Posts Tagged ‘gay’

David Hemmings, Blow-Up and the Red Buildings on the Stockwell Road

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015
David Hemmings driving on the Stockwell Road in Blow-Up.

David Hemmings driving on the Stockwell Road in Blow-Up.

STOCKWELL ROAD isn’t the most exciting and handsome of roads. It may have been once, but the Luftwaffe and the subsequent, typical unimaginative post-war redevelopment put paid to that. It’s got a skateboard park, if that’s your thing, and David Bowie was born in a road just off it, but even he moved to Bromley when he was six. And that’s about it, to most people, even if they live there, it’s just a road that joins up Stockwell and Brixton.

If you walk towards the Brixton end, however, and you stop and look carefully at the end of a terrace, you can see a tiny bit of maroon-ish red paint showing through some peeling cream emulsion. It’s the remnants of a lot of red paint and a clue that in the winter of 1966 this road made a glamorous appearance, alongside David Hemmings, the model Veruschka, and Vanessa Redgrave, in THE swinging Sixties film – Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up. It was the Italian director’s first film in English (he had just signed a lucrative deal to make three English-language pictures for Italian producer Carlo Ponti), and it was David Hemmings’ first major film role.

Blow-Up Lobby Card

Blow-Up Lobby Card

On stage, however, Hemmings had already been a star, of sorts. In 1954, thirteen years before Blow-Up was released, a twelve-year-old Hemmings had appeared, as a boy soprano, in Benjamin Britten’s opera The Turn of the Screw. To prepare for the role of Miles, in the as yet uncompleted opera, Hemmings had left school and his home in Tolworth, a southwest suburb of London, and had gone to live with Benjamin Britten at Crag House in Aldeburgh in Suffolk. ‘It was one of the most wonderful times of my entire life’ Hemmings once remembered: ‘we all gathered round the piano – Peter Pears, Jennifer Vyvyan, Joan Cross, Arda Mandikian, Olive Dyer and me … He really constructed the opera round our voices.’ Hemmings throughout his life never wavered from saying that Britten’s conduct with him was beyond reproach, at all times. In John Bridcut’s Britten’s Children Hemmings says:

He was not only a father to me, but a friend – and you couldn’t have had a better father, or a better friend. He was generous and kind, and I was very lucky. I loved him dearly, I really did – I absolutely adored him. I didn’t fancy him, I did go to bed with him, but I didn’t go to bed with him in that way.

Tenor Peter Pearsas Quint and child soprano David Hemmings (1941 - 2003) as Miles in the English Opera Group's production of Benjamin Britten's 'The Turn Of The Screw', 13th October 1954. (Photo by Denis De Marney

Tenor Peter Pearsas Quint and child soprano David Hemmings (1941 – 2003) as Miles in the English Opera Group’s production of Benjamin Britten’s ‘The Turn Of The Screw’, 13th October 1954. (Photo by Denis De Marney

David Hemmings, aged 12 enjoying Venice (drinking water from a fountain) between rehearsals of Benjamin Britten's new opera 'Turn of the Screw".

David Hemmings, aged 12 enjoying Venice (drinking water from a fountain) between rehearsals of Benjamin Britten’s new opera ‘Turn of the Screw”.

Just five weeks after Britten had completed the opera the British premiere took place on 6 October 1954 with the Sadler’s Wells Opera. It took place against a backdrop of increasing police antipathy to homosexuality. A situation not helped by the fervently anti-homosexual and moralistic Home Secretary Sir David Maxwell Fyfe. Three years previously, in 1951, the defection to the Soviet Union of Guy Burgess, who was as close to openly gay as you could be in those days, and the (almost certainly) bisexual Donald Maclean had also stoked up public hostility.

Prosecutions for ‘gross indecency’ were increasing and there had been several highly publicised arrests, such as Lord Montagu and John Gielgud. Britten was also interviewed by police officers in 1953 – he had been at school with Maclean and one of Guy Burgess’s boyfriends had lived at Britten’s Hallam Street flat in the 1940s – but nothing came of it. At one point, however, Britten discussed the possibility that his partner Peter Pears might have to enter into a sham marriage.

The end of Hemmings’ opera career with Britten came to a particularly abrupt end. The English Opera Group had taken The Turn of the Screw to the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. It was 1956 and Hemmings was now fifteen. In the middle of Miles’ main aria, ‘Malo’, Hemming’s voice suddenly broke. Britten was utterly horrified and stopped the orchestra immediately. He waