Posts Tagged ‘Graham Green’

Movie Reviews 427 – Our Man in Havana (1959)

March 6, 2020

If you ask almost anyone today to name a film with Alec Guinness the answer will almost surely be Star Wars, which is a shame as it was a far cry from his best performances. Sir Alec Guinness’ career was well established long before he portrayed Obi Wan Kenobi in the 1977 blockbuster, the role that much to his chagrin, came to define him for future generations. Already having earned a Best Actor Oscar for The Bridge on the River Kwai, the multi-faceted actor also had some serious comedic chops in films like The Man in the White Suit and my favorite, Our Man in Havana.

Good hearted vacuum salesman Jim Wormold (Guinness) finds himself stuck in pre-revolution Cuba, eeking out a living and trying to keep ahead of expenses that his daughter Milly (Jo Morrow) keeps ringing up. Seeing as Milly has just acquired a fondness for horses, Jim is more than intrigued when a mysterious bowler wearing fellow brit enters his shop and suggests they meet later and for a chance to earn some dough. The bowler man is agent 59200 working for Her Majesty and he recruits Jim (now agent 59200-5) to be ‘their man in Havana’. Confused as to what his duties are really supposed to be the one thing that is clear to Jim is that he is encouraged to recruit others to work for him, preferably people well placed to report anything of significance. At the encouragement of his friend Dr. Hasselbacher (Burl Ives) begins falsifying reports and cashing in on pseudo-recruits, real people yet none knowing they are supposedly working as spies.

With horse maintenance, training and country club fees swelling Jim decides that he can really soak his new bosses by reporting that a new nuclear complex is being built on a remote part of the island. To make his case convincing Jim invents a plane pilot who supposedly discovered the compound and for good measure even draws up a bunch of fake blueprints inspired by characteristics of some of the vacuums in his shop.

But his fabrications turn out to be more successful than intended. When word gets around of this covert facility to the upper echelons – even so far as the Prime Minister’s office – headquarters decides that more resources and seasoned personnel need to be sent to aide Jim in Cuba immediately. Now not only must Jim keep his new secretary (Maureen O’Hara) and a photographer fooled, he must contend with an inquisitive Cuban captain (Ernie Kovacs) doting his daughter.

Based on a Graham Green novel, this is a fantastic black comedy highlighting the absurdities of the entire espionage establishment and its self propelling machinations. Loosely based on actual false reporting events by some operatives, the film is all the more ironic in that Castro’s post revolution regime allowed the film to be shot in Havana believing that the plot elements mocked the fallen Batista military dictatorship.

If you’re going to have a Guinness and it’s not the stout beer variety… get an Alec.You can’t go wrong.