Novels Television

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Although considered a spy story, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is also a detective story with oodles of class.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was broadcast on the BBC in 1979. The series was adapted from the 1974 novel of the same name, written by John le Carré, and it starred Alec Guinness, Michael Jayston, Anthony Bate, George Sewell, Bernard Hepton, Ian Richardson, Ian Bannen, Hywel Bennett and Beryl Reid. Critically acclaimed, Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy won a number of awards, including a Best Actor BAFTA for Alec Guinness.

The plot of Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy centres on George Smiley (Alec Guinness) and his search for a ‘mole’ at the heart of the Secret Intelligence Service, the ‘Circus’. As the story unfolds we learn that Smiley was forced to retire as deputy head of the S.I.S. because of a bungled operation in Czechoslovakia and that he is estranged from his wife, Ann, played by Siân Phillips. World-weary, but determined, Smiley embarks on a secret investigation, trawling through the murky waters of Cold War espionage and his past.

Because the theme of Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy is one of betrayal the identity of the ‘mole’ is no great surprise. However, a fine ensemble cast hold your interest throughout and Alec Guinness, in his first major television role, makes the character of George Smiley his own.

While researching the role of George Smiley, Alec Guinness asked author John le Carré to introduce him to a real spy – forgetting that John le Carré had himself worked for MI5 and MI6 during the 1950s and 1960s – and a meeting with Sir Maurice Oldfield, the Chief of the British Intelligence Service from 1973-78, was arranged. At the meeting, in a Chelsea restaurant, Alec Guinness studied Sir Maurice Oldfield intently, from the way he walked, to the way he carried his umbrella, to his mannerisms when he picked up and drank from a wineglass. And it was that attention to detail from the writer, actors and producers that made Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy such a special series.

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