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Arts & Culture

Cinema Junkie Episode 218: John Le Carré's Real World Spies

Richard-Burton-in-The-Spy-Who-Came-in-from-the-Cold-1965.jpeg
Paramount
A still of Richard Burton in the 1965 film adaptation of John Le Carré's "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold."

Exploring how the film adaptations of Le Carré's novels offered a realistic counterpoint to James Bond.

Earlier this month Cinema Junkie explored the fantasy spy world of Ian Fleming's James Bond 007. Now it looks to the grittier, more realistic view of international intrigue presented by another British author John Le Carré.

Both Fleming and Le Carré arrived on the literary scene in the 1950s and fed two different sides of the public’s fascination with espionage. Fleming’s 007 provided escapism and Le Carré lifted the veil on the real world of spying. But both men inspired a wealth of cinematic adaptations that will keep their legacies alive for generations to come.

Returning to discuss this darker view of espionage are Gary Dexter and Jeff Quest, both of whom have contributed to Shane Whaley's Spybrary Podcast. Quest also runs spywrite.com, which is dedicated to spy fiction and non-fiction.

Dexter likes to quote Whaley on comparing the works of the two authors: "He said that when he reads Ian Fleming, he wants to be a spy. And when he reads John Le Carré, he wants to be a chartered accountant."

In 1965, Le Carré's "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold" became an acclaimed film starring Richard Burton. Over the subsequent decades his works were repeatedly adapted including a pair of BBC series starring Alec Guinness as George Smiley, recent streaming shows based on his "Little Drummer Girl" and "The Night Manager,"plus films such as "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," "A Most Wanted Man," and "The Constant Gardener."

As with Fleming, Le Carré (whose real name was David Cornwell) had a career in intelligence and used his firsthand knowledge of that milieu to make his novels feel more grounded and credible.

Check out the earlier pair of podcasts featuring Dexter and Quest talking about James Bond (Part One and Part Two).

And learn how to make some James Bond and Cold War spy cocktails with mixologist Jason O'Bryan of The Lion's Share.

Geeky Gourmet: Shaken, Not Stirred

And here is Dexter's tribute to Le Carré after the author died last December.