The Quiet American
Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1958
USA | Format: 35mm | 120 minutes
Mankiewicz’s version of Graham Greene’s 1955 novel set in French Indochina drew the ire of the novelist, who objected to the modification of his young American character Alden Pyle from an undercover CIA agent to an economist working for an NGO. But Mankiewicz’s shift in emphasis from the political toward a spiritual battle between Pyle and Fowler, the wizened British reporter, actually strengthens his source material on a dramatic level. Laurence Olivier was slated to play Fowler but dropped out when Audie Murphy was cast as Pyle—making the way for Michael Redgrave, who gives one of the finest performances in Mankiewicz’s entire body of work. The Quiet American, largely shot on location in Saigon, clicked with neither critics nor the public in 1958, but it has only become more impressive with the passing years. One devoted and eloquent fan, despite his reservations, ranked it the best film of 1958. His name was Jean-Luc Godard.
Venue: New York Film Festival