The Deadly Affair  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Deadly Affair is a 1966 British espionage-thriller film, based John le Carré's first novel Call for the Dead. The film stars James Mason, Harry Andrews, Simone Signoret and Maximilian Schell and was directed by Sidney Lumet from a script by Paul Dehn. In it George Smiley, the central character of the novel and many other of le Carré's books, is renamed Charles Dobbs. The soundtrack was composed by Quincy Jones, and the bossa nova theme song, "Who Needs Forever," is performed by Astrud Gilberto.



Charles Dobbs (James Mason) is a British secret agent investigating the apparent suicide of Foreign Office official Samuel Fennan. Dobbs becomes suspicious when a wake-up call is made to Fennan's home the next morning. While his wife Elsa (Simone Signoret) says it was for her, this is discovered to be a lie. Dobbs then suspects that Elsa, a survivor of an extermination camp, might have some clues, but other officials want Dobbs to drop the case. Dobbs privately hires a retired police inspector, Mendel (Harry Andrews), to quietly make inquiries. As they uncover some horrible implications, Dobbs also discovers that his wife Ann (Harriet Andersson) has been having an affair with a colleague, Dieter Frey (Maximilian Schell) who may have used access to her to gain knowledge of Dobbs' movements.


Cast notes
  • Director Sidney Lumet said of James Mason "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." Lumet also directed Mason in The Sea Gull (1968), Child's Play (1972) and The Verdict (1982).
  • Corin Redgrave was the brother of Lynn Redgrave.
  • The play which is performed in the film is Edward II by Christopher Marlowe with the Royal Shakespeare Company, directed by Sir Peter Hall. The play shown in rehearsal is Shakespeare's Macbeth.


Location shooting for The Deadly Affair took place in London, in St. James Park, at the Balloon Tavern and the Chelsea Embankment in Chelsea, in Clapham and Barnes, and in Twickenham.

Director of photography Freddie Young's technique of pre-exposing the colour film negative to a small, controlled amount of light (known as "flashing" or "pre-fogging") in order to create a muted colour pallette was first used in this film. Lumet called the result "colorless color" and it proved influential, being used by other cinematographers such as Vilmos Zsigmond on McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

Awards and honours

The Deadly Affair received five BAFTA Awards nominations, for Best British Film for Sidney Lumet, Best British Screenplay for Paul Dehn, Best British Cinematography (Colour) for Freddie Young, Best Foreign Actress for Simone Signoret, and for Best British Actor for James Mason, but did not win any of the awards.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Deadly Affair" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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