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Our Man in Havana

 (462)
7.21 h 47 min1960PG
Adapted from Graham Greene's novel, Alec Guinness stars in this classic spy spoof as Jim Wormold, an English expatriate who sells vacuum cleaners in Havana. His life is irrevocably changed as he is recruited by Hawthorne (Noel Coward), and pressed into service as an operative of M.I.5, which he reluctantly agress to so he can earn extra money for his 17-year-old daughter.
Directors
Carol Reed
Starring
Alec GuinnessBurl IvesMaureen O'Hara
Genres
SuspenseComedyDrama
Subtitles
None Available
Audio Languages
English
Rentals include 30 days to start watching this video and 48 hours to finish once started.
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More details

Supporting actors
Ernie KovacsNoel CowardRalph Richardson
Producers
Carol Reed
Studio
Columbia Pictures
Purchase rights
Stream instantly Details
Format
Prime Video (streaming online video)
Devices
Available to watch on supported devices

Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

462 global ratings

  1. 62% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 25% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

Dr R.Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 04 May 2022
4.0 out of 5 stars
Dvd delivered as described
Verified purchase
This was a replacement for a dvd that had stopped playing, unfortunately this one seems to be a similar vintage and although reads better (Panasonic dvd/BluRay Player in Linux) it still has read errors that prevent playback. Surface of dvd looks clean so guess it is a problem with those dvds in a modern player.
Ian PolkReviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 January 2022
4.0 out of 5 stars
Entertaining classic
Verified purchase
Based on the Graham Greene novel of the same name, and with a stellar cast - including Alec Guinness, Noel Coward, and Maureen O'Hara - this is a very entertaining and well-executed film revolving around a British store owner (Guinness) in pre-Castro Cuba who, desperate for money, accedes to a request from MI6 (Coward) to spy for them. The store owner fabricates an entire spy network, and pockets all the money, only to find that his activities suddenly start leading to real and serious consequences.
Interestingly, both this film - and the novel upon which it was based - was (somewhat shamelessly, in my opinion) used (in all matters that count) as the basis for the later 'Tailor of Panama' novel by John Le Carre (which is nowhere near as good as Greene's novel, unsurprisingly) and the subsequent film of that name (which, surprisingly, is at least as good as this film, and is also available on Amazon, of course).
Amazon customerReviewed in the United Kingdom on 16 May 2009
3.0 out of 5 stars
Greene fails to find the tone
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The third collaboration between Graham Greene and director Carol Reid is the weakest of the trilogy in terms of economical writing and striking direction, but it has some fascinating elements and some prophetic views which become more and more relevant as time passes.

The central character (Wormold - Alec Guinness) is a typical Greene hero - a weak but decent man, a vacuum cleaner salesman, betrayed by his love for one thing - in this case, his daughter - who is drawn deeper and deeper into the mire, until he has to kill someone, and achieves some kind of redemption. Wormold is recruited (for no very good reason) by Hawthorne (Noel Coward) as a British agent. He is tempted by the money, which will enable him to give his daughter everything her empty little head is set on. To maintain the fiction he has to create a network of "spies" and also (4 years before the Cuban missile crisis) a set of secret locations for new weapons, all of which in his drawings look remarkably like vacuum cleaner parts.

The higher-ups in London buy it, and so do the "enemy" (whoever they are - the film is vague), and the game goes out of control.

What the film does well is the aristocratic disdain of Whitehall for life, decency or truth - Iraq's WMD media manipulation well prefigured. Guinness gives a fine performance of strength-in-weakness, perfectly deadpan despite the high comedy of many moments. Where it falls down is most significantly in the women, especially Jo Morrow as daughter Milly, one of those 20-ish teenagers beloved of movies, who resorts to a teeth-grating archness to convey a character at least five years younger than her own age. This falsity deprives the film of its motor. There is an interesting performance from Burl Ives, as a fallen German doctor, Hasselbacher, who is the authentic Greene voice of tired decency, and whose death hels to spur Wormold into action.

The other weakness is in Greene's overwhelming disgust for the Cuban Battista regime (the book was written in 1957, pre-Castro, and filmed in 1959, post-Castro.) Castro gave permission for filming largely because its portrait of Captain Segura (Ernie Kovacs), the police chief, almost justifies the revolution on its own.

Milly has the hots for Segura, who squires her around the opulent ex-pat settings - country club, stables, pools etc. At the same time, when Segura offers Wormold a cigarette from his case, Wormold asks with interest, "Is that the case with the covering of human skin?" Segura smiles and makes no comment.

I'm all in favour of Comic Noir, but it is the most difficult tone to get right, and Greene miscalculates, lurching from comedy to seriousness. Wormold's comments on Segura make it clear exactly what Milly is messing with, but he doesn't challenge her, and she has no great revelation before leaving. As a result she is a bit tarred with the same brush, and this devalues Wormold's affection for this worthless bit of trash. The failure to integrate Segura into the main plot makes the film a bit shapeless, and the laughs, thrills and shudders somehow cancel each other out. Although he hated it, Otto Preminger's The Human Factor [[ASIN:B0007OAXF6 The Human Factor [DVD]]] offers a more sombre and successful treatment of the same theme.
One person found this helpful
coraReviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 January 2018
4.0 out of 5 stars
Worth Buying for Our Man in Havana - Excellent Spy Spoof
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The product reviewed is the 2 DVD Maureen O'Hara boxset including Our Man in Havana (1959) (a film which deserves a five star rating on its own merit) and Lady Godiva (1955), a historical drama with a rather dated feel.

