Pearl of the Orient: a screenplay by Bart Marshall

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Pearl of the Orient is inspired by a true story—highly dramatized and hyperbolized, of course. It had a shot at Hollywood a number of years ago, being passed on by name-brand directors and such, and since has been collecting dust in the virtual bottom drawer of my laptop. Recently, in a moment of nostalgia for Vietnam, I pulled it up, reread it, and still liked it—a lot.

I realized, though, that I bring to my reading of it a huge amount of background and imagery that is not on the page, and began giving serious consideration to making the movie myself, even planning a trip to Vietnam to scout locations and talk with a production company I found there. Through a series of mistakes on my part, and cosmic intervention, that trip did not happen.

In the aftermath, I had a “What was I thinking?” moment. At age 72 with no prior experience directing films, just who did I think would finance me? My flight of fancy was fun while it lasted, and to be honest, mixed with my disappointment was great relief. A burden had been lifted. For decades I had felt like I had a “responsibility” to create some kind of art from what was a unique and compelling experience of the Vietnam War. When my “heroic” effort to do it all myself fell through, that all went away.

What I decided, though, was to create an artifact of that obsession, something I could hold in my hand. Hence, this book. It is the screenplay slightly rewritten into what I hope is a more readable format than a shooting script, sort of a cross between a screenplay and a novella. It is all I need to feel done and complete with this story. However, if this book should find its way into the hands of someone who somehow sees what I see in it, and would like to put it on the screen, please let me know. Hope springs eternal, and all that.

LOGLINE: In the midst of war in 1967 Vietnam, a young Green Beret becomes involved in opium smuggling and a CIA-led Montagnard revolution, while navigating a love triangle with a beautiful-but-deadly-dragon lady and a mysterious young nightclub singer—all the while struggling to understand a transformative spiritual experience that overcame him in battle.