Based on the Graham Greene novel, scripted by that author, directed by Carol Reed, shot mainly in colorful Cuba and acted by a star-loaded cast headed by Alec Guinness, this turns out to be polished, diverting entertainment, brilliant in its comedy but falling apart towards the end when undertones of drama, tragedy and message crop up.

Based on the Graham Greene novel, scripted by that author, directed by Carol Reed, shot mainly in colorful Cuba and acted by a star-loaded cast headed by Alec Guinness, this turns out to be polished, diverting entertainment, brilliant in its comedy but falling apart towards the end when undertones of drama, tragedy and message crop up.

Story concerns a mild-mannered and not very successful vacuum-cleaner salesman in Havana who needs extra money to send his daughter to finishing school in Switzerland. Against his will he is persuaded to become a member of the British secret service. To hold down his job, he is forced to invent mythical sub-agents and concoct highly imaginative, fictitious reports which he sends back to London. They are taken so seriously that two assistants are sent to help him, and the web of innocent deceit that he has spun gradually mounts up to sinister and dramatic consequences.

Greene has scripted his novel fairly faithfully, though the Catholic significance is only lightly brought into the film. Reed sometimes lets the story become woolly but has expert control of a brilliant cast. Guinness is a perfect choice for the reluctant spy role, giving one of his usual subtle, slyly humorous studies.

But the standout thesping comes from Noel Coward. From his first entrance, which is immediately after the credits, he dominates every scene in which he appears. He plays the boss of the Caribbean network.

Another performance which steals a lot of thunder from Guinness is that of Ralph Richardson, who is Coward’s boss stationed in London.

Our Man in Havana

UK

Production

Columbia. Director Carol Reed; Producer Carol Reed; Screenplay Grahame Greene; Camera Oswald Morris; Editor Bert Bates; Music Hermand Deniz; Art Director John Box

Crew

(B&W) Widescreen. Extract of a review from 1960. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Alec Guinness Burl Ives Maureen O'Hara Ernie Kovacs Noel Coward Ralph Richardson
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