The Deadly Affair

Synopsis: After Charles Dobbs, a security officer, has a friendly chat with Samuel Fennan from the Foreign Office, the man commits suicide. An anonymous typed letter had been received accusing Fennan of being a Communist during his days at Oxford and their chat while walking in the park was quite amiable. Senior officials want the whole thing swept under the rug and are pleased to leave it as a suicide. Dobbs isn't at all sure as there are a number of anomalies that simply can't be explained away. Dobbs is also having trouble at home with his errant wife, whom he very much loves, having frequent affairs. He's also pleased to see an old friend, Dieter Frey, who he recruited after the war. With the assistance of a colleague and a retired policeman, Dobbs tries to piece together just who is the spy and who in fact assassinated Fennan.
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Director(s): Sidney Lumet
Production: Sony Pictures Entertainment
107 min

Mr Fennan, we know it's idiotic,

but when the Foreign Secretary finds

that sort of letter in his in-tray,

it's like London airport

getting an anonymous phone call

to say that there's a bomb

on the Prime Minister's plane,

and somebody's got to do a check.

- Was the letter anonymous?

- Yes.

Was it literate?

Oh, yes, properly spelt,

properly punctuated. No cranky stuff.

- Handwriting?

- It was typewritten.

An Olivetti portable. Westminster postmark.

And what exactly did it allege?

It said that you were a member

of the Communist Party at Oxford in the '30s

and that you were still secretly sympathetic

with the communist cause.

- But my dear Mr...

- Dobbs, Charles Dobbs.

Practically everybody was a member

of the Party at Oxford in the '30s.

- Half the present Cabinet were Party...

- Please!

You know, Mr Dobbs, when you're young,

you hitch the wagon

of whatever you believe in

to whatever star looks likely

to get the wagon moving.

When I was an undergraduate,

the wagon was social justice,

and the star was Karl Marx.

We perambulated with banners.

We fed hunger marchers.

A few of us fought in Spain.

Some of us even wrote poetry.

I still believe it was a good wagon,

but an impracticable star.

We had faith and hope and charity.

A wrong faith, a false hope

but I still think the right sort of charity.

Our eyes were dewy with it.

Dewy and half shut.

Who opened them?

- Ann?

- No, no, Appleby.

Oh, Bill! I'm sorry.

Well, I hope you're wide awake, old boy,

because your subject Fennan

has shot himself.

But when I was in the park

with him this morning,

he was as happy as a bloody lark.

I liked him.

We had a perfectly satisfactory interview,

and I as good as promised him

full security clearance.

What on Earth makes them think

it was suicide?

- Body position.

- Yes. I'll be right over.

- How long?

- In, well, about 20 minutes if I can get a taxi.

Ann took the car

and I don't think she's back yet.

- Does the Adviser know yet?

- Yes.

Oh, hell.

Well, I'll be as quick as I can. Bye.


I want to go to...

Oh, Lord, that's my own car coming back.

- There you are, five bob, all right?

- Oh, thanks. Thanks very much.

- Good night.

- Good night.

Are you arriving or leaving, Charles?

Leaving. Just the office. There's a flap on.

You have a good evening?


I'm afraid so.

Who was it this time?

Oh, I see. Somebody I know.

Do you want the car?

- Darling...

- Get back to bed, darling.


I turned your fire on. It's bloody cold.

Oh, Charlie, you're in the nick of time.

What for?

To stop the Adviser

from having kittens, darling.

He just left Scotland Yard

in a state of advanced pregnancy.

There was a squabble going on

about which department handles the case.

Special Branch says Special Branch.

CID says CID.

Poor old Surrey police

don't know what's hit them.

Well, what does the Foreign Office say?

Oh, Foreign Office think

they do know what's hit them.

The death of a loyal

and talented staff member, blah, blah, blah.

Well, he was, Bill.

Worried sick and driven to suicide

by the Gestapo methods

of a brutal intelligence officer, blah, blah.

You know that's a load of bull.

I had a perfectly friendly interview

with this man in the park.

I left him happy.

Well, if you tell that to the Adviser,

you'll leave him unhappy.

He's scared enough

about the newspapers splashing a suicide.

If this department starts even hinting

that Fennan might have been murdered,

and then it turned out to be wrong...

I warn you, he'll want to play it safe.

Tell us exactly what happened.

Fennan and his wife lived down in...


At Walliston, I know that!

She went to the local theatre alone

this evening, well, yesterday evening now.

She came home about 10:45,

found he'd shot himself in the living room.

He left a sealed letter

addressed to the Foreign Secretary.

Has it been opened?

- Appleby.

- Has Dobbs arrived?

- Yes, Adviser.

- At once, please!

Save a kitten for me, darling!

Thank you.

The police believe it to be

a clear case of suicide.

- Do you?

- What I believe is not the point, Dobbs.

The point is,

the Foreign Office believe the police.

It's unfortunate

that in this distressing matter

we are now answerable

to the two public bodies

with whom our current relations

are most, shall I say, uneasy.

If, of course, there are facts

not included in your confidential report

which point to Fennan's suicide for reasons

other than his interview with you,

I shall be happy to hear about them.

Are there?

- Have they opened his suicide letter?

- They're photostatting the original.

It was typed on Fennan's own machine

and signed with what's indubitably

his own signature.

It carries not only the date, January the 3rd,

but also the time, 10:30 p.m.

That's a little unusual.

A methodical man

could still be methodical in extremis.

"My dear Minister, after some hesitation

I have decided to take my life.

"I cannot spend my remaining years

under a cloud of suspected disloyalty.

"I realise that I am the victim of

paid informers and that my career is ruined.

"Yours sincerely, Samuel Fennan."

- May I have your comments?

- Yes, you may.

- He must have been raving mad.

- The letter sounds perfectly sane.

But so did he when I interviewed him!

He was a little over-talkative perhaps,

but I put that down

to understandable nervousness.


That's why I suggested

we clear out of his office,

which was rather public anyhow,

with people coming and going,

and conduct the interview

less formally in the park.

Then I may take it that his suicide

and, of course, his letter

came as a complete surprise to you.

- You find no explanation?

- No.

- You have no idea who denounced him?

- No, neither had he.

- He was married, you know.

- Yes.

A somewhat unusual woman.

Foreign. Jewish, too, I gather.

Suffered rather badly

in concentration camps during the war,

which rather adds to our embarrassment.

It seems conceivable that she might be able

to fill in some of the gaps.

- I think you ought to go and see her.

- Me?

But she thinks that I'm responsible

for her husband's death.

If you want police cooperation at Walliston,

we've put in Inspector Mendel down there

as our liaison officer.

I don't think you've worked with him before.

- He's a CID man. I thought he'd retired.

- He has.

That makes it easier for him

to serve two masters impartially,

the police and us.

- Sir, the Minister is calling.

- Put him on.

- Martin?

- Yes, Minister.

- Any progress?

- Yes.

I have the man in charge of the case

with me now.

He will be with the widow

at 8:
15 this morning.

Good. Keep me informed.

Yes, naturally.

The moment I have his report.

- Right.

- Yes. Goodbye, Minister.

Could you see her at 8:15?

- Do you really think that this woman will...

- I'll telephone you at 8:45.

You better go home now

and get some sleep while you can.

If I can.

My dear Dobbs,

you know you have my support.

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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. Dehn and his partner, James Bernard, won the Academy Award for best Motion Picture story for Seven Days to Noon. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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