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John Le Carré's Real World Spies

Episode 218

GARY DEXTER

Shane Whaley, who founded the Spybrary podcast, had coined a really funny saying, which he said 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.

Well I guess you need to put down that Vesper and pull out your calculators as we head off into the world of John Le Carré.

Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (drums)

BETH ACCOMANDO

Welcome back to listener supported KPBS Cinema Junkie I'm Beth Accomando.

Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (Horns)

BETH ACCOMANDO

We leave the fantasy world of Ian Fleming’s James Bond behind to delve into the grittier, more realistic world of John Le Carré’s spies of the Cold War and beyond. 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. (:38)

Music theme bump out

BETH ACCOMANDO

I want to let John Le Carré, speaking at a Southbank Centre event, provide his own introduction.

CLIP My literary cover name of John Le Carré and my fictional spy of Mr. George Smiley were born on the same day in 1958 on the same first page of the same first novel in a small back room which was in those days the enormously secret address of MI5 and by secret I mean… all out for MI5…

BETH ACCOMANDO

I hope that whets your appetite for a discussion of Le Carré’s work and the film and television adaptations he inspired. I need to take one quick break and then I will be joined by my favorite secret cinema agents Gary Dexter and Jeff Quest. And since we are about to enter the Cold War I thought it would be fitting to head into the break with a Cold Turkey so here is Sterling Anno with something that needs to stop.

SHARE YOUR ADDICTION- Sterling Anno

Todd Phillips’ Joker

BETH ACCOMANDO

Thanks Sterling. Get yourself a strong cup of coffee or maybe a shot of whiskey and settle down for a discussion of John Le Carré and the fascinating works he created exploring the real world of international intrigue.

MIDROLL 1 [currently at 3:52]

BETH ACCOMANDO

Welcome back. We are reconvening our group of spy aficionados to talk about a different kind of spy. Last time we discussed James Bond and the fantasy spy. Now we're going to turn to a more realistic look at the world of intelligence and counter intelligence courtesy of author John Le Carré. Le Carré wasn’t the first author to inspire films that tried to suggest what espionage was really like, In the 1930s Alfred Hitchcock made spy films like The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes…

CLIP Lady Vanishes trailer: Listen everyone there’s a woman on this train…

Then in the 1940s and 50s there were adaptations of Graham Greene novels like Our Man in Havana…

CLIP Our Man in Havana trailer This is a top secret item…

I asked Jeff Quest and Gary Dexter to recall the earliest films to deal with spies and Jeff dug way back for some examples.

JEFF QUEST

Well, you can go way back to the silent era. You have Fritz Lang. He did a couple of spy films and even Buster Keaton, right. I mean, the general has spies in it, so you can go really far back. But I think you're right to kind of set it a little further. I think when we think of modern spies, we think of the Cold War, and so we don't really see that kind of gritty spy film start until kind of when you get to the 60s. I think that's when I see that kind of shift happening.

CLIP Spy Who Came in From the Cold original trailer

GARY DEXTER

I mean, I think certainly like the modern context Jeff's spot on now, I personally tend to associate it with the earliest adaptation of Buckens’ The 39 Steps.

CLIP 39 Steps spy… I prefer agent…

v

BETH ACCOMANDO

Well, with some of those early Hitchcock spy films, they still had a bit of a cinematic flavor to them. They were a little bit more realistic than what we might consider the Bond films to be. But there was still a bit of a cinematic flare, a bit of Hollywood going on there.

CLIP Donat banter with girl

BETH ACCOMANDO

So as Jeff mentioned, I think it really was the 1960s where we start to see a real significant and distinct shift in tone. And the film for me that I remember vividly was the 1965 adaptation of John Le Carre’ s the spy who came in from the Cold with the absolutely fabulous Richard Burton in the lead.

CLIP Spy Who Came in From the Cold initial briefing

BETH ACCOMANDO

So does this kind of feel like the turning point or at least a touchstone for that?

GARY DEXTER

It definitely does for me that's one of my favorite all time espionage movies. It's also one of those rare beasts of very faithful adaptation of its source novel. And I think it's definitely a key milestone on the road, if not the origin of the modern style of plausible, if not realistic spy movie.

