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The Deadly Affair (1966)

A British agent sets out to uncover the hidden facts behind a British government employee's suicide.



(novel), (screenplay)

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Nominated for 5 BAFTA Film Awards. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Elsa Fennan
Kenneth Haigh ...
Bill Appleby
Adam Scarr
Max Adrian ...
Adviser (Marlene Dietrich)
Virgin (segment "Macbeth")
Robert Flemyng ...
Samuel Fennan
Leslie Sands ...


After Charles Dobbs, a security officer, has a friendly chat with Samuel Fennan from the Foreign Office, the man commits suicide. An anonymous typed letter had been received accusing Fennan of being a Communist during his days at Oxford and their chat while walking in the park was quite amiable. Senior officials want the whole thing swept under the rug and are pleased to leave it as a suicide. Dobbs isn't at all sure as there are a number of anomalies that simply can't be explained away. Dobbs is also having trouble at home with his errant wife, whom he very much loves, having frequent affairs. He's also pleased to see an old friend, Dieter Frey, who he recruited after the war. With the assistance of a colleague and a retired policeman, Dobbs tries to piece together just who is the spy and who in fact assassinated Fennan. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


From the author of "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold"


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Release Date:

October 1966 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

John le Carré's The Deadly Affair  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Excerpts of plays seen in this film include scenes from William Shakespeare's 'MacBeth' during rehearsal and 'Christopher Marlowe''s 'Edward II' performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company and directed by Sir 'Peter Hall'. See more »


Bill Appleby: Are you suggesting that Elsa might have connived in her husband's murder? That's rather a ghoulish thought, Charley.
Charles Dobbs: She's had a rather ghoulish life.
See more »


Featured in Al Murray's Great British Spy Movies (2014) See more »

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User Reviews

Glum but absorbing spy story
6 February 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

A gloomy (and gloomily lit) but very interesting spy thriller of the 60's,with a fine performance by James Mason(as Charles Dobbs,but George Smiley in all but name),and good support from Simone Signoret(convincing as a Concentration Camp survivor),Harry Andrews,Kenneth Haigh,Roy Kinnear and Max Adrian.As an answer to the artificial,antiseptic glamour of the James Bond extravaganzas,THE DEADLY AFFAIR works very well for the most part,with an intelligent script compensating for the occasionally over-prolonged and too static dialogue exchanges between the principals.The production is set,deliberately,in dismally unattractive,murky interior and exterior locations around London,though this oddly gives the film more atmosphere,and is also helped by a haunting score by Quincy Jones,one of the best and most criminally underrated of his career.

The film only drags a little in a sub-plot involving Mason's nymphomaniac wife,played somewhat uncomfortably by Harriet Andersson.The film would have worked equally well if not better had Ms Andersson been a decent,devoted spouse,and Maximillan Schell is given little to do as an old wartime colleague (and as it turns out,yet another of Mrs Dobbs' lovers) of Dobbs.But for the most part,American Sidney Lumet does a first-class job as an outsider's look into British/European espionage,and it grips solidly throughout.

RATING:7 and a half out of 10.

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