The films are presented each on their own DVD. Both films have English subtitles for those who may need them. Lady Godiva is in colour with a 4:3 aspect ratio, Our Man in Havana is in black and white (incorrectly described as colour on the DVD cover), in a 2.35:1 widescreen format. Our Man in Havana also has German, Italian and Spanish dubbed audio options along with subtitles in these and several further languages (Greek, Portuguese, Dutch, Hungarian). No extra features.

Our Man in Havana is a highly entertaining spy spoof directed by Carol Reed, based on the novel by Graham Greeme, set and filmed in 1950s Havana. Alec Guinness is quite wonderful as the ex-pat English vacuum cleaner salesman Wormold who is recruited into the Secret Service by an agent who has to meet his quota of new recruits, played by the inimitable Noel Coward. Wormold's life is further complicated by his highspirited daughter and the strong willed female spy (Maureen O'Hara) sent to help him gather further intelligence on the enemy agents he has invented so as to have something to report to his handler. It's all good fun with the sting of political satire. Highly enjoyable little film with some excellent acting.

Lady Godiva is rather plodding, if in glorious technicolor. It's only redeeming feature is its leading lady. Maureen O'Hara gives one of her usual spirited performances as a strong willed young woman. If you are a fan of her, you should enjoy this well enough. The only truly memorable moment is the iconic ride of Godiva through Coventry in her birthday suit. Of course, anything that wouldn't make it past the censors is covered by her magnificent tresses. And a skin coloured leotard.

Definitely worth buying for the first film. If you don't have too high expectations, you may enjoy the second one well enough on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
7 people found this helpful
Geoff ParkesReviewed in the United Kingdom on 20 December 2008
4.0 out of 5 stars
Entertaining spy spoof set in pre-revolutionary Havana
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What a treat! Here we have one of the UK's finest twentieth century actors (Alec Guinness) starring in a story by one of the UK's finest twentieth century novelists (Graham Greene). It also stars Burl Ives, Ralph Richardson and Maureen O'Hara. This is a light-hearted black-and-white comedy (Greene called it an 'entertainment') about Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman, recruited into espionage by Secret Service agent Hawthorne (Noel Coward). Wormold needs the money to finance his daughter's expensive tastes, especially with horses, but quickly finds himself out of his depth when expected to find further recruits at his country club. He files false reports and supplies drawings of non-existent secret weapons, based on vacuum cleaner designs. The story takes several darker turns, but by the end we all have a smile on our faces.

It's wonderful to contrast late-fifties Havana with Havana today. The opening credits show a lady doing languid backstroke down a rooftop swimming-pool, then turning to gaze past the twin towers of the Hotel Nacional towards the arc of the malecon and Old Havana - seemingly unchanged. A street hustler approaches dapper, quick-striding Hawthorne and grows increasingly desperate as Hawthorne fails to bite: "Shoeshine? Pretty girl? Dirty movie?...Palace of Art?!" The hustlers are still there, but these days it's more likely to be: "Cigars? Restaurant? Pretty girl?...Viagra?!"

You can watch this film in four different languages, with a choice of 12 languages as subtitles - great! OK, sometimes the subtitles go astray. "Kettle" gets subtitled as "tetera" (= teapot) - not much good for steaming letters open! According to the subtitles, a man found bound and gagged in the gutter (arroyo) is said to have been found in the "puerta" (= doorway) - not quite the same thing! But these shortcomings are amusing rather than annoying. Apart from being great fun to watch, the film supplies an important piece of social history. The timing is critical: the book was written in 1958 about events in 1957, i.e. the end of the Batista regime. But director Carol Reed needed Fidel Castro's permission to film in 1959, after the revolution. Luckily Castro complied. Buy it and enjoy!
52 people found this helpful
Dr René CodoniReviewed in the United Kingdom on 17 February 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
Sly spy classic
Verified purchase
Our man in Havana (Carol Reed, 111', 1959)

Our Man in Havana is a 1959 British film shot in CinemaScope, directed and produced by Carol Reed and starring Alec Guinness, Burl Ives, Maureen O'Hara, Ralph Richardson, Noël Coward and Ernie Kovacs. The film is adapted from the 1958 novel Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene. The film takes the action of the novel and gives it a more comedic touch.
Music by Frank Deniz, Laurence Deniz, Cinematography by Oswald Morris

Plot: In pre-revolutionary Cuba, James Wormold (Guinness), a vacuum cleaner salesman, is recruited by Hawthorne (Coward) of the British Secret Intelligence Service to be their Havana operative. Instead of recruiting his own agents, Wormold invents agents from men he knows only by sight, and sketches "plans" for a rocket-launching pad based on vacuum parts to increase his value to the service and to procure more money for himself and his expensive daughter Milly (Jo Morrow). Because his importance grows, he is sent a secretary, Beatrice (O'Hara), and a radioman from London to be under his command. With their arrival it becomes much harder for Wormold to maintain his facade. However, when they do, all of his imagined information begins to come true. One of his "agents" is killed, and he is himself targeted for assassination. He admits what he's done to his secretary, and is recalled to London. At the film's conclusion, rather than telling the truth to the prime minister and other military intelligence services, Wormold's commanders (led by Ralph Richardson) agree to fabricate a story claiming his imagined machines had been dismantled, bestow honors on Wormold, and offer him a position teaching espionage classes in London.

