The Deadly Affair


1h 47m 1967
The Deadly Affair

Brief Synopsis

A secret agent investigates the tangled affairs surrounding a government official's suicide.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Spy
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
New York opening: 26 Jan 1967
Production Company
Sidney Lumet Film Productions
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Call for the Dead by John Le Carré (London, 1961).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Synopsis

Charles Dobbs, a security agent for the British Foreign Office, is assigned to do a routine check on a government employee who anonymously has been accused of being a Communist. Shortly after clearing the man, Dobbs is stunned to learn he has committed suicide, leaving behind a typed suicide note stating that his career had been ruined by paid informers. Dobbs is so outraged when his superiors insist upon closing the case that he resigns his post and sets out to prove that the man was murdered. After enlisting the aid of a retired police officer, Mendel, Dobbs visits the dead man's widow, Elsa Fennan, a Jewish victim of Nazi concentration camps. His suspicions are further aroused when he catches her in a lie and then later learns that the anonymous letter to the Foreign Office accusing Fennan of being a Communist and the suicide note both came from the same typewriter. Returning home, Dobbs is greeted by an old friend, Dieter Frey, who has arrived in London to do business for a Zurich candy firm. And Dobb's problems are compounded by the discovery that his frequently unfaithful wife, Ann, has seduced Dieter. Resuming their investigation, Dobbs and Mendel uncover clues which lead them first to a garage, then to an office building, and finally to a repertory theater. When it becomes apparent that Elsa Fennan is a Communist, Dobbs realizes her husband must also have discovered this and, therefore, had to be silenced. Certain that Elsa meets her contact at the repertory theater, Dobbs and Mendel set a trap; during a performance of Marlowe's Edward II they catch her sitting next to the Russian agent--Dieter Frey. Quick to sense he has been tricked, Dieter murders Elsa in her seat and makes a getaway during the confusion. Dobbs and Mendel give chase and corner him on a houseboat in Chelsea. Although Dieter kills Mendel, he hesitates to shoot his wartime comrade. Dobbs, however, takes advantage of the respite; overpowering Dieter, he savagely beats him and then watches as his body falls into the water and is crushed between two houseboats. The affair over, Dobbs flies to Zurich to inform his wife that Dieter will not make their planned rendezvous.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Spy
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
New York opening: 26 Jan 1967
Production Company
Sidney Lumet Film Productions
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
Great Britain
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Call for the Dead by John Le Carré (London, 1961).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Articles

The Deadly Affair


British Foreign Office agent Charles Dobbs is assigned to investigate Samuel Fennan, a Foreign Office employee accused of being a Communist; Fennan subsequently commits suicide, leaving behind a note protesting his innocence. Although Dobbs suspects the man was murdered, his superiors abruptly close the case. Dobbs resigns from the Foreign Office and continues the investigation on his own with the help of retired police inspector Mendel. Their investigation focuses on Fennan's wife Elsa, a concentration camp survivor with suspicious ties to her husband's death. At the same time, Dobbs must contend with his own wife's marital infidelity.

The Deadly Affair (1967) is adapted from the 1961 novel Call for the Dead by John Le Carre. Born in 1931 as David John Moore Cornwell, Le Carre became a British intelligence agent after the war and later a member of the Foreign Office; thus he has observed firsthand the bureaucracy and ruthlessness of the world he would later recreate so memorably in his fiction. He is also notable for his proficiency in French and German (at one point he was a tutor at Eton) and his deep knowledge of German literature. In Call for the Dead, his first novel, Le Carre created the character of George Smiley, who later reappeared in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People. He has since become one of the most critically respected writers of popular fiction. Among the numerous screen adaptations of his work -- the best of which besides Lumet's film is arguably The Spy Who Came in From Cold (1965) -- Le Carre himself has written screenplays for The Little Drummer Girl (1984), The Russia House (1990) and the underrated The Tailor of Panama (2001).

The Deadly Affair is in part a noteworthy collaboration between Sidney Lumet and the great British cinematographer Freddie Young. Before working with Lumet on this film, Young had established an international reputation for his contributions to the David Lean epics Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), for which he won two Academy Awards. Lumet, who made brilliant use of black and white on films such as Long Day's Journey into Night (1962), The Pawnbroker (1964) and The Hill (1965), here uses color to equal effect. In order to suggest the melancholy world of Dobbs, Lumet and Young deliberately muted the colors by "prefogging" the film or exposing it to light before using it in the camera. His attempt to achieve "colorless color," as he described it, is in fact typical of the care Lumet uses in crafting the overall style of a film, always in close collaboration with the cinematographer, editor and art director. Lumet has said about the use of color in his films, "....it begins with the art director and that's who you have to do your heaviest work with. Why leave it all to the camera? Let the camera augment it."

At the same time, Lumet has developed a formidable reputation as an "actor's director," helping actors such as Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway win Academy Awards and many others such as Katharine Hepburn, Al Pacino and Rod Steiger win nominations. While The Deadly Affair features a talented international cast, including Harriet Andersson (an Ingmar Bergman regular) Simone Signoret and Maximilian Schell, James Mason is particularly impressive as the morally compromised spy Charles Dobbs caught within the impersonal, bureaucratic world of espionage. Lumet, who also directed Mason in The Sea Gull (1968), Child's Play (1972) and The Verdict (1982), says of him: "I always thought he was one of the best actors who ever lived. Whatever you gave him to do he would take it, assimilate it and then make it his own. The technique was rock solid, and I fell in love with him as an actor, so every time I came across a script I wanted to direct I would start to read it thinking is there anything here for James? He had no sense of stardom at all. He wanted good billing and the best money he could get, but then all he ever thought about was how to play the part. In that sense he reminded me more of an actor in a theatre repertory ensemble than a movie star, and it was what made him so good." Speaking of acting, the play performed in the film is Christopher Marlowe's Edward II, performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company under the direction of Sir Peter Hall.

