Saigon (1948 film)

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Directed by Leslie Fenton
Produced by P.J. Wolfson
Written by
  • Julian Zimet
  • Arthur Sheekman
  • P.J. Wolfson
Music by Robert Emmett Dolan
Cinematography John F. Seitz
Edited by William Shea
Paramount Pictures
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • March 31, 1948 (1948-03-31) (U.S.)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2,250,000 (US rentals)[1]
1,365,485 admissions (France)[2]

Saigon is a 1948 American film noir crime film directed by Leslie Fenton starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. in their fourth and final film together.[3] It was distributed by Paramount Pictures and was one of the last films Veronica Lake made under her contract with the studio. Ladd and Lake made four films together; This Gun for Hire and The Glass Key, both in 1942, The Blue Dahlia in 1946 and Saigon. While the earlier films all proved to be big box office successes, Saigon did not do as well financially. Ladd continued to remain one of Paramount's top male stars, while Lake's career was in decline. By the end of 1948 her contract with Paramount had expired and the studio chose not to renew it.

For Ladd, Saigon was one of a series of globe-trotting adventure tales he made, starting with Two Years Before the Mast (1946) and Calcutta (1947).[4]


World War II has ended and Major Larry Briggs (Alan Ladd) finds out that his friend Captain Mike Perry (Douglas Dick) has only two months to live due to a head injury. Larry and Sergeant Pete Rocco (Wally Cassell) are determined to show Mike a good time before he dies. For a $10,000 fee, Larry takes a flying job working for Alex Maris (Morris Carnovsky) a profiteer. Everything is set until Maris' secretary Susan Cleaver (Veronica Lake) shows up to board the aircraft. Mike falls for Susan and Larry convinces her to play along but she has fallen in love with Larry.

The first flight is disrupted by Maris arriving a half-hour late with the police right behind. Larry takes off but is forced to make an emergency landing after both engines fail. After checking into a small hotel, the Americans find Police Lieutenant Keon (Luther Adler) shadowing them who he believes are smugglers.

When Larry sees Mike falling for Susan, he wants the romance to end and despite her carrying $500,000 fro Maris, Larry tells her to leave immediately. When Mike longs for Susan, Larry relents and blackmails her into seeing him or he will turn her into Keon. Sailing to Saigon on a boat, Larry tricks Keon by stowing the money away into an envelope he mails to himself, and throws all suspicion off Susan.

In reaching Saigon, Larry knows he has fallen in love with Susan even though Mike has proposed to her. At Susan's hotel, an enraged Maris and his valet Simon (Luis Van Rooten) hold Larry hostage, demanding the money that has been posted. Bursting in, Pete realizes what is happening, and fights with Simon, but both falls off a balcony to their deaths. Susan has secretly arranged to retrieved the money from the post office, returning it to Maris. Mike and Larry confront him but in an exchange of gunfire, Mike and Maris are killed. After Mike's funeral, Larry and Susan start a new life together.


  • Alan Ladd as Major Larry Briggs
  • Veronica Lake as Susan Cleaver
  • Douglas Dick as Captain Mike Perry
  • Wally Cassell as Sergeant Pete Rocco
  • Luther Adler as Lieutenant Keon
  • Morris Carnovsky as Alex Maris
  • Luis Van Rooten as Simon
  • Mikhail Rasumny as Hotel clerk
  • Eugene Borden as Boat captain
  • Griff Barnett as Surgeon
  • Frances Chung as Chinese nurse
  • Betty Bryant as Singer, waterfront café
  • Dorothy Eveleigh ss Portuguese woman
  • Harry Wilson as Stevedore
  • William Yip as Café proprietor
  • Lester Sharpe as Barman at café
  • Allan Douglas as American soldier/Vendor
  • Kenny O'Morrison as Air Corps lieutenant
  • Lee Tung Foo as Chinese farmer
  • Leo Abbey as Sinister driver
  • Oie Chan as Farmer's wife/flower vendor
  • Charles Stevens as Driver of Susan's car
  • Thomas Quon Woo as Native
  • Rito Punay as Native
  • Joe Bautista as Native
  • Quon Gong as Native
  • Tommy Lee as Oxcart driver
  • Eddie Lee as Merchant in tea house
  • Billy Louie ss Woman in tea house
  • Moy Ming as Tea house proprietor


