 300 miles to the north of Saigon, both the emperor and the French were fighting a war against a Communist army." The closing credits included the following written statement: "To the people of the Republic of Vietnam-to their chosen President and administration-our appreciation for their help and kindness." This statement referred to President Ngo Dinh Diem, who ruled Vietnam from 1955 until his assassination in 1963. The order of the opening cast credits differ slightly from the closing credits. Some reviews list actor Clinton Anderson's surname as "Andersen."
       A January 1956 news item noted that Humphrey Bogart was under consideration for the role of "The American." As noted in reviews for the film, The Quiet American substantially reduced the anti-American bias of Graham Greene's novel, changing "The American" (who has no name in the film, although in the book he is called "Alden Pyle") from a possible official government representative to a medical aid worker, thus making his political opinions not necessarily connected with the American government. The film and Greene's novel are set in 1952, shortly after the end of the first Indochina war and three years before the end of French rule and the beginning of more American involvement. Greene had been in Indochina as a war correspondent and was critical of growing American intervention.
       A modern biography of Joseph L. Mankiewicz notes that numerous reviews were critical of The Quiet American film's ending (changed from Greene's, in which "Phuong" returns to "Fowler"), charging that this shifted the emphasis to the romantic betrayal rather than the sharper political one. The same source notes that the closing appreciation was probably necessary in order for Mankiewicz to secure permission to film in Vietnam. The biography discloses that Mankiewicz intended to cast Laurence Olivier as "Fowler" and Montgomery Clift as "The American," but Olivier dropped out after Clift withdrew, possibly due to health considerations. Novice France Nuyen was tested for "Phuong." The film was shot on location in Saigon, Vietnam and the Cinecitt Studios in Rome. According to a January 1957 Variety news item, The Quiet American was the first feature to be filmed in Vietnam. In 2002, Miramax Films released another film adaptation of The Quiet American, starring Michael Caine as Fowler and Brendan Fraser as Pyle, and directed by Phillip Noyce. For information about the differences between the 1958 and 2002 films, please see the entry for the 2002 version of The Quiet American (below).