CLIP Spy Who Came in From the Cold

JEFF QUEST

I agree with Gary. I think this was really one of the first films to grapple with the Cold War. And the way that we think of it nowadays. Although it was something that Hollywood was thinking about even earlier, Billy Wilder did one, two, three, which is a really fun movie.

CLIP One, Two, Three welcome to Berlin…

JEFF QUEST

But it was filmed right when the Berlin Wall went up. And so they were like trying to figure out how do we incorporate this into this actual this movie that we're filming right now in Berlin. So I think that Hollywood was trying to as it always does. How can we monetize whatever is happening in the real world? Right. And at that time, people were scared. People were worried about what was going on in the world and starting to feel a little more jaded about the government, I think. And so I think you see some of that cynicism kind of start to leak into the movies that were released.

BETH ACCOMANDO

Before we start talking about the films specifically I just wanted you to talk a little bit about John Le Carré and also a little bit about Ian Fleming as authors and also as people who were involved in real world espionage work and how they kind of translated their own personal experiences to literature and kind of made different choices about the kinds of literary work that they did.

CLIP Le Carre on Terry Gross

JEFF QUEST

I think when you look at the two authors, they are very different. And you can see that even in the way that they started in their career in espionage. John Le Carré was recruited as a College student to spy on his fellow students by Mi Five. And then he later went on to work for MI5 as an adult and then also MI6. So he had a real grounding in espionage. He was overseas in Germany, recruiting and running agents in all accounts and in very difficult circumstances. And contrast that with Ian Fleming, who during World War II was like the assistant to a spy master. And his thing was coming up with all sorts of crazy, bizarre plans to try and put one over on the Nazis. And I think when you look at that, you can really see the distinct difference between how their approach to spying was and why Le Carré is known for his more gritty realism. And Fleming is known for more fantastical espionage.

GARY DEXTER

The only thing I would add to that because Jeff has done an excellent job of explaining the differences really is. One thing that I think informs their respective writing is that in Le Carré’s case, his father was a notorious Con man, a confidence trickster. And he basically Le Carré led a life that was sort of dictated by that where he'd find himself in situations where he was sent to private school. And then his father couldn't afford to pay the school fees, and he was incarcerated as well. And that's reflected in a number of Le Carré's stories and background characters in his work. And in contrast, of course, Fleming was a child of great privilege. He lost his father in the first war. He was raised in a very privileged context. And as we've probably noted before, he set out to write novels that gave the British public who was still going through post war rationing and wind swept and wet island a view of the world beyond luxuries and privilege and locations that many of them would never see in their lifetime. And certainly not until economical jet transport. Did the public at large be able to experience such a thing? So I think each of them and their writing is informed very much by that very different experience.

BETH ACCOMANDO

Do you think the fact that they both actually worked in espionage helped to make their novels kind of unique in terms of what was being offered to the public? Was that part of the draw and attraction that people had or did people not know that that's what their background was?

JEFF QUEST

Well, John Le Carré very famously denied that he was working. He had worked for any sort of secret Service for a long time.

CLIP Terry Gross interview, Le Carré: I prefer not to answer that.

JEFF QUEST

He was just known as somebody who worked in the Foreign Office, but it was a pretty open secret that there was something more going on there. And so I think that all of that as soon as anymore. As soon as you say you're a spy rider, there is a certain portion of the audience that's going to assume that you have some sort of spy background, whether that's true or not. And people are very willing to take that on and accept that mantle, whether it is true or not. And so I think that's just part and parcel with spies, because we're so used to them playing with the truth.

GARY DEXTER

Yeah, that's very true. It's a sort of unique position for an author to be in, because people that write books about serial killers are not presumed to be serial killers themselves. So it's kind of unique to the espionage genre. I think in Fleming's case, he didn't really make any bones about it that having worked for Admiral Godfrey and his role as described by Jeff during the war. But again, as Jeff just said, Le Carré infamously dissembled throughout his writing career about the degree to which he did any spying and the significance thereof. And really, it was only in more recent later interviews that at least he dissembled a bit less. And to some extent, I think that was a bit of a necessity after the biography was published.

