The Deadly Affair

The Deadly Affair is a 1966 British espionagethriller film, based on John le Carré's first novel Call for the Dead. The film stars James Mason, Harry Andrews, Simone Signoret and Maximilian Schell. It was directed by Sidney Lumet from a script by Paul Dehn.

The Deadly Affair
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySidney Lumet
Produced bySidney Lumet
Written byPaul Dehn
StarringJames Mason
Harry Andrews
Simone Signoret
Maximilian Schell
Music byQuincy Jones
CinematographyFreddie Young
Edited byThelma Connell
Distributed byBritish Lion-Columbia (UK)
Columbia Pictures (US)
Release date
October 1966 (UK)
26 January 1967 (US)
Running time
115 minutes (UK)
107 minutes (US)
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$1.4 million[1]

In the movie, a Columbia Pictures production, the central character is renamed Charles Dobbs since Paramount owned the film rights to the name George Smiley, the central character of the novel and many other le Carré books. Paramount acquired the film rights to the character name when filming The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. [2]

The soundtrack was composed by Quincy Jones, and the bossa nova theme song, "Who Needs Forever", was performed by Astrud Gilberto.


In 1960s London, Charles Dobbs (James Mason) is a staid MI5 operative investigating Foreign Office official Samuel Fennan, a former Communist who apparently commits suicide. Dobbs becomes suspicious about the cause of Fennan's death while visiting Fennan's widow the morning after his death. When a wake-up call is received at Fennan's home, his widow Elsa (Simone Signoret) says the call was for her. Dobbs discovers this to be a lie, and as a result Dobbs suspects that Elsa, a survivor of a Nazi extermination camp, might have some clues regarding Fennan's death.

Other government officials want Dobbs to drop the case. However, Dobbs privately links up with retired police inspector Mendel (Harry Andrews) to continue inquiries. They uncover a network of Communist agents. Dobbs also discovers that his wife Ann (Harriet Andersson) is leaving him to go to Switzerland to join a former World War II colleague, Dieter Frey (Maximilian Schell), who may be using Ann to gain knowledge of Dobbs' investigation.

Dobbs uses his knowledge of Dieter to set a trap that proves that Elsa is a spy and Dieter is her control. In a final confrontation, Dieter strangles Elsa and shoots Mendel, but he is killed bare handed by the enraged Dobbs.



Location shooting for The Deadly Affair took place in London, in St. James's Park, at the Balloon Tavern and the Chelsea Embankment in Chelsea, in Clapham and Barnes, in Twickenham, and at the Serpentine Restaurant in Hyde Park (demolished in 1990[3] ). The exterior of Dobbs's house is in St. George's Square, Pimlico.[4] For the theatre scene a performance of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Edward II was recreated at its real location of the Aldwych Theatre, London.[5][6]

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 palette was first used in this film.[7] Lumet called the result "colourless colour" [8] and it proved influential, being used by other cinematographers such as Vilmos Zsigmond on McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

Awards and honours

The Deadly Affair received five BAFTA Awards nominations: 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 Best British Actor for James Mason. However, it did not win any of the awards.[9]

Musical score and soundtrack

The Deadly Affair
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJanuary 1967
RecordedDecember 1966
StudioVan Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ
GenreFilm score
V-8679/V-8679 ST
ProducerCreed Taylor
Quincy Jones chronology
Walk, Don't Run
The Deadly Affair
Enter Laughing
Professional ratings
Review scores

The film score was composed, arranged and conducted by Quincy Jones, and the soundtrack album was released on the Verve label in 1967.[11]

Allmusic's Stephen Cook noted, "Deadly Affair's dreamy mix of bossa nova moods and unobtrusive symphonics still makes for some pleasant, if not always provocative, listening. Plus, one gets to hear Astrud Gilberto in fine fettle on the opening cut".[10] The Vinyl Factory said "This soundtrack to the Sidney Lumet thriller starts off with Astrud Gilberto drizzling her best desultory vocal over ‘Who Needs Forever’, which creates a moody atmosphere that is sustained throughout the entire album. With its languid orchestrations, breezy strings, and airy samba rhythms, this is a perfect Sunday morning record".[12]

Track listing

All compositions by Quincy Jones

  1. "Who Needs Forever" (lyrics by Howard Greenfield) − 3:00
  2. "Dieter's First Mistake" − 4:50
  3. "Instrumental Main Theme (1)" − 2:05
  4. "Postcard Signed "S" / Mendel Tails Elsa / Tickets to "S"" − 5:31
  5. "Instrumental Main Theme (2)" − 3:00
  6. "Don't Fly If It's Foggy" − 1:11
  7. "Blondie-Tails" − 1:13
  8. "Instrumental Main Theme (3)" − 2:05
  9. "Ridiculous Scene" − 1:48
  10. "Body on Elevator" − 0:55
  11. "Bobb's at Gunpoint" − 0:45
  12. "End Title" − 1:42



  1. On Three War Fronts By A. H. WEILER. New York Times 9 Jan 1966: 69.
  2. John le Carré at the NFT The Guardian 5 October 2002
  3. Photo of Serpentine Restaurant, accessed November 18, 2017
  4. IMDB Filming locations
  5. Parish, James Robert; Pitts, Michael R (1974). The Great spy pictures. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. p. 138. ISBN 081080655X.
  6. "BFI Screenonline: 1930s: The Invocation of Theatre in Film". British Film Institute. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  7. TCM Misc. notes
  8. Steffen, James "The Deadly Affair" (TCM article)
  9. IMDB Awards
  10. Cook, Stephen. The Deadly Affair (Original Soundtrack) – Review at AllMusic. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  11. Verve Records Catalog: 8600 series accessed January 17, 2018
  12. 10 definitive Quincy Jones soundtracks from the ’60s and ’70s, The Vinyl Factory, accessed January 17, 2018
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