Friday, November 30, 2007

How Graham Greene came to write 'The Power and the Glory'

"Graham Greene's travels to Mexico in the late 1930s are part of literary folklore, giving birth to his masterpiece The Power and the Glory about a 'whiskey priest' and the policeman sent to hunt him down.

"Widely regarded as one of the finest British writers of the last century and a committed Catholic, Greene was sent to Mexico by the Vatican to document Government-led persecution--or so it was thought.

"Now, a sensational new theory has emerged--that Greene actually fled to Mexico to avoid being sent to prison over his infamous libel trial concerning the child star Shirley Temple.

"The amazing claim is made in the lost autobiography of Greene's close friend, the cinema pioneer Alberto Cavalcanti, who died in 1982 aged 85...

"In 1937 Greene was a film reviewer for Night and Day magazine. In a review of the Shirley Temple film Wee Willie Winkie, he wrote: 'Her admirers--middle-aged men and clergymen--respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire.'

"Twentieth Century Fox sued on behalf of Temple, then 8, on the grounds that, as Cavalcanti wrote, Greene had implied she played deliberately to 'a public of licentious old men, ready to enjoy the fine flavour of such an unripe, charming little creature.'

"He added: 'Thanks to vigilant, quick-witted friends, Graham was warned that the Americans producing the film had introduced a writ of libel against him, meaning that not only would the backers of Night and Day pay a large fine, but he, Graham himself, faced a prison sentence.

"'The only solution was to find a country without extradition. They chose Mexico and our poor Graham went away very quickly indeed. Very likely Shirley Temple never learned that it was partly thanks to her that, during his exile, Graham Greene wrote one of his best books,' Cavalcanti said."

-- "Lost papers reveal writer's role in child star scandal."

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