BETH ACCOMANDO

And what do you think it is about Le Carré that struck a nerve and made him popular or brought his work to a level of popularity with the public.

JEFF QUEST

I would say, was the fact that you got the sense that he's telling you how it really works, whether it was or not. And I think he took pains to say that it was fiction, what he wrote, especially the Spy Who Came in from the Cold. But it felt real in a way that movies hadn't figured out how to do yet.

CLIP Spy Who Came in From the Cold no rules

JEFF QUEST

And I think that's what really was just the thing that rocketed him into the stratosphere as far as popularity. There was a sense that this is what's going on behind closed doors. And I'm going to show it to you. And how do you not want to know? You want to know the secrets? We want to know the secrets that are happening, right?

CLIP Tinker film trailer (mole)

GARY DEXTER

It was his style, really that lent the sense of authenticity to it. And so much so that a lot of the vernacular that he coined for the purposes of writing books then penetrated the intelligence community for real, most famously the phrase mole, of course, and trade craft and a number of others. So it was very much, I think, a style that he wrote in informed by his own experience, to just create this sense of very similar to a lot of the joy of Le Carré’s books is just reading the character, interplay, the dialogue and the way people relate to one another and the faithful adaptations, of course, that makes the viewing equally pleasurable.

BETH ACCOMANDO

And what do you see as the things that really define his work that have translated to film?

GARY DEXTER

That's an interesting question. I really enjoy personally espionage fiction set in the Cold War era and particularly the 50s through the 70s. And because perhaps most legendary works are in the sort of 60s through 70s, when you see these adaptations, I'm thinking particularly of the last adaptation with Gary Oldman of Tinker Taylor, the attention to detail of recreating, that very sort of drab 70s environment and kind of middle aged, very Gray men with very weighty responsibilities trying to Hunt out a mole, a story, of course, inspired by the Sylvia Treachery.

CLIP: Tinker Smiley is suspicious

GARY DEXTER

I really enjoy that. I really like seeing how things were at that time and looking at the technology that people had to use then. And the complete absence of cell phones that, for me, is very engaging. But I very much enjoy that.

JEFF QUEST

Yeah. I was talking to a friend not that long ago, and they said all of Le Carré’s books are really about betrayal in some way, shape or manner. And I think that's really pretty true. There's just a certain amount of kind of cynicism that's in his work. And I think when you look at film, especially, you want to have characters that you're invested in. And why wouldn't you be invested in somebody who has had some sort of betrayal put upon them? Right. Melodrama is the essence of good filmmaking, I think, to a certain extent. And so I think when you see that on screen, you're invested in the characters, you want to watch their stories and see how it works out.

CLIP Tinker

GARY DEXTER

Shane Whaley, who founded the Spybrary podcast, had coined a really funny saying, which he said 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.

JEFF QUEST

Well, and the other thing is, I think you look at Bond films have stayed relevant by continuing to update their take on the modern world because Fleming wrote his last book in the 60s. Right. But Le Carré, his writing career went on so much longer than that. So you got to see him write about the spy world in modern times and shift as it went. And I think that's made him and also made the films made of his books more relevant, more interesting have kept people coming back. It's not just because they're set in the Cold War. We've seen movies since then that are set now and speak to the issues and themes that we're dealing with.

BETH ACCOMANDO

I need to take one last break and then I’ll be back with Gary and Jeff to finish our discussion of Le Carré and real world spies.

MIDROLL 2 [currently at 22:48]

BETH ACCOMANDO

Welcome back. Let’s pick up our discussion with Jeff addressing why the realism of Le Carré’s stories hit a chord with audiences.

JEFF QUEST

As much as we love the escapism of movies, we also want to see some reality in those. And I think at that point in time, when everybody was so nervous about the Cold War, we wanted to see somebody who would tell us something that we anticipated was the reality and not just the fantasy that we had had of spies up until then.

