Before the revolution, one had reason to be a bit nervous in Havana. Or at least Alec Guinness had reason to be. His beautiful daughter, you see, was being courted by a rather sinister security officer. And he needed funds badly. What he did will make you laugh and cry, not necessarily in that order.
The film: Our Man in Havana.
In fact, Our Man in Havana was originally a Graham Greene novel, first published in 1958. The film came out the next year. The story spoofs British intelligence services, and Greene knew what he was spoofing. He had been recruited to join up in 1941 and was assigned to the counter-intelligence unit dealing with the Iberian Peninsula
… where he had learned about German agents in Portugal sending the Germans fictitious reports, which garnered them expenses and bonuses to add to their basic salary
Clever fellows! And here is something that you probably did not know
Remembering the German agents in Portugal, Greene wrote the first version of the story in 1946, as an outline for a film script, with the story set in Estonia in 1938. The film was never made, and Greene soon realised that Havana, which he had visited several times in the early 1950s, would be a much better setting, with the absurdities of the Cold War being more appropriate for a comedy.
Errr …. Estonia?
Fidel Castro allowed the film to be made in Havana, but did not like the final product. He felt that it did not do justice to the brutality of the Battista regime. Greene agreed, but felt that more accurate treatment was not possible in a light hearted comedy he had written.
And of course, the story now will be forever linked to the genius of Alec Guinness who played the lead role in the film — one of my favorites. There is something magical about Guinness’s performance. I cannot put my finger on it exactly. You just have to experience it.
This might inspire you to think of a trip to Havana. If you go, you might want to start off your excursion with some help. A local tour guide to get you into the city with its unique culture, history and food.
Go for it!
A quick follow – If you are interested in Alec Guinness, you might pursue that interest via some very fine books
Guinness wrote three volumes of a best-selling autobiography, beginning with Blessings in Disguise in 1985, followed by My Name Escapes Me in 1996, and A Positively Final Appearance in 1999. He recorded each of them as an audiobook. Shortly after his death, Lady Guinness asked the couple’s close friend and fellow Catholic, novelist Piers Paul Read, to write Guinness’s official biography. It was published in 2002.