Originally Posted by Franin
I agree Gary Oldman was great.
Definitely not a snoozefest in my opinion.
George Smiley is perhaps my favorite literary character. At the risk of polluting the thread with unwanted detritus, I am going to append to this post an essay about George and his wife, the beautiful and elegant serial betrayer, Lady Ann. I hope that some of you enjoy it:
THE UNHAPPY MARRIAGE OF GEORGE AND ANN SMILEY
By Grey Wilson Satterfield Jr.
© 1992, All Rights Reserved.
Literature is filled with unhappy marriages, Galsworthy's Soames and Irené Forsyte, Dickens's Bumbles are examples. Few marriages in literature, though, have been more corrosive than that of LeCarré's Ann and George Smiley. No unhappy marriage in literature has had a longer run. In most of the Smiley books I have seen Ann Smiley as something of a monster trapped in an unhappy marriage. But I recently got a new insight into Ann, and her relationship with George, in Call for the Dead, LeCarré's first novel, published in 1961.
George's courtship of Ann begins During World War II. He is nearing 40, bland, enigmatic, fat, and nearsighted; but George is brilliant and George is a spy.
George married the beautiful Lady Ann Sercomb near the end of the war. She described him to her astonished Mayfair friends as breathtakingly ordinary. One of Ann's friends said he appeared to spend a lot of money on really bad clothes. When she left him two years later for a Cuban race car driver, she said if she hadn't left him then, she might never have done it. When Lady Ann followed her motor racing star to Cuba, she gave some thought to Smiley. She concluded with grudging admiration that if there were an only man in her life he would be George Smiley.
As a spy, George put his considerable intellect to observing humanity with clinical objectivity. He did so while shrinking from the temptations of friendship and human loyalty; he guarded himself warily from spontaneous reaction. Then he met Ann. Ann was charming and outgoing. A brilliant conversationalist, she put everyone at ease and brought out the best in them. Gradually, she got George to show her the subtle brilliance, which he so assiduously hid from others. She learned who the man really was. And he came to love her.
For the first time, George had someone with whom he could share not only his knowledge, but his thoughts and aspirations. At a candle-lit dinner over a good wine George told Ann how he hated to be interviewed, "interrogated" he called it. Because of his secretive nature, interviews offended George. He delighted her with his explanation that he used the chameleon-armadillo principal to handle such ordeals. He explained that first he took on the protective coloration of the chameleon. That is he would agree with everything the interviewer said. But if the interviewer did not accept the chameleon ploy and acted too agressively for George's tastes, George would go into armadillo mode. He would use his hard shell to divert all attacks, tell nothing, state no opinions, and keep his temper in the face of overt attempts to make him lose it.
During George's courtship of Ann, and their marriage, George was a subject of ridicule among Ann's friends. But George was a perfect spy: he had the knack of not being remembered. When the divorce had come and gone Ann's friends thought no more of George. They were not curious about the effect of Lady Ann's departure upon her former husband.
George's reaction to Ann's leaving was impossible to determine. Afterward, he looked the same to his fellow intelligence officers. As usual, he was hiding something. Though he didn't show it, when Lady Ann ran away, a little of George Smiley died
When Ann left him George began by rigorously excluding all trace of her. He even got rid of her books. But gradually he allowed the few remaining symbols that linked his life with hers to reassert themselves: wedding presents from close friends that meant too much to be given away. Among them was a group of Dresden china figurines.
George loved to admire the tiny Dresden figures, the tiny rococo courtesan in shepherd's costume, her hands outstretched to one adoring lover, her little face bestowing glances on another. He felt inadequate before that fragile perfection as he had felt before Ann when he began the conquest that had amazed Mayfair society. Somehow the little figures comforted him. It was as useless to expect fidelity of Ann as of this tiny shepherdess. The Dresden group had been the prize of the collection of a friend. Perhaps his friend guessed that one day George might need the simple philosophy it propounded.
It is now years later. George returns home after several weeks absence. As he works his way through a large stack of unopened mail, George sees a letter on expensive hotel stationary with a Swiss stamp. At first he does not recognize the handwriting. When he does, he feels slightly sick, his vision blurred, he scarcely has strength to open the envelope. What did she want? If it was money, Ann could have all he possessed. He had nothing else to give her--she had taken it long ago.
My darling George,
I want to make you an offer which no gentlemen could accept. I want to come back to you.
I'm staying at the Baur-au-Lac at Zurich till the end of the month. Let me know.
George thought she was right. No gentleman could accept that offer. No dream could survive the stark reality of Ann's departure with her race car driver. That was Ann: Let me know. Redeem your life, see whether you can live it again, and let me know. I am tired of my lover, let me shatter your world again; my own bores me. I want to come back to you...I want, I want...
With the letter still in his hand, George got up and stood before the tiny Dresden figures. He remained there several minutes gazing at the little shepherdess. She was so beautiful.
A few days later George took the midnight plane to Zurich.