Casting: Alec Guinness as Jim Wormold, Burl Ives as Dr Hasselbacher, Maureen O'Hara as Beatrice Severn, Ernie Kovacs as Captain Segur, Noël Coward as Hawthorne, Ralph Richardson as 'C', Jo Morrow as Milly Wormold, Grégoire Aslan as Cifuentes. Paul Rogers as Hubert Carter, Raymond Huntley as General, Ferdy Mayne as Professor Sanchez, Maurice Denham as Admiral, Joseph P Mawra as Lopez, Duncan Macrae as MacDougal, Gerik Schjelderup as Svenson, Hugh Manning as Officer, Karel Stepanek as Dr Braun, Maxine Audley as Teresa. Eccellent acting throughout.

Production: The film was shot on location in Havana, just two months after the overthrow of the Batista regime, and on 13 May 1959 Fidel Castro visited the film crew when they shot scenes at Havana's Cathedral Square. Our Man in Havana was positively received by film critics; it has a "fresh" rating of 85% (with 13 reviews) at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes. While not quite matching Reed's own The Third Man, it is an established long term top of its kind.

226 - Our man in Havana (Carol Reed, 111', 1959) -Sly spy classic - 17/2/2013
3 people found this helpful
pilgrim0795Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 June 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
...and the book's good as well!!
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Yes, for some, the late 1950s are ancient history, black and white films are anathema and anything less than high tech wizardry involving the spontaneous combustion of entire planets is tedium.

Yet 'Our Man in Havana', produced in 1959, has for me, retained its status as an excellent film.

At the risk of appearing biased, I have to say that nearly anything involving the late Alec Guinness is usually top notch! This witty, humorous film, of one hour 43 minutes duration, based upon the original story by Graham Greene, is no exception. A raised eyebrow from Guinness can communicate more emotion than the chest heaving, tear jerking, gut wrenching 'pathos' of some contemporary dramas.

If you haven't read the other reviews, briefly, this is a spy spoof with Guinness as Jim Wormold, an English expatriate in Havana, selling vacuum cleaners. Needing funds for his beloved teenage daughter's extravagant requests, Wormold reluctantly agrees to be recruited as an operative for the Secret Service.

Having absolutely no experience of espionage, Wormold is forced to invent information for his reports. Needless to say, vacuum cleaner components play a key role. (The idea of spying on secret military instillations in Cuba was said to predict the Cuban missile crisis of 1962)

Fiction is blithely accepted as fact by London. However, soon fictitious agents and creative drawings assume a life form of their own! Two operatives are dispatched from London to assist Wormold and it seems that discovery is imminent.

Although there are many comic moments, the story has its poignancy. Played out against a backdrop of the brutal Batista regime (Soon to be overthrown by Castro), betrayal, deceit and their consequences, particularly for innocent victims, are interwoven themes. Wormald's wife has left him and as a result, his life is literally a vacuum. Wormald's attempts to deceive the Secret Service have tragic consequences, one of which is the death of his close friend Dr Hasselbacher. Agents are not what they appear: someone is a double agent out to kill Wormwold.

Usually the filmed version of a novel I have particularly enjoyed, is a disappointment. This is an exception. The film skilfully manipulates the tension between comedy and tragedy.

Recommended....but do read the novel as well!!
10 people found this helpful
M. BrandReviewed in the United Kingdom on 21 August 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
A dark comedy
Verified purchase
A superb dark comedy from the writing & directing team behind 'The Third Man'.
Set in Havana in the latter days of the Batista regime, Graham Greenes story is of a failing vacuum cleaner salesman called Wormold with a daughter who is as beautifus as she is extravagant. To supplement his income he begins working as a spy for British intelligence, but with no sectrets to pass on he makes them up along with claiming random people as his fictitious agents. He is so successful he gains extra staff, who he must also fool.
(Greene's knowledge of TAR Robertson & the wartime XX Committee emerges here but was not apparent at the time).
Things go awry when people he claims to be agents begin to die & both Wormold & his daughter's wellbeing are threatened. In addition some in British intelligence discover he is a fraud, but the fact they have been fooled becomes the most important secret of all. AS such, Wormold is brought to England & quietly given a job teaching spies.
If you're wondering about where this was filmed, it was actually in Havana & surrounding Cuba shortly after the revolution, with Fidel Castro taking a genuine interest in the film & visiting the set on more than one occasion.
10 people found this helpful
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