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Philby, Burgess and Maclean (1977)

Recruited by the Russians during their days at Cambridge, three young Englishmen rise to become high-ranked MI5 agents until their exposure in 1949.

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2 nominations. See more awards »

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Graves
Barrie Cookson ...
Helenus Milmo
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Patterson
Ingrid Hafner ...
Aileen Philby
Richard Hampton ...
Major Sansom
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Peterson
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Reed
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David Markham ...
Hugh Morton ...
Marcus Lipton
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Storyline

In the late 1940s, British intelligence believes they have a Russian spy in their midst. They narrow the list to 5 or so individuals one of whom is Donald Maclean, who was assigned to the British Embassy in Washington and had full access to US atomic secrets. As they slowly build their case against Maclean, they assign Kim Philby to Washington as the senior liaison officer to the CIA. He is soon joined there by an old friend, Guy Burgess. When Philby gets wind that Maclean is about to be arrested, he dispatches Burgess to warn him and both defect to the Soviet Union. Philby is thoroughly investigated and while there is a general consensus that he too is a Russian spy, there is no concrete proof and, publicly at least, is cleared. Eight years later, in 1963, Philby also defects to the Soviet Union and it is revealed that he has been a KGB Colonel for over twenty years. Based on actual events. Written by garykmcd

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The most famous spy story of our time [UK Video]

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Drama

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31 May 1977 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This TV movie tells the true story of the "Cambridge Spies", but there was something that the film-makers did not know when it was made - there was a fourth Cambridge spy, the art historian Sir Anthony Blunt, who was publicly exposed two years after this film was first televised. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Unforgettable Arthur Lowe (2000) See more »

Soundtracks

Dear Hearts and Gentle People
Words by Bob Hilliard
Music by Sammy Cahn
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User Reviews

 
Classic spy drama - and its true!
25 February 2007 | by (Sydney, Australia) – See all my reviews

I'm surprised there are no other comments about this TV movie even though it was made 30 years ago. The story, considerably expanded and updated, appeared in the mini-series "Cambridge Spies" in 2003, but this version was a powerful piece of television with plenty of drama and fine performances from Derek Jacobi as the flamboyant Guy Burgess, Anthony Bate as the close-mouthed Kim Philby and Michael Culver as the neurotic Mclean.

The key element is: why did these sons from "good" families go over to the Soviets in the 1930s and stay there? As Sir Steward Menzies head of MI6, here played by the imposing Richard Hurndall, says; "These chaps can't be spies, they are people like us." (In "Cambridge Spies" this remark is attributed to Lord Halifax, British Ambassador to Washington, who then commences a hunt through the embassy kitchens for the culprit.)

I think perhaps "Cambridge Spies", which covers Anthony Blunt as well provides a better explanation of this but in the earlier film director Gordon Flemyng captures the excitement of the events. To round out the story, viewers should also see John Schlesinger's little gem "An Englishman Abroad" (1983) where Coral Browne, the distinguished Australian-born actress re-enacts her encounter with Guy Burgess (wonderfully played by Alan Bates) in Moscow after his defection. Anthony Blunt was the subject of a play by Alan Bennett, subsequently filmed for TV as "A Question of Attribution", which contains an imagined conversation between HM the Queen and her erstwhile art curator – cute, but not very informative.


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