CLIP Spy Who Came in From the Cold

GARY DEXTER

Yeah. I think that's a very good point. And I also think society, the way it was changing from the mid 60s and particularly into the 70s, was far more ready to embrace moral ambiguity. And that's something that is very different, say, between Le Carre and Fleming. I mean, Fleming is very much a black and white archetypical story, and the villains are usually suffering physical disfigurements to sort of further highlight them as the bad guy. And Bond, though not an aspirational character, is very much clearly the protagonist and the hero of the hour. And Le Carre, it's never more evident really, than The Spy Who came in from the Cold. He's very keen to put across in his writing that there are no good guys and bad guys. It is all about perspectives and the perspectives themselves are not stable and constantly shifting, and the people doing this work are as non aspirational as it's possible to be.

CLIP Spy who came in from the Cold ignorance

BETH ACCOMANDO

Well, another thing during the 60s is once you have the Kennedy assassination for Americans, it feels like we have this certain loss of innocence at that point in time where I don't know if we grew cynical at that point or just felt like we could handle some of these darker kind of ideas better. But it seems like that point in American history is sort of a turning point culturally on a certain level. And I don't know if that made doing films like The Spy Who Came In From the Cold or adapting more realistic spy novels, something that seemed that audiences might be more willing to embrace at that particular moment in time.

GARY DEXTER

I think that's very likely, especially with its proximity to the Cuban crisis when the world at large was confronted with the reality that we got very close to wiping ourselves off the face of the Earth…

CLIP News Cuban missiles

GARY DEXTER

And those two things together couldn't do anything but cause a sea change in societal attitude.

JEFF QUEST

Yeah. I think Kennedy assassination led to these conspiracy theories about what happened there. And I think that plays right into the the kind of next loss of innocence that America had with Watergate. And I think that plays right into the 70s and all those conspiracy movies that we end up seeing at that time.

BETH ACCOMANDO

And do you have any particular adaptations, film or TV of La Carre that you'd like to single out who wants to start?

GARY DEXTER

Well, I'll go, but it's no surprise. And it's Alec Guinness's portrayal in the BBC television series and then later Smiley's People.

CLIP Alec Guinness

GARY DEXTER

But I think that it's a demonstration of how iconic it is that although Gary Albin's portrayal of Smiley is its own beast, but he essentially sought out the exact same pair of glasses to personify the character because that was something that Guineas latched onto and made it so iconic. But yeah, it's not a movie, and the movie iteration is very different. But I think it's still very underrated the movie adaptation, and I think it's extremely good.

CLIP Gary Oldman

GARY DEXTER

But as I said before, for me, The Spy who came in from The Cold, it's not only one of my favorite movies, period, but it's such a great adaptation from the novel to the big screen and shooting it in black and white at a time when Technicolor was the norm only adds to the air of menace and ambiguity and confusion.

CLIP Spy Who Came in From the Cold

JEFF QUEST

Yeah, I think the spy who came in from The Cold is great, but I have to say my favorite Le Carre adaption is probably The Constant Gardener.

CLIP Constant Gardener trailer

JEFF QUEST

And it's funny because that's a film that is only maybe tangentially spy related. But I think it's probably the film, the version of one of his books. That is the one version that I feel has added to the material versus being something that's maybe taken away or just been different. I think it made that book stronger in the way that it was filmed, the acting, the performances were just outstanding, and the director did an amazing job. It looks beautiful, and it rightly won a number of Oscars because I think it was just so well done. And I think Le Carré viewed it as his favorite adaption of his work.

BETH ACCOMANDO

You did mention that there are TV adaptations of his work, and one thing about television or the series format is that for books that are fairly complex and have this sense of like layered betrayals, and on top of that, dealing with themes of espionage and how governments work and how all this stuff plays out, the longer format seems to allow for a little more time to develop some of that with a little more clarity and a little more depth. So do his books maybe sort of lend themselves well to that serialized format on television or Netflix or any of these streaming services.

GARY DEXTER

The Night Manager was such an enormous international success that I think it introduced a lot of people to Le Carre, particularly folks from the younger generation. And it's afforded further opportunities for adaptations in the long form.

