Friday, August 30, 2013

Case Study No. 0955: Alec Leamas, Nancy Perry, and Miss Crail

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold Part 2/12
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)

STARRING: Richard Burton (as Alec Leamas), Claire Bloom (as Nan Perry) and Oskar Werner (as Fiedler)
Tags: The Spy Who Came In From Cold Richard Burton Claire Bloom Oskar Werner
Added: 2 years ago
From: TaherAfman
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[scene opens inside of the labor exchange department (where Alec Leamas is waiting for a job opening), as the camera focuses on a male clerk looking through his index cards]
MR. PITT: Leamas. Alec Leamas.
[Alec slowly gets up from the bench and approaches the desk]
ALEC: Leamas ...
[he hands the clerk his papers]
ALEC: The last time and the time before, I was seen by a Mister Melrose.
MR. PITT: My name is Pitt. Melrose has flu.
[he continues looking over his records]
MR. PITT: Not much of a stayer, are you?
ALEC: The jobs weren't exactly--
MR. PITT: Mister Leamas, fluent German isn't much use, even in an experienced sales representative, who's frequently speechless by lunchtime ... Vacancies for male nurses at Battersea General.
ALEC: Think I'd do better as a patient.
[with no reaction to his joke, the clerk continues looking through his files]
MR. PITT: Ah, here's one where your languages might help. Blantyre Institute of Psychical Research in Candahar Road. Five minutes on an Eleven bus. They want another assistant. Librarian's a Miss Crail.
[cut to the inside of the library, where an elderly female librarian is speaking on the phone]
MISS CRAIL: [into the phone] Well, I should gargle, Mama. Yes yes, I know, there's a lot of it about. Yes ... Yes. Yes, goodbye Mama.
[she hangs up, then notices Alec sitting in the chair in front of her]
MISS CRAIL: Can I help you?
[he gets up and approaches her]
ALEC: My name is Leamas. I was sent from the labor exchange by a Mister Pitt, as a possible new assistant.
MISS CRAIL: Oh. You have your qualification form?
[he takes a piece of paper out of his coat pocket and hands it to her, then notices a young female librarian walking around amongst the stacks behind Miss Crail's desk]
MISS CRAIL: You've used a card index?
ALEC: Now and then.
MISS CRAIL: Is your handwriting legible?
ALEC: Except at weekends.
MISS CRAIL: Our books used to be shelved and indexed under titles and authors. But now Brigadier Blantyre wants them rearranged and additionally indexed under subjects, with cross-references to authors and titles.
[she picks up an index card]
MISS CRAIL: Thus, "Phantasms of the Living" by Gurney, Myers and Podmore, has already been title-indexed under "P" for "Phantasms" and author-indexed under "G" for "Gurney", "M" for "Myers"--
ALEC: "P" for Podmore.
MISS CRAIL: Precisely.
[the young librarian looks in their direction and smiles, but continues shelving books]
MISS CRAIL: Now it must also be subject-indexed, under "A" for "Apparitions". Have you understood that?
ALEC: [coldly] They told me the job pays eleven-pounds-ten a week.
[the phone rings]
MISS CRAIL: Excuse me ...
[she answers the phone]
MISS CRAIL: [into the phone] Yes, Mama? Yes, Mama.
[cut to Miss Crail eating lunch at her desk, while in the back the young librarian is eating her lunch and Alec is looking through some books]
NANCY: Would you like to share my sandwiches?
ALEC: [coldly] Wouldn't dream of it.
NANCY: Something called Savory Spread.
ALEC: I still wouldn't dream of it.
NANCY: There isn't a cafe for miles.
ALEC: Any pubs?
NANCY: Well yes, but you can't get lunch in any of them.
ALEC: Ah, I'll be okay. Thank you.
[he gets up and walks away]




Ritt, Martin (Director). The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. United Kingdom: Paramount Pictures, 1965.

Starring: Richard Burton (Alec Leamas, Assistant Librarian); Claire Bloom (Nancy "Nan" Perry, Assistant Librarian); Anne Blake (Miss Crail, Librarian)

Based on the Novel: Le Carre, John. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. New York: Coward-McCann, 1963.