Director/Producer: Sidney Lumet
Assoc. Producer: Denis O'Dell
Screenplay: Paul Dehn, based on the novel Call for the Dead by John Le Carre
Cinematography: Freddie Young
Art Direction: John Howell
Editor: Thelma Connell
Music: Quincy Jones
Principal cast: James Mason (Charles Dobbs), Simone Signoret (Elsa Fennan), Maximilian Schell (Dieter Freey), Harriet Andersson (Ann Dobbs), Harry Andrews (Inspector Mendel), Kenneth Haigh (Bill Appleby), Roy Kinnear (Adam Scarr), Max Adrian (adviser), Lynn Redgrave (virgin).
C-107m. Letterboxed.

by James Steffen
The Deadly Affair

The Deadly Affair

British Foreign Office agent Charles Dobbs is assigned to investigate Samuel Fennan, a Foreign Office employee accused of being a Communist; Fennan subsequently commits suicide, leaving behind a note protesting his innocence. Although Dobbs suspects the man was murdered, his superiors abruptly close the case. Dobbs resigns from the Foreign Office and continues the investigation on his own with the help of retired police inspector Mendel. Their investigation focuses on Fennan's wife Elsa, a concentration camp survivor with suspicious ties to her husband's death. At the same time, Dobbs must contend with his own wife's marital infidelity. The Deadly Affair (1967) is adapted from the 1961 novel Call for the Dead by John Le Carre. Born in 1931 as David John Moore Cornwell, Le Carre became a British intelligence agent after the war and later a member of the Foreign Office; thus he has observed firsthand the bureaucracy and ruthlessness of the world he would later recreate so memorably in his fiction. He is also notable for his proficiency in French and German (at one point he was a tutor at Eton) and his deep knowledge of German literature. In Call for the Dead, his first novel, Le Carre created the character of George Smiley, who later reappeared in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People. He has since become one of the most critically respected writers of popular fiction. Among the numerous screen adaptations of his work -- the best of which besides Lumet's film is arguably The Spy Who Came in From Cold (1965) -- Le Carre himself has written screenplays for The Little Drummer Girl (1984), The Russia House (1990) and the underrated The Tailor of Panama (2001). The Deadly Affair is in part a noteworthy collaboration between Sidney Lumet and the great British cinematographer Freddie Young. Before working with Lumet on this film, Young had established an international reputation for his contributions to the David Lean epics Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), for which he won two Academy Awards. Lumet, who made brilliant use of black and white on films such as Long Day's Journey into Night (1962), The Pawnbroker (1964) and The Hill (1965), here uses color to equal effect. In order to suggest the melancholy world of Dobbs, Lumet and Young deliberately muted the colors by "prefogging" the film or exposing it to light before using it in the camera. His attempt to achieve "colorless color," as he described it, is in fact typical of the care Lumet uses in crafting the overall style of a film, always in close collaboration with the cinematographer, editor and art director. Lumet has said about the use of color in his films, "....it begins with the art director and that's who you have to do your heaviest work with. Why leave it all to the camera? Let the camera augment it." At the same time, Lumet has developed a formidable reputation as an "actor's director," helping actors such as Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway win Academy Awards and many others such as Katharine Hepburn, Al Pacino and Rod Steiger win nominations. While The Deadly Affair features a talented international cast, including Harriet Andersson (an Ingmar Bergman regular) Simone Signoret and Maximilian Schell, James Mason is particularly impressive as the morally compromised spy Charles Dobbs caught within the impersonal, bureaucratic world of espionage. Lumet, who also directed Mason in The Sea Gull (1968), Child's Play (1972) and The Verdict (1982), says of him: "I always thought he was one of the best actors who ever lived. Whatever you gave him to do he would take it, assimilate it and then make it his own. The technique was rock solid, and I fell in love with him as an actor, so every time I came across a script I wanted to direct I would start to read it thinking is there anything here for James? He had no sense of stardom at all. He wanted good billing and the best money he could get, but then all he ever thought about was how to play the part. In that sense he reminded me more of an actor in a theatre repertory ensemble than a movie star, and it was what made him so good." Speaking of acting, the play performed in the film is Christopher Marlowe's Edward II, performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company under the direction of Sir Peter Hall. Director/Producer: Sidney LumetAssoc. Producer: Denis O'Dell Screenplay: Paul Dehn, based on the novel Call for the Dead by John Le Carre Cinematography: Freddie Young Art Direction: John Howell Editor: Thelma Connell Music: Quincy Jones Principal cast: James Mason (Charles Dobbs), Simone Signoret (Elsa Fennan), Maximilian Schell (Dieter Freey), Harriet Andersson (Ann Dobbs), Harry Andrews (Inspector Mendel), Kenneth Haigh (Bill Appleby), Roy Kinnear (Adam Scarr), Max Adrian (adviser), Lynn Redgrave (virgin). C-107m. Letterboxed. by James Steffen

Quotes

Trivia

'Young, Freddie' invented the process of pre-exposing color film (pre-fogging) to mute the colors and first used the process in this movie.

Notes

Location scenes filmed in London. Released in Great Britain in February 1967. Some sources indicate film was shot in Panavision.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter February 1967

Released in United States Winter February 1967