Magazine article The New Yorker

Two by Mankiewicz

Magazine article The New Yorker

Two by Mankiewicz

Article excerpt

In his 1958 adaptation of Graham Greene's "The Quiet American" (M-G-M), Joseph Mankiewicz repudiated the novel's historical accuracy--as the C.I.A. had advised--by blaming Communists for bombings that had been carried out by American-backed Vietnamese forces. The change heightened the story's dramatic power, turning the journalist Thomas Fowler, Greene's smug surrogate in French-run Saigon, into a jealous cynic (Michael Redgrave) who is duped by a Communist frameup into assisting in the murder of an idealistic young American agent (Audie Murphy)--and who, in the process, loses and ruins the woman they both love. The garrulous Englishman's narration, glib in the novel, thus became a guilt-racked voice-over confession in the film. The resulting political message, however, inhibited Mankiewicz, whose direction was unusually unassertive. Still, he had a kind of perfect visual pitch, and the film is always spot on, always the right thing at the right time.

"Always the right thing at the right time" is also how Brad Bishop (Jeffrey Lynn) describes his former sweetheart, Addie Ross, in Mankiewicz's 1949 film, "A Letter to Three Wives" (Fox Home Entertainment). …

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