Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 1959. Kingsmead Productions, Columbia Pictures Corporation. Screenplay by Graham Greene. Cinematography by Oswald Morris. Produced by Carol Reed. Music by Frank Deniz, Laurence Deniz. Production Design by John Box. Costume Design by Phyllis Dalton. Film Editing by Bert Bates.
In case The Third Man and The End of The Affair have you convinced that writer Graham Greene was a sober fellow, this wonderful black comedy should provide a wider perspective. Alec Guinness plays a British vacuum salesman in Cuba just before Castro’s revolution who is approached by a British spy (Noel Coward) to work for the Queen as her man in Havana and Guinness, needing the money to give his daughter the ritzy country-club life of her dreams, accepts. Trouble is, he has no idea how to be a spy, so instead of actually recruiting agents and running missions, he completely invents a profile for himself that includes false contacts and drawings of constructions that don’t exist. The cover-up becomes trickier when head office sends him a secretary (Maureen O’Hara) to work for him. Perfectly scripted by Greene and directed expertly by the marvelous Carol Reed, this film is also notable for its filming location: Castro allowed the film to be made in Havana because it cast Battista’s Cuba in a negative enough light (the filming was actually completed just months before the country became an ally of the Soviet Union).
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Picture-Comedy