The Ugly American
Release Date: April 2, 1963

The Ugly American

Marlon Brando gives a superb performance as U.S. Ambassador Harrison MacWhite in this gripping international political drama set in the Southeast Asian country of Sarkhan.  The movie was filmed in Thailand, but the political situation closely resembles the turmoil in neighboring Vietnam in the early sixties. Based on a best-selling novel by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick, The Ugly American  is  prescient  in its portrayal of   misguided American foreign policy.  The peaceful co-existence of North and South Sarkhan  is shattered when the Americans insist on building a Freedom Road directly north to the Communist border. Despite clear warnings from American aid workers that such a step will lead to tragedy, the Ambassador , urged on by Washington, pushes ahead.  MacWhite even ignores the advice of his long-time friend, Deong (Eiji Okada), a popular champion of  Sarkhanese independence. Although Deong's intentions for the Sarkhanese people are virtuous, he is duped by the Communists who secretly escalate the guerrilla activity and  conspire to assassinate Deong after he has gained power. The ribbon cutting ceremony for construction of the northern branch of Freedom Road is disrupted by guerrilla attacks. MacWhite is advised by the existing  Sarkhanese President  that Deong has been duped, but it is too late to save his friend. The movie ends with the imminent involvement of the American military to fend off the Communist insurgency.

This 120-minute movie was directed by George Englund. Brando's role as Ambassador MacWhite followed fast on the heels of his Oscar nominated performance as Lt. Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty. Rarely shown on television, The Ugly American  was released on DVD in August 2003. It is  well worth a view to see Brando at the peak of his talents.


Copyright: Peter Fokes (2003)
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