The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Released 1965




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Movie Summary

Martin Ritt

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, adapted from the John le Carre novel, stars Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, a veteran of the British Secret Service who is demoted and recalled to London following the deaths of several of his operatives. Following dismissal and a short prison term, a dejected and disdainful, Leamas becomes the target of the East German Intelligence Service, who believe he might, for money, confide valuable secret information to them. When Leamas agrees to do this, he begins weaving a large and tangled web that could kill him if he's not careful. The film is directed by Martin Ritt as a downbeat antidote to the James Bond movies, with a dark and gripping storyline about one man trapped between the covert operations of two ideologies which, in matters of ruthlessness, seem disturbingly similar.

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • Claire Bloom plays "Nan Perry" in this film. The equivalent character in the original novel by John Le Carre is called "Liz Gold"; presumably the name was changed because of Richard Burton's then-recent marriage to Elizabeth Taylor.

    • This film version of John Le Carre's novel was originally planned as a star vehicle for Burt Lancaster in 1963, and may have been intended for filming in Hollywood. In 1963, Lancaster was exactly the right age for the role of Alec Leamas, who is said in the novel to be an Irish man of fifty. However, he dropped out and Richard Burton, a dozen years his junior, was signed to play Leamas instead. Ironically, the film was largely made in Ireland, even though none of the story is set there.

  • QUOTES (1)

    • Nan Perry: What do you believe in, Alec? Don't laugh - tell me.
      Alec Leamas: I believe that a number eleven bus will take me to Hammersmith. I do not believe that the driver is Father Christmas.

  • NOTES (3)

    • There is hardly any music in the film - only at the beginning and the end.

    • John Le Carre later said that he would have preferred either Trevor Howard or Peter Finch to play Leamas.

    • On the film's initial British release at the beginning of 1966, the production design credit was given only to Tambi Larsen, the Finnish-born designer who worked on many of Martin Ritt's Hollywood-made films. However, when the film surfaced on British television a few years later, the design credit was now split between Larsen and Hal Pereira, who was then the head of Paramount's art department in Hollywood.


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