Movie Article

Greene on Film

A selection of the writer's best work for film such as ''Brighton Rock,'' ''The Fallen Idol,'' and ''The Fugitive''

Graham Greene on film

Few of the 20-odd movies adapted from Graham Greene's fiction catch the mournful crosscurrents of suspense and doubt that were his strong suit — a failing that especially disappointed the author, who spent a decade as a film critic. What Greene termed his ''entertainments'' often made it to the screen in better shape than his more serious novels, if only because the latter's darkly internal themes do not lend themselves to a visual medium. Nonetheless, select gems stand out. Here are some to look for on the late show.

Brighton Rock (1947)
Retitled Young Scarface for U.S. release, it's a bleak, cynical thriller about a youth gang led by a vicious Richard Attenborough, light-years away from directing Gandhi.

The Fallen Idol (1948)
From a short story, ''The Basement Room,'' a movie masterpiece about a boy whose worship of the family butler (Ralph Richardson) turns destructive.

The Fugitive (1948)
Greene's The Power and the Glory is turned into a somber John Ford film, with Henry Fonda as the burned-out priest on the run in Mexico.

Ministry of Fear (1944)
Director Fritz Lang threw out most of the complexities of Greene's brooding spy mystery, but the result is still excellent imitation Hitchcock, with an appealing performance by Ray Milland.

The Quiet American (1958)
An interesting, nearly honorable failure from writer-director Joseph Mankiewicz. Audie Murphy plays Greene's naive American in strife-torn 1952 Saigon.

The Third Man (1949)
The only work Greene wrote directly for the screen is also one of the all-time great movies, a witty metaphysical thriller featuring Joseph Cotten and a smiling, slippery Orson Welles.

This Gun for Hire (1942)
A Gun for Sale, a nearly existential novel about a vengeful triggerman, becomes a key film noir starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.

Originally posted Apr 19, 1991 Published in issue #62 Apr 19, 1991 Order article reprints
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