I just finished watching The Sand Pebbles, a very good movies about China in the 1920’s, when foreign gunboats plied the Yangtze. It stars Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough as U.S. sailors, and a young Candace Bergen as a missionary teacher. The movie is a powerful allegory for American policy in the 1960’s, especially the involvement in Vietnam. Using the upheaval of China in the Twenties, U.S. naval gunboats put American lives in harm’s way, ostensibly for the protection of American citizens and businesses. The movie makes it plain that the U.S. military presence only hardens Chinese enmity towards all Americans, ultimately endangering the missionaries and destablizing an already tense situation.
One interesting little trivia tidbit: Richard Attenborough’s love interest, the doomed hostess Maily, is played by Marayat Andriane. One look at her and I could tell she was Thai. Looking up the film’s cast on the Internet Movie Database led to an interesting discovery. Marayat Andriane is also known as Emmanuelle Arsan, the Thai wife of a French diplomat who became a writer and penned a semi-autobiographical novel of sexual promiscuity called Emmanuelle. Yep, that Emmanuelle, the original soft-core film that graces late night Cinemax, along with it’s many sequels. In fact Emmanuelle Arsan wrote the screenplay, directed, and acted in some of the Emmanuelle movies. What the hell? Especially peculiar is the fact that the character of Maily is this virginal sacrificial lamb raised by missionaries. Must have been a real stretch sticking a libertine like Emmanuelle into that role. It’s like having Anaï¿½s Nin portray a nun in a movie. Just a real nonsequitur.