Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979)

TV Mini-Series  -   -  Drama | Thriller
8.6
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Ratings: 8.6/10 from 4,056 users  
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In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced out of semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6's echelons.

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Title: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979– )

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Season:

1

Year:

1979
Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 4 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Series cast summary:
...
 George Smiley (7 episodes, 1979)
...
 Peter Guillam (7 episodes, 1979)
Anthony Bate ...
 Sir Oliver Lacon / ... (7 episodes, 1979)
George Sewell ...
 Mendel (7 episodes, 1979)
Bernard Hepton ...
 Toby Esterhase (5 episodes, 1979)
...
 Bill Haydon (5 episodes, 1979)
Hywel Bennett ...
 Ricki Tarr (5 episodes, 1979)
Terence Rigby ...
 Roy Bland (4 episodes, 1979)
...
 Jim Prideaux (4 episodes, 1979)
Michael Aldridge ...
 Percy Alleline (4 episodes, 1979)
Alec Sabin ...
 Fawn (4 episodes, 1979)
...
 Control (3 episodes, 1979)
Duncan Jones ...
 Roach (3 episodes, 1979)
Daniel Beecher ...
 Spikely (3 episodes, 1979)
...
 Jerry Westerby (2 episodes, 1979)
John Wells ...
 Headmaster (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Compton ...
 Bryant (2 episodes, 1979)
Frank Moorey ...
 Lauda Strickland (2 episodes, 1979)
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Storyline

George Smiley has been retired for about a year when he finds a friend from the Circus, his old outfit in British Intelligence, sitting in his living room. He is taken to the home of an advisor to the Prime Minister on intelligence matters, where he finds evidence that one of the men in the senior ranks of his old agency is a Russian spy. Smiley is asked to find him, without official access to any of the files in the Circus or letting on that anyone is under suspicion. With only a few old friends, his own powers of deduction, and secrecy as weapons, Smiley must unearth the spy who turned him out of the Circus. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

29 September 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (7 parts)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shortly before filming began, Alec Guinness asked author John le Carré to introduce him to a real spy to aid him in preparing for his role. Le Carré invited him to dinner with Sir Maurice Oldfield, who served as Chief of the British Intelligence Service from 1973-78. During their meal Guinness studied Sir Oldfield intently, noting any mannerisms/quirks he could use in his performance; when he saw Oldfield run his finger around the rim of his wineglass, and asked whether he was checking for poison, to Oldfield's astonishment as he was only checking how clean the glass was. See more »

Goofs

In episode 6, when Peter Guillam is testing the taping system at the safe house, he says the recorder is voice-activated, but it doesn't stop turning on his first silent pause, which is much longer than his second and third pauses, when it stops instantly. See more »

Quotes

[repeated line]
George Smiley: There are three of them, and Alleline.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening credits show a set of Russian matryoshka dolls. One doll opens up to reveal a doll more irate than the other one, and the final doll is seen as being faceless. This was inspired by a line at the end of the "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" novel: "Smiley settled on a picture of one of those little Russian dolls that open up to reveal one inside the other, and another inside him. Of all men living, only Karla had seen the last little doll inside..." See more »

Connections

Referenced in Star Trek: Voyager: Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

Nunc Dimittis
Composed by Geoffrey Burgon
Sung by Paul Phoenix and the Boys of the St Paul's Cathedral Choir
See more »

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User Reviews

If only...
9 June 2005 | by (Illinois) – See all my reviews

The BBC is to be commended for making 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' (as well as 'Smiley's People') into fine adaptations for television.

Being very familiar with all three of the 'Karla' novels I have a few, very minor, quibbles as to casting and editing, but nothing that gets in the way of great enjoyment of the finished product.

Guinness was born to play Smiley, as others have already noted. I can't get enough of his laconic humor and monk-like habits. Simply with subtle, hardly discernible facial expressions, Guinness intimates vividly the mysterious, dangerous past Smiley has endured... and all the vile things he's had to do in the cause of, as he would put it, what is Right. Alexander Knox is fabulous as the "little serpent" Control, "No man's child" as Smiley's says of him. There are other "perfectly" cast parts in this adaptation. Anthony Bate's smarmy, infuriating Lacon is absolutely hateful at his every appearance, just as he is supposed to be; a sign of the masterful nuance of Mr Bate's performance. I also like Bernard Hepton's Toby Esterhase, though he exhibits more humor than the character actually possesses in the book.. but what a fine actor he is.

Michael Aldridge plays Percy Alleline as an exquisite, bureaucratic boob who will do anything, in the modern political way, to get to the top, purely for ego reasons. I also found Ian Richardson's Bill Hayden to be a fine fit between actor and character. Some of the smaller roles are done very well too. Fawn, played by one Alec Sabin, is the spitting (mental) image of the character as described in the book. A quiet, diminutive killer.

All of the acting is first rate but the actors are often a far cry from the physical descriptions in the books. Beryl Reid is wonderful as Connie Sachs, though not LARGE enough. Her scene is so fore-shortened in the film script that it hardly matters anyway. The same can be said of Ian Bannen who turns in perhaps my favorite performance in the whole thing, after Guinness's Smiley. But Bannen does not fit the description of Jim Prideaux very closely. However he is fully inside the character of the poor man he's portraying that it hardly matters if his hair is the wrong color.

The only bit of miscasting (in my opinion) was that of Michael Jayston as Peter Guillam. Jayston is too po-faced and humorless, overplaying the underlying traumatic neurosis Guillam has endured in his career. Jayston's limitations stand out slightly next to his co- horts but he's good enough to hold his own, up to a point. And he does rise to the occasion when the part demands something more substantial from his character, but Michael Byrne, the Peter Guillam in 'Smiley's People', seems much more in line with LeCarré's character from the books.

The great disappointment of the 'Smiley' series is that the BBC balked at filming in Hong Kong, choosing instead Lisbon. It works but it would have been so much better as LeCarré originally envisioned the story. By the same token it is a great loss to our lives that they skipped 'The Honourable Schoolboy' altogether, choosing to jump ahead to 'Smiley's People'. I assume that filming in Hong Kong (primarily), Vientiene, Bangkok, Phnom Pehn and Saigon was financially too daunting. A great shame all the same, especially when they had such a fine Jerry Westerby as Joss Ackland in 'Tinker, Tailor...'

In sum... the Smiley mini-series is a keeper to watch again and again.


23 of 26 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Its 'The Little Things' that keeps me watching it over and over.... Don-91
Who would play Smiley now? rleather
Alexander Knox. In Memoriam. l_grds
one of the best spy movie/mini-series here is a list of others ... Renard-4
Tarr is the Anti-Hero of the story! chumface
Scenes in Brno l_grds
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