The Carol Reed/Graham Greene partnership is one of the most successful in cinema and here they combined on the latter’s novel.
I had read the novel some time ago but never seen the film until I downloaded it last week.
Carol Reed is one of the quartet of great English film directors alongside Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean and Michael Powell.
He was the illegitimate son of Victorian acting grandee Beerbohm Tree with whom he had no relationship and that did influence his films, notably the underrated Fallen Idol.
Our Man in Havana has a mega cast of Alec Guinness as the vacuum cleaner shop owner Jim Wormold, Noel Coward as the suave but dim Henry Hawthorne who recruits Wormold to MI6 and Maureen O’Hara, and in lesser roles Ralph Richardson, Paul Rogers, Maurice Denham and in very minor parts John Le Mesurier and Rachel Roberts.
It begins as a comedy when Wormold passes off vacuum cleaner drawings as atomic plant plans then morphs into an espionage thriller and finishes up as a satire.
Add to the recipe Greene’s struggles with faith and conscience that permeate most of his novels and you have a pot pourri that left a strange after-taste.
The location shooting of Havana in the the fifties under Batista and before Castro was masterful. It was a seedy city of brothels, casinos, and night clubs which was beautifully evoked.
Carol Reed and Graham Greene worked together on the The Third Man.
There the polarity of good and evil was clearer, the performances of Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard and Orson Welles more powerful but with the same Reed propensity for location in post war Vienna.