CLIP Trailer Night Manager

And of course, we saw Little Drummer Girl, which for me, the television adaptation is vastly superior to the earlier film adaptation.

CLIP Little Drummer Girl Florence Pugh

GARY DEXTER

And I'm hoping we'll see more of that. There's a long rumored re adaptation of The Spy who came in from the Cold, but it seems to be stuck in the infamous Hollywood development hell at the moment, but I'm hoping that it comes to service. But, I mean, there's a huge body of work from which to draw from. So we're not short of potential adaptations.

BETH ACCOMANDO

To move away from La Carrie just for a bit. Another author from the 60s or not from the 60s, but whose work was adapted in the 60s and became popular. And one author that I enjoyed reading was Len Deighton and his spy, if I remember properly in the book, never had a name. But in the movies he was embodied by Michael Caine, who became the character of Harry Palmer and the IP Chris Files, I think I'm sorry. It's singular. The IPCRESS File is a particularly good spy filament to me kind of falls in between Bond and Le Carre.

CLIP IPCRESS File trailer

GARY DEXTER

As far as Michael Caine and as Harry Palmer in those films is concerned, I think it's fantastic. I rewatch those films very regularly. And of course, they were produced by one half of the Bond producers, Harry Saltzman. And you always get the sense when Caine is playing Harry Palmer.

CLIP Insolent, insubordinate…

GARY DEXTER

You have quite a sort of anti-bond, as were the books where there's discussions about impenetrable paperwork and forms that have to be filled in in triplicate and so forth. And yet at the same time, you're kind of seeing London in the swinging 60s. And every time you see Harry walking down on London Street, you're half expecting him to wink at the camera. So for me, that's the joy of those, although ultimately both films have some incredibly dark moments in there and certainly some very realistic aspects of espionage in them.

JEFF QUEST

Yeah. I would say those books and films, they kind of like split right down the middle, Bond and Le Carre in that it was a very real kind of feel towards spying, yet with some really fantastical elements mixed in there.

CLIP IPCRESS stands for…

JEFF QUEST

And you had the Harry Palmer character is a very working class person, which is not something that you really have seen either in Le Carre or with Fleming, right. So he has this more grounded and more relatable kind of background, which I think was refreshing to see.

BETH ACCOMANDO

We've been focusing a lot on the 60s, and as we move towards the 70s, one of the things I noticed is that there seems to be this greater sense of paranoia, and we have this genre of kind of like the paranoid thriller. And Jeff, you brought up the fact that we have repercussions from Watergate and that creating a whole different sensibility. So what do you think of the films that were coming out? What do you think about the films that are coming out around this time in the 70s? Films like The Conversation Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, what are they kind of signaling that's different? And what do you find interesting about their depiction of espionage and that kind of world?

JEFF QUEST

Well, I would say they lean into the fact that who watches the watchers, right. Who is keeping an eye on the people that are supposed to be protecting us, to make sure that what they're doing is the solution isn't worse than the who's keeping an eye on them to make sure that what they're doing is not putting us in more danger than we would be otherwise. And it's interesting that a lot of those movies were made before the prime start of Watergate. The conversation came out in 72, which is right when that was all going on.

CLIP The Conversation trailer

JEFF QUEST

But I think there was something in the national mood, either from Vietnam, and the way that was handled to just a growing sense that maybe we can't trust what the government's going to do. And it just came pouring out in this amazing run of films. Three Days of the Condor is one of my favorite spy films in that it has a spy who loves to read books and that's his job. So how can I not love that? I don't know. And the fact is, they made it exciting, an exciting film experience as well.

CLIP 3 Days of the Condor Why target people who read books…

JEFF QUEST

So my Hat's off to them as well.

GARY DEXTER

No surprise. We're very much in sync there. Three Days of The Condor is absolutely among my favorite movies of any genre, and I like how uncompromising is as well. It's a Savage movie, but it's got a very satisfying ending.

CLIP 3 Days of the Condor Cliff Robertson

GARY DEXTER

The conversation, I think, is very much about the human cost on people of doing this job. I mean, the end of that when Hankman's character is losing his mind and pulling his apartment to pieces is really traumatic to watch. And you have to ask yourself, what is the human cost of doing this kind of work for protracted periods of time?

