A quick reply to Donald Larsson's suggestion of a couple days ago
that CHINA GATE, in 1957, was the earliest Hollywood Vietnam
movie. Instead, that distinction probably belongs to ROGUES'
REGIMENT, made nearly a decade earlier and released by Universal
in 1948. ROGUES' REGIMENT was written (in collaboration with
Robert Buckner) and directed by Robert Florey as a follow-up to
their unusual wartime version of THE DESERT SONG (1943), which
linked fascism with imperialism, showing Nazi Germany
manipulating French control of Northwest Africa for its own ends.
The Arab rebels were valorized as heroes whose struggle for
freedom promoted the goals of the Allies. In ROGUES' REGIMENT,
the French Foreign Legion is shown, as it had become, a haven for
escaped Nazis, and by depicting Nazis as the enforcers of
colonial power, imperialism again implicitly links colonialism
with fascism. Communist influence is not ignored, but the
Vietnamese rebels are portrayed as using communist agents for
their own goals. Just as THE DESERT SONG ran into censorship
troubles in the US, ROGUES' REGIMENT was banned by the French,
making it a commercial failure. As a result, it has often been
overlooked in noting early critiques of the conflict, despite
delineating the issues in the same manner as they would face the
United States more than a dozen years later.
Brian Taves, Motion Picture Division
Library of Congress