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Nearing the end of the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley Tom Ripley is told by MacCarron that he has digged into Tom's past and found out that he never was in Princeton with Dickie thus exposing him as an impostor exploiting Mr. Greenleaf's money. Yet he also tells him that Mr. Greenleaf is taking Dickie's supposed suicide letter seriously and going to pay Tom further money.

I don't completely know what to make out of this conversation, though. Did MacCarron not tell his client Mr. Greenleaf about Tom's lies? If not, then why not? And if he told it, why is Mr. Greenleaf willing to continue Tom's payment and didn't even consider the possibility of Tom being Dickie's murderer, given that Marge is so convinced of it?

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I haven't seen the film. But looking over the shooting script, I note these points.

  • Mr. Greenleaf doesn't believe Marge. After she says she "just knows", he replies

    Marge, there's female intuition, and then there are facts.

  • Dickie had many dark secrets that he kept from Marge. MacCarron mentions an assault at Princeton, a pregnant girl who committed suicide and possible involvement in the disappearance of Freddie Miles.

  • MacCarron knows Ripley wasn't a student at Princeton, but does believe that he was there in another capacity:

    Nor did they think to check whether a Thomas Ripley had ever been a student at Princeton University. I turned up a Tom Ripley who'd been a piano tuner in the music department.

  • MacCarron and Mr. Greenleaf believe that Ripley was close enough to Dickie to know some of these secrets and are glad he hasn't revealed them to Marge. McCarron says

    Mr Greenleaf appreciates your loyalty. He really does. Marge, she's got a hundred theories, but there are a few things she doesn't know. We hope she never knows.

  • The money is partly because of the friendship they believe Ripley had with Dickie, and partly a bribe to keep him quiet about Dickie's past:

    Mr Greenleaf also feels there was a silent promise in Dickie's letter to you which he intends to honor. He intends to transfer a good part of Dickie's income from his trust into your name. He doesn't intend to give the Italian police any information about Dickie's past. He's rather hoping you'll feel the same.

So MacCarron knows that Ripley lied about Princeton, but doesn't realize that he is a complete fraud. I would guess that he supposes that Ripley is an actual friend of Dickie who wanted to make himself appear to have a higher social status than he actually does.

I hope this is an accurate reflection of the dialogue that actually appeared in the film. But even if it isn't, it explains how the issue was dealt with in a late version of the script.

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Hmm, at least the bribe explanation sounds quite reasonable, didn't get this that directly from the dialogue, but it makes sense (I'm not the best at interpreting subtext anyway). –  Sonny Burnett Jul 3 '13 at 15:51

Still, Mr. Greenleaf seems a bit dense. Or perhaps not? Perhaps he even suspects that his son came to a bad end - maybe even at the hands of Ripley - and to avoid scandal, all of the scandal that would follow an investigation of Ripley (the father thought extremely little of his son), he decides to pretend / create his own reality. Homo/Bi-sexuality, promiscuity, no contribution to humanity, just a playboy embarrassing his father... "you can't choose your own children" he mourns: I think I'll make it all go away.

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