CLIP The Conversation ending we’ll be listening to you

GARY DEXTER

And I think the parallel view is one of the earlier examples of an espionage movie is essentially about corporate malfeasance and investigative journalism.

CLIP Parallax View report news not make it

GARY DEXTER

And again, as with so many movies in the 70s, it has a really uncompromising ending, and you kind of have to be in the right head space to rewatch that film. But I think all of these movies have come about, as we were saying, because of the back end of well, actually, to what Jeff said, the beginning of Watergate, really. But it was that moment in history where post Kennedy's assassination, in fact, post both Kennedy's assassinations and then Watergate people have really had their faith in government shaken. And you see that reflected in art. And it's interesting the modern day popularity and resurgence of spy movies. And I think it's for the exact same reason this go around. We've got distrust in the government and extreme polarization as well. But I think those two moments in history are reflected in art for the same sort of reasons.

BETH ACCOMANDO

What are some of the spy films based on real life spies that stand out for you?

GARY DEXTER

For me in the more modern year, I really like Breach about the Robert Hanson case with the FBI traitor. That one's a favorite of mine.

CLIP Breach

And I've read the real life account of that gray day, and it does a very, very good job of representing the key elements. Well, like any movie, but certainly any espionage movie, whether it's fiction or fact based, they necessarily truncate the events because you can't sit in a movie theater all day, at least not for one single movie. But I really like that one, though not a movie. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the TV series, The Assets, which is about the Aldrich Ames case and the two women that in the face of institutional ambivalence, pursued it to the end and brought him to justice.

CLIP The Assets

JEFF QUEST

I think breach with the Hunt for that FBI mole Robert Hanson, who is played just wonderfully by Chris Cooper. He is just kind of this benevolent evil guy, and he pulls it off so well, it's really just a fascinating character study…

CLIP Breach Chris Cooper

JEFF QUEST

And at the same time, you're just totally drawn into this spy operation that you can't wait to see what happens.

BETH ACCOMANDO

I also enjoyed The Falcon and The Snowman. That one was I think it was mostly based on the performances of Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn. I think you were very pulled into just the personal stories on those.

CLIP Falcon and the Snowman

BETH ACCOMANDO

Just to return to Le Carre, what are some of the more recent or upcoming adaptations that you have particularly liked or are excited about?

GARY DEXTER

Well, I'm going to leave our mutual modern era favorite author to Jeff to talk about. But what I will say there's an upcoming readaptation again on television of the Ipcress File, and I know that when they made the movie adaptation, they couldn't deal with the part of it that takes place during the nuclear bomb test on the island for budgetary constrictions. I know that the script was rewritten as a result of that, and I don't know if it's going to be brought into the forthcoming adaptation, but I hope so. I'm really looking forward to seeing that. That's a big thing for me. I think we'll be getting that sometime this fall.

JEFF QUEST

I would say when it comes to John Le Carré adaptions, the most recent one that I really enjoyed was A Most Wanted Man with Philip Seymour Hoffman, if not his final and one of his final performances.

CLIP A Most Wanted Man Philip Seymour Hoffman

JEFF QUEST

It was really just something it managed to make you mad and appreciate the work that spies you do at the same time. I think it just was really a great adaptation and also talked about kind of the world that we're living in right now in a way that I thought was very interesting and made you think which I think the best of his books and movies do that they stay with you after and you keep thinking about them. And I think that one especially did that for me.

GARY DEXTER

Yeah, that's a powerful film. And the one I like is not liked by many, which is not unusual for me, but it's our kind of traitor, and it's not necessarily a particularly faithful adaptation, really. It varies quite a bit. It's got some stand out performances in it, and not least of which is Stellan Skaarsgard, but I really enjoyed that. But I seem to be somewhat in the minority, but I think it's worth checking out.

CLIP Our Kind of Traitor

BETH ACCOMANDO

And I know I like to focus mostly on film, but I know both of you have an affection for a lot of the TV series and serialized adaptations. So to go out with, would you like to mention any TV shows or series that are espionage that present a more realistic world of espionage that you'd like to highlight.