At the height of the Cold War, when Alec Leamas must convince East German agents in London that he is a washed-up, burnt-out former British spy, he finds a crummy apartment, drinks his meals ... and gets a job in a library. The Bayswater Library for Psychic Research hires him to help Nan Perry re-index and cross-reference the collection. The librarian, Miss Crail, is bitter and sharp-tongued and (this is more evident in the book) takes a fervent dislike to poor Leamas. Nan, however, tucks him under wing and nurtures him right into bed. (Her name in the book is Elizabeth "Liz" Gold (she's Jewish), and as she is pretty and shapely and half his age, one wonders why she is lonely enough to fall for the disintegrating Leamas. I mean, FEMALE viewers/readers will wonder this. Males won't even think it odd.) Later, when Leamas tries to keep his captors from harming Nan, he declares, "She's just a frustrated little girl from a crackpot library." The library references are scant and irrelevant to Le Carré's complicated storyline, but we do see a small, special library under the control of a dragon librarian, and once again the setting serves as the place where characters first meet (see also Love Story, All the Queen's Men, Mad Love, etc.).



Working in the library, Alec meets Nan Perry (Claire Bloom); she is talkative, but Alec, initially, is unsociable. She offers to share her lunch with him, but he prefers to go to a pub.

After several days at the library, Alec pressents a respectable image. He dresses professionally, suit and tie. He reveals a sense of humor at the library with Nan when he asks about the subject heading for a book on werewolves. She pulls the book for him; he looks at the circulation page, remarking, "It seems popular." She replies that one patron checks it out monthly, and he theorizes, "Full moon." They both smile and giggle at his remark. As soon as the interaction between the two improves, Nan invites him to her apartment for dinner, beginning a romance that ends disastrously. Alec, always a British spy, utilizes the library and his library job to establish his pseudo-identity for an elaborate British espionage plot. When he is incarcerated for beating a shopkeeper, Alec loses his library job; after his release, Alec leaves Great Britain, seemingly defecting to the Communists.

Crail, the librarian-in-charge, resembles the stereotype - "only 38," blonde (angel wing bang; bun at crown), and dresses modestly but businesslike - dark suit jacket over a collarless, front button, light-colored blouse. She apparently spends a great deal of time conversing with her "MaMa" on the telephone; she cut short a conversation with her to interview Alec and is interrupted by "MaMa" during the interview. Crail is very understanding of Nan's request to take a vacation to Germany. When Nan mentions she has comrades (not friends) in Germany, Crail notes that she has "never held this [political activities] against you, Miss Perry. This is a free country." When informed that Nan will be visiting Leipzig, Crail remarks that she will tell her superior that Nan will be visiting "Germany, not East. He doesn't hold with the Russians." The communications between Crail and Nan are friendly and straightforward; they are very formal - it is always Miss Crail and Miss Perry. Although engaged in a minimal number of library tasks, such as interviewing Alec and placing magazines on a rack, Crail's interaction with Nan indicates that she is a competent supervisor, and one who has an interest in her subordinates, regardless of their political leanings.

Nan, a young, attractive brunette (full bang; A-line cut), performs various library tasks: she brings in the morning mail, carries books, shelves books, pushes a booktruck, and works in card files. She dresses modestly throughout the film; most often appearing in sweaters and skirts; at the tribunal procedding in East Germany, she appears in a tweed suit. At this tribunal hearing, Nan's fincances are disclosed - salary, 11 pounds; rent, three-pounds-ten; and savings, a few pounds. These are indicative of unpretentious living on a salary that is, as Nan states, "pretty small."

Such a humble environment, however, does not prohibit Nan from becoming a principled young woman who believes in peace and works as a member of the British Communist Party to achieve such a goal. During the tribunal hearing, which is Nan's first real experience with truth and deception in the Cold War, Alec (in an attempt to convince tribunal members that Nan is not a participant in the British espionage plot) decides to reveal his roel in the operation. To shleter Nan from involvement, Alec summarizes his evaluation of her principles, "As for the girl, she is nothing but a frustrated little thing from a crackpot library. She's no good to you. Send her home."

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