The Spy Who Came in from The Cold.


Check Point Charlie.

Espionage is the preserve of ‘a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards, little men, just like me: drunkards, queers, hen pecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives’ as John Le Carre’s character Alec Leamas explains, demystifying spying as an honorable pursuit.  There is no victory in the Cold War, only a condition of human illness and a political misery[1] So no Bond type fantasy world for the British author who under his real name, David Cornwell, worked for both MI5 and MI6 before leaving British intelligence and become a very successful full-time novelist.

Leamas's agent crosses the border between East and West.

Its 1963 and Berlin has been divided for the last two years. Leamas has reached the end of his tether when the last of his agents is shot dead crossing from the east to the west. He is recalled back to London by control to be demoted to the banking section of the agency. Now depressed and turning more and more to alcohol he is quickly spotted by the East German Intelligence Service as a potential defector. But as normal with MI6 nothing is what it seems.  

a bunch of seedy squalid bastards.........

.......drunkards, queers and hen pecked husbands.

It’s the Alec Leamas character that dominates the first of Le Carre’s novels to be adapted for the cinema. The award winning The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965), for all its Britishness, was directed by an American of some renowned Martin Ritt and starred Richard Burton as Leamas, Claire Bloom as Nan Perry the naïve girlfriend with Austrian actor Oskar Werner as Fiedler, a man with his own agenda. A host of other well-known characters actors help make this bleak black and white cold war film totally believable and still one of the best of its kind.

Leamas meets Nan Perry.


[1] John Le Carre May 1966.