Our Man in Havana (film)

Our Man in Havana is a 1959 British spy comedy film shot in CinemaScope, directed and produced by Carol Reed and starring Alec Guinness, Burl Ives, Maureen O'Hara, Ralph Richardson, Noël Coward and Ernie Kovacs.[2][3][4] The film is adapted from the 1958 novel Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene. The film takes the action of the novel and gives it a more comedic touch. The movie marks Reed's third collaboration with Greene.

Our Man in Havana
theatrical poster
Directed byCarol Reed
Produced byCarol Reed
Written byGraham Greene
StarringAlec Guinness
Burl Ives
Ralph Richardson
Noël Coward
Maureen O'Hara
Ernie Kovacs
Music byFrank Deniz
Laurence Deniz
CinematographyOswald Morris
Edited byBert Bates
Kingsmead Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • 30 December 1959 (1959-12-30)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$2,000,000 (US/ Canada)[1]


In pre-revolutionary Cuba, James Wormold (Alec Guinness), a vacuum cleaner salesman, is recruited by Hawthorne (Noël Coward) of the British Secret Intelligence Service to be their Havana operative. Instead of recruiting his own agents, Wormold invents agents from men he knows only by sight and sketches "plans" for a rocket-launching pad based on vacuum parts to increase his value to the service and to procure more money for himself and his expensive daughter Milly (Jo Morrow).

Because his importance grows, he is sent a secretary, Beatrice (Maureen O'Hara), and a radioman from London to be under his command. With their arrival, it becomes much harder for Wormold to maintain his facade. However, all of his invented information begins to come true: his cables home are intercepted and believed to be true by enemy agents who then act against his "cell". One of his "agents" is killed, and he is targeted for assassination. He admits what he has done to his secretary, and he is recalled to London. At the film's conclusion, rather than telling the truth to the prime minister and other military intelligence services, Wormold's commanders (led by Ralph Richardson) agree to fabricate a story claiming his imagined machines had been dismantled. They bestow an OBE on Wormold and offer him a position teaching espionage classes in London.



The film was shot on location in Havana, just two months after the overthrow of the Fulgencio Batista regime, and on 13 May 1959, Fidel Castro visited the film crew when they shot scenes at Havana's Cathedral Square.[5]


Our Man in Havana was positively received by film critics; it has a "fresh" rating of 93% (with 15 reviews) at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.[6]

The film was nominated for the Golden Globe best picture (comedy or musical) award, and Reed was nominated for best director by the Directors Guild of America, losing both prizes to The Apartment.


  1. "Rental Potentials of 1960", Variety, 4 January 1961 p 47. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
  2. Variety film review; 13 January 1960, page 7.
  3. Monthly Film Bulletin review; 1960, page 4.
  4. Harrison's Reports film review; 30 January 1960, page 18.
  5. Picture from Castro's visit, on Flickr Retrieved 2011-01-04
  6. Our Man in Havana at Rotten Tomatoes
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