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- OLD NEWS, G, H

Happy Birthday Graham Greene

“Thrillers are like life, more like life than you are. “

Graham Greene (2nd October 1904 to 3rd April 1991)

One of the greatest writers to ever come from British shores, or any shores for that matter, Henry Graham Greene contributed massively to the literary and cinematic worlds of the 20th century.

A prolific writer throughout his life, Greene was consistently praised for being a great storyteller and knowing how to hold the reader’s attention. He also travelled a great deal, often to such far flung places as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mexico, and Argentina among other destinations. These travel experiences and his faith (he was a staunch Catholic) greatly influenced his work. His enduring fascination with depicting the inner battles between good & evil within individuals ensured complex characterisation, twisting plots and a dedicated fan base as a result.

For Greene, another great influence on his style of writing was the cinema itself. He described it thus:

“When I describe a scene . . . I capture it with the moving eye of the cine-camera rather than with the photographer’s eye–which leaves it frozen. In this precise domain I think the cinema has influenced me.”

Indeed, his novels & short stories have inspired over 66 television and movie adaptations. These include the following films:

Read about Graham Greene’s full list of works on Wikipedia here.

The latest of these adaptations – 2010’s “Brighton Rock” starring Sam Riley, Andrea Riseborough, Helen Mirren and John Hurt – shows his influence is far from waning into the 21st century. And why should it?

Let me leave you with 3 shiny Greene things:

1) Book recommendation: “Travels with my aunt” (1969)

Henry Pulling, a retired bank manager, meets his septuagenarian Aunt Augusta for the first time in over fifty years at what he supposes to be his mother’s funeral. Soon after, she persuades Henry to abandon Southwood, his dahlias and the Major next door to travel her way, Brighton, Paris, Istanbul, Paraguay. Through Aunt Augusta, a veteran of Europe’s hotel bedrooms, Henry joins a shiftless, twilight society: mixing with hippies, war criminals, CIA men; smoking pot, breaking all the currency regulations and eventually coming alive after a dull suburban life. (Description from Amazon)

Perfect holiday reading, or light enough to dip into on your way to or from work, or perfect for cosying up with in an armchair on a cold Sunday afternoon or…

Look, it’s just a very readable, charming adventure and a great way to get into Greene’s work.

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2) Film recommendation: “The Quiet American” (2002)

Saigon, 1952, a beautiful, exotic, and mysterious city caught in the grips of the Vietnamese war of liberation from the French colonial powers. An older British reporter vies against a young American for the affections of a Vietnamese beauty.

This movie has slipped under the radar for too long. Michael Caine has never been better as the broken London Times correspondent Thomas Fowler. He should have won the Oscar that year but he’ll break your heart, mark my words.

WATCH the TRAILER here:

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3) Film recommendation: Orson Welles in “The Third Man” (1949)

Directed by Carol Reed, one of three collaborations between Reed and Graham Greene, “The Third Man” was marked by some superb expressionist cinematography. Reminiscent of the cinematography used in Welles’ later film “The Trial”, it is clear that Reed and Welles took a good deal of inspiration from their collaboration.

In any case, post-war Vienna has never looked more foreboding (not that I’m an expert on post-war Vienna) and Welles has never been more charismatic. Joseph Cotton was the lead in this movie and has never been made to look so bit part. The build-up to Welles’ arrival and his entrance itself has already passed into film lore. Catch it if you haven’t already.

WATCH the “Cuckoo Clock” scene here:

WATCH Orson Welles first appearance as Harry Lime here:

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About dustforprints

Part bibliophile, part cinephile, part dream weaver. Hmmn... in short, I like books and movies and I write words about both from time to time.

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