The Spy Who Came in From the Cold: Book versus Movie Script

A novel and its screenplay well demonstrate the skills of revising and editing. A book must be pared down to fit a film’s run length and to eliminate much of the scene setting in a novel done with words and not visual cues. A terrific author, a terrific scriptwriter.

Script by Paul Dehn

“Paul Dehn (pronounced “Dane”; 5 November 1912 – 30 September 1976) was a British screenwriter, best known for Goldfinger, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Planet of the Apes sequels and Murder on the Orient Express. . . .”

https://www.scripts.com/script/the_spy_who_came_in_from_the_cold_21370 (external link)

Girl: “How can you turn the world upside down? What rules are you playing?

Leamas: “There’s only one rule — expediency. Mundt gives London what it wants so Fidelier dies and Mundt lives. It was a foul, foul operation but it paid off.”

Girl: “Who for?”

Leamas: “What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not.

They’re just a bunch of seedy, squalid bastards like me. Little men, drunkards, queers, henpecked husbands, civil servants playing cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives.

Do you think they sit like monks in a cell, balancing right against wrong? Yesterday I would have killed Mundt because I thought him evil and an enemy. But not today.

Today he is evil and my friend. London needs him. They need him so that the great, moronic masses you admire so much can sleep soundly in their flea-bitten beds again.

They need him for the safety of ordinary, crummy people like you and me.

Book by John le Carré

‘How can you turn the world upside down?’ Liz shouted suddenly. ‘Fiedler was kind and decent; he was only doing his job, and now you’ve killed him. Mundt is a spy and a traitor and you protect him. Mundt is a Nazi, do you know that? He hates Jews … what side are you on? How can you…?’

‘There’s only one law in this game,’ Leamas retorted. ‘Mundt is their man; he gives them what they need. That’s easy enough to understand, isn’t it? Leninism — the expediency of temporary alliances.

What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs? They’re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives.

Do you think they sit like monks in London balancing the rights and wrongs? I’d have killed Mundt if I could, I hate his guts; but not now. It so happens that they need him.

They need him so that the great moronic mass that you admire can sleep soundly in their beds at night. They need him for the safety of ordinary, crummy people like you and me.’

Richard Burton at his best on film. A low key rant that rival’s Nicholson’s performance in A Few Good Men. (internal link)

About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer specializing in outdoor subjects, particularly rocks, gems and minerals.
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