JEFF QUEST

Oh, dear. Well, I think with all of the streaming outlets out there right now, there's just a bounty of spy. It seems like every streamer has to have their own little spy show that's serialized. And so I think you can't throw rock without hanging on. Some of my favorites have been I love The Night Manager. I thought that was great. Berlin Station is another really good spy TV show that's out there. And there's one on the horizon with our very own George Smiley. Gary Oldman taking the lead in Slow Horses, which is an adaptation of McCarron's novel series that I think is going to be really great on Apple TV coming up very soon.

CLIP Slow Horses

JEFF QUEST

They're filming finishing filming up the second season right now, and they haven't even released the first one yet.

GARY DEXTER

Certainly very excited for that. There's an Israeli show on Netflix called Fauda, which sort of straddles the line between espionage. And I hesitate to say thriller. I suppose it's almost a sort of military thing, but it concerns itself with Israeli counterterrorism units, and that's extremely grounded and a very good show.

CLIP Fauda

GARY DEXTER

There's at least three seasons of it. Maybe more. Well, worth a look. Also, the film with Martin Freeman, The Operative. That's a terrific and very grounded film. And actually, as we were discussing just now, it's got a 70 style ambiguous ending on it as well.

CLIP The Operative Martin Freeman

GARY DEXTER

But I really enjoyed that. But as Jeff says, really, you can't throw a rock without hitting a spy show at the moment. And I think it's going to be that way for some time, at least until we regain some trust in our government.

BETH ACCOMANDO

All right. Well, I want to thank you both very much for talking about both fantasy spies and now real world spies. It's been really delightful. And maybe we'll have to reconvene next year for the 60th anniversary of Cinematic Bond and talk a little more about some of those aspects.

GARY DEXTER

Fantastic. It thank you for hosting us.

JEFF QUEST

Yeah. Thank you so much. Been great talking. Bye.

BETH ACCOMANDO

That wraps up the final spy edition of KPBS listener supported Cinema Junkie. Next we will leave the Cold War world behind but hold onto some of that darkness and betrayal as we head into the shadowy terrain of Film Noir with TCM’s Noir Alley Host Eddie Muller.

CLIP What made noir unique it was first time that people who were doing the wrong thing were the protagonists of the films…

Remember to check out Cinema Junkie’s companion videos from the Geeky gourmet because I take a field trip to The Lion’s Share to speak with a mixologist about cocktails that are full of intrigue.

CLIP Jason There are a number of rules about cocktail making and the Vesper breaks all of them

You can find the videos and more podcasts at kpbs-dot-org-slash -cinema-junkie.

I’d like to acknowledge the talented mix of people who make Cinema Junkie happen: podcast coordinator Kinsee Morlan, technical director Rebecca Chacon, and director of sound design Emily Jankowski.

Till our next film fix I’m Beth Accomando your resident Cinema Junkie.

image.jpeg
Focus Features
Gary Oldman portrayed John Le Carré's famous spy character George Smiley in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (2011).
Cinema Junkie takes on another mission, this time to explore the world of spies presented in the film and television adaptations of John Le Carré's books.

Previously on Cinema Junkie we looked at the fantasy world of Ian Fleming’s James Bond and now we move on to the grittier, more realistic world of John Le Carré’s spies of the Cold War and beyond.

Joining Cinema Junkie once again are spy aficionados Gary Dexter and Jeff Quest, both are regular contributors to Shane Whaley's Spybrary Podcast . Quest also runs spywrite.com, which is dedicated to spy fiction and non-fiction.

We look to the early attempts of depicting what spies do in Hitchcock films such as "The 39 Steps" and later the film adaptations of Graham Greene's novels such as "Our Man in Havana." Then we discuss the many adaptations of Le Carré's books, and how he put his real world experiences working in intelligence to a different use than Fleming did.

Also listen to Cinema Junkie Bond. James Bond. Part One and Part Two.

Enjoy Geeky Gourmet videos about James Bond themed food and spy drinks.