The online resource about writer Len Deighton


Len Deighton has a lot to thank Harry Saltzman and Sir Michael Caine for.

It is undoubtedly thanks to Harry Palmer - the character the producer and star of The Ipcress File film jointly developed - that Len Deighton's career developed as spectacularly as it did in the nineteen-sixties and that he had the opportunity to produce other films. The three Harry Palmer Films - The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain - have wormed their way into popular culture positioning Harry Palmer as the sardonic 'anti-Bond'.

Deighton as a film producer enjoyed some success with first Only When I Larf and also Oh! What A Lovely War, but he found the film world a challenging and frustrating place, preferring in the end the solitude and control of writing. Spy Story is the rather lacklustre outlier in this section, as it made little impact on the big screen.

On TV, the picture is different. In 1988 Game, Set & Match was filmed by Granada TV as a thirteen-part series which was never released or shown again commercially, due to disputes between the producers and Deighton. However, in February 2017 BBC1 broadcast a five part adaptation of SS-GB as its major spring release, bringing Deighton's work back to the small screen after a long absence.

See below the films which have successfully brought Deighton's characters from the page to the screen or check out the dedicated page examining the Game, Set & Match TV series

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Deighton's working class spy still resonates in popular culture over fifty years since The Ipcress File was first released in cinemas.

Sir Michael Caine's iconic portrayal seems tailor-made for the character in the books, with his cockney banter, laconic manner, disdain for authority and swagger. Across three films - and two questionable nineteen-nineties re-treads - Caine created a fan favourite and the films producers and creatives developed a filmic style which has often been quoted by other film makers.

Find out below more information about each film and how the Harry Palmer character developed over time.

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    The Ipcress File
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    Funeral in Berlin
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    Billion Dollar Brain
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    Bullet To Beijing
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    Midnight In St Petersburg

Articles on the Harry Palmer phenomenon

The glasses make him instantly recognisable: Harry Palmer, the irascible, cheeky, ne'er-do-well British spy.

Since the first film was debuted in 1965, Harry Palmer - unnamed in the books, but given the soubriquet by producer Harry Saltzman - has been an indelible part of the British cultural landscape, and much of that is down to three things: the quality of the original stories on which the films were based, presenting a different 'take' on the spy character from what had gone before; the strong characterisation of Harry Palmer by Michael Caine, in what is still one of his best performances; and the innovative direction and production design in each of the films.

Below are a number of contemporary articles exploring the cinematic world of Harry Palmer.

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    Film Review


The Harry Palmer character, created (but not named) by Len Deighton, has become embedded in popular culture and is for most people the one connection between the author and cinema.

That is largely true but there are other films based on Deighton books, or which Deighton himself produced - namely Oh! What a Lovely War - that have some cinematic value even if they did not create the same sort of impact as The Ipcress File, Funeral in Berlin or Billion Dollar Brain. Some, like Spy Story, rather sank without trace and have rarely been shown on TV since.

Deighton's success as an author in the 'sixties gave him a certain amount of cachet and pull within the Hollywood system, allowing him to secure financing and to produce himself two films, Only When I Larf and Oh! What a Lovely War, both done in partnership with his friend Brian Duffy. As Deighton recounts on this website below, the experience of being a film producer left him somewhat aggrieved and thankful to return to his typewriter.

Find out below more information about these lesser known films.

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    Only When I Larf
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    Oh! What A Lovely War
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    Spy Story
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