In the Dark

Fearful Symmetry

The Tailor of Panama
Produced by John le Carré, John Boorman, and Kevan Barker with Columbia Pictures
Directed by John Boorman
Screenplay by John le Carré, John Boorman, and Andrew Davies
Released by Columbia Pictures

One of my favorite films is Carol Reed's 1960 adaptation of Graham Greene's novel Our Man in Havana, which tells the tale of James Wormold, an ordinary Englishman somehow marooned in pre-Castro Havana, where he manages a vacuum shop.

This most unadventurous of fellows suddenly finds himself seduced into spying for British military intelligence by the promise of big money. Wholly unsuited to the task, he decides to invent the "intelligence" his spymasters crave. This way, he convinces himself, he will be able to take their money and, at the same time, do no harm. What he doesn't foresee is that his fantasies will be taken seriously not only by the credulous Brits but by an equally benighted "other side." To his horror, the professional spies begin to endanger a swelling number of innocents on the basis of his supposedly harmless imaginings.

As he had done with The Third Man, Reed collaborated with Greene both on the script and the filming—with marvelous results. Who could resist a movie that puts Alec Guinness, Noël Coward, and Ernie Kovacs in the same frame?


Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here