In May 1943, Harry Hervey sold an original story to MGM about the Japanese Invasion of Indo-China called Saigon.[5] This film was never made. In October 1945 it was announced Paramount would make a film called Saigon about the relationship between a British officer and American woman during the Japanese occupation of Indo China. Wells Root was to write and produce.[6][7] Eventually the studio abandoned this project in early 1946. They decided to use the title for a new story to star Alan Ladd, who had previously appeared in exotic adventure tales such as China and the (then still unreleased) Calcutta. In September 1946 it was announced Ladd would star, PJ Wolfson would produce and James Henagan and John Leman were writing the script.[8] Leslie Fenton was assigned to direct in October.[9] It was meant to start that month but shooting was pushed back when Wild Harvest (1947), starring Ladd, took an extra 10 days to film.[10][11] This meant that Fenton was replaced as director on The Big Clock by John Farrow.[12]

Douglas Dick was cast in November.[13] Luther Adler joined the same month.[14]

Filming took place in late 1946 and early 1947. Veronica Lake resorted to her famous "peek-a-boo bob" hairstyle which she had abandoned during the war at the request of the government because female factory workers kept getting their hair caught while imitating it.[15]


Film critic Philip K. Scheuer in his review of Saigon for the Los Angeles Times, called the film, "... long on atmosphere and short on logic."[16] In a similar vein, Bosley Crowther simply dismissed the "sorry" film as, "... a fine lot of super-silly moonshine, more to be laughed at than esteemed."[17]

Although commonly regarded as a flop the film was popular. Variety listed Saigon as the fourth most popular film at the box office in March 1948[18] and the 7th most popular film in April.[19]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Top Grossers of 1948." Variety, January 5, 1949, p. 46.
  2. ^ "Box Office Figures for 1949." Box Office Story. Retrieved: August 20, 2016.
  3. ^ Pendo 1985, p. 24.
  4. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Review: 'Saigon', new adventure subject for Alan Ladd." Los Angeles Times, October 24, 1946, p. A2.
  5. ^ "Screen news: 'Saigon' planned by Metro on Japanese invasion." The New York Times, May 10,. 1943, p. 15.
  6. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "Dancing star heading toward drama future." Los Angeles Times, October 8, 1945, p. 9.
  7. ^ "Special to The New York Times." The New York Times, October 8, 1945, p. 25.
  8. ^ "Special to The New York Times." The New York Times, September 2, 1946, p. 12.
  9. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "'Saigon' new adventure subject for Alan Ladd." Los Angeles Times, October 24, 1946, p. A2.
  10. ^ "Special to The New York Times: Paramount names Lake, Ladd to film; Studio will co-star team in 'Saigon,' adventure story, Fenton to be Director." The New York Times, October 29, 1946, p. 42.
  11. ^ "Special to The New York Times: Nebenzal, film producer, pays $150,000 for world rights to 'Madame Butterfly'." The New York Times, October 24, 1946, p. 44.
  12. ^ Brady, Thomas F. "Special to The New York Times." The New York Times, January 5, 1947, p. 26.
  13. ^ "Special to The New York Times." The New York Times, November 20, 1946, p. 51.
  14. ^ Schallert, Edwin. "McCracken deal hot; Medina goes to 20th." Los Angeles Times, November 21, 1946, p. A2.
  15. ^ Brady, Thomas F. "Bidding for 'Oscar': Hollywood producers race deadline for those Academy Awards; Other items." The New York Times, January 5, 1957, p. X5.
  16. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. "Review: 'Saigon' melodramatic fare." Los Angeles Times, March 5, 1948, p. 17.
  17. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Movie review: 'Saigon' (1948)." The New York Times, April 1, 1948.
  18. ^ "Box Office." Variety, April 1948, p. 6. Retrieved: August 22, 2016.
  19. ^ "Box Office." Variety, April 1948, p. 4. Retrieved: August 22, 2016.


  • Pendo, Stephen. Aviation in the Cinema. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8-1081-746-2.

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