It is a well known fact that Graham Greene refused to appear on television. Intriguingly, therefore, in recent days some footage has emerged of him being interviewed aboard the transatlantic liner RMS Queen Elizabeth in February 1950. The clue as to why it is now available is the ‘Not for Broadcast’ warning it carries because it was an ‘out-take’. In turn, this probably also explains why we can now watch this extremely rare footage of the camera-shy Greene. .
The three-minute film takes the form of an interview conducted by self-styled ‘Ship’s Reporter’, Jack Mangan. Greene is asked questions, particularly about The Third Man which had been first screened the previous year and was definitely newsworthy. He is asked about his next project and Greene hints at another collaboration with director Carol Reed. He also discloses that he was traveling to America aboard the luxury liner in connection with a stage adaptation of his novel, The Heart of the Matter. Greene appears distinctly ill at ease during the interview, his eyes constantly shift about and he wears a rictus grin most of the time.
Mangan hosted an ABC television series during this period, appropriately called Ship News Reporter. His subjects included well-known celebrities of the day, amongst them writers such as W. Somerset Maugham, Tennessee Williams and Carson McCullers. (Pictured left is Mangan interviewing a noted Brazilian writer Hernandes Tavares de Sa aboard ss Uruguay).
This highly recommended viewing is available on You Tube. Just type in ‘Jack Mangan Interview Graham Greene’ or similar in the You Tube search box.
Famously, Greene allowed his hand to appear in the film The Stranger’s Hand (1954) untying the rope of a fire-boat. By coincidence, this film is being screened on the Thursday night of the forthcoming 2020 Graham Greene International Festival. Creina Mansfield’s talk on the relationship between Greene and Basil Dean which takes place on the Saturday afternoon provides another link with the Jack Mangan interview. The stage version of The Heart of the Matter which was bringing the writer across the Atlantic in February 1950 was a Greene / Dean collaboration – and unfortunately a flop!
(The featured image on the Trust and Festival news page introducing this article depicts Jack Mangan interviewing Oliver Hardy. We are grateful to Yan Christensen and Dr. Chris Hull for drawing our attention to this footage).