Good Reading : May 2007
20 goodreading ı MAY 2007 success of the 1949 movie, the draft did appear as a short novel a year later. To my mind its main interest lies in observing how the characters, dialogue and ideas were altered, deleted or fleshed out when Greene later collaborated with film director Carol Reed on the script, and after Orson Welles re-wrote his own Harry Lime dialogue! The author himself observed that the film was far superior to his original text version. Greene’s next ‘entertainment’ was the only one not a crime or spy thriller. It’s also the lightest of tales, more of a small- scale romantic adventure with a dash of intrigue and irony. Published in 1955, Loser Takes All is a novella narrated by Bertram, an accountant about to embark on his second marriage to a much younger woman named Carey. Marooned in Monte Carlo waiting for Dreuther, his rich employer, to arrive in his luxury yacht, Bertram embarks on a mathematical system to win huge amounts of cash at the casino. Meanwhile Carey, increasingly bored, frustrated and angry with him, finds her- self attracted to a dashing young Frenchman closer to her own age. Jealousy, resentment … One of the more interesting aspects of Loser Takes All is the portrait of Dreuther, claimed to be a parody of movie magnate Alexander Korda, who produced both The Third Man and another of Greene’s film adaptations, The Fallen Idol.The most annoying is the persistent use of the word ‘darling’ throughout the dialogue. I’m not sure whether nostalgia plays a role here or not, but Our Man in Havana is my favourite Greene ‘entertainment’. Published in 1959, it’s a comedy-thriller devoid of angst and seemingly made out of air and shadow – or maybe vacuum cleaner dust. For our man,Wormold, is a vacuum cleaner salesman struggling to make a decent living in late pre-revolution Cuba. Spurred by the need for cash, he signs on as a spy for the British government but it all backfires when, to keep the payments rolling in, he fabri- cates a series of reports, backing them up with illustrations of new weapons which may or may not look like the valves of a Turbo Jet vacuum cleaner. Alarmed at this explosion of nefarious happenings on the other side of the world, the Secret Service sends Beatrice out from London to help run Wormold’s expanded spy agency. Meanwhile the dangerous Captain Segura of the police has fallen in lust with Wormold’s beautiful teenage daughter. Events collide ... After Our Man in Havana, Greene did not publish any more ‘entertainments’. Some later works, though, in particular the highly popular yet troubling Travels With My Aunt (1969), do evoke the category, with their mix of comedy- atire, mystery and the exotic, while others, such as The Comedians (1966) and The Human Factor (1978), combine the character study and internalised drama of so-called serious fiction with the exterior plotting of black comedy, adventure, criminality, political danger and thrills. Graham Greene, born in 1904, died in 1991 with a long list of challenging publications under his name. In the end, though, one wonders if the deliberate shades of distinction between different types of books in his output really matters, except as a selling tool to audiences, for you may find rich entertainment in literature where you will. Further reading For an entertaining, scurrilous, warts-and- all biography of Greene, which provoked outrage from his friends, read Graham Greene:The Man Within by Michael Shelden (Minerva, 1994). For meticulous detail see Norman Sherry’s huge three-volume biography, The Life of Graham Greene (Penguin, 2005). categorical Viewing the entertainments Orient Express was produced in 1934. It’s not available on video or DVD. There are two cinema versions of A Gun for Sale, neither of which is entirely faithful to the original. The first, from 1942, retains the American title, This Gun for Hire. It’s notable for starring tough guy Alan Ladd in his first major role, paired with sultry beauty Veronica Lake. The 1957 remake is Short Cut to Hell, the only movie American actor James Cagney ever directed. This Gun for Hire may be ordered on video and DVD from the usual American outlets, but the Cagney version isn’t available. There is an American made-for-TV version from 1991, also titled This Gun for Hire, starring Robert Wagner. Videos are available on order from America. A Hollywood film version of The Confidential Agent was produced in 1945, starring Charles Boyer, Lauren Bacall and Peter Lorre. Regarded as slow and wordy, it was not a popular success. It’s available from the USA on video and DVD. The Ministry of Fear, a Hollywood film from 1944 starring Ray Milland and Marjorie Reynolds, was directed by Fritz Lang, famous for his silent-era German science fiction movie, Metropolis. Although low budget, it’s atmospheric and good to look at, but the storyline has been pared down to the thriller aspects of the novel. Available from the USA on video and DVD. The Third Man is a British film from 1949, scripted by Greene and directed by Carol Reed, starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli and Trevor Howard. Available in Australia on video and DVD. There are two film versions of Loser Takes All. The first is a British film from 1956, starring Italian actor Rossano Brazzi, Glynis Johns, Robert Morley and other well-known English faces. Greene wrote the screenplay. Not available on video or DVD. The second version, titled Strike It Rich, and also known as Loser Takes All and Money Talks, was released in 1990, starring Robert Lindsay, Molly Ringwald and John Gielgud. It doesn’t seem to be available in Australia, but you may find it on video or DVD in America and England. Carol Reed also directed Our Man in Havana, 1959, starring Alec Guinness, Maureen O’Hara, Noel Coward and Ralph Richarson. Rental video available in Australia, and for purchase on DVD from England. www.goodreadingmagazine.com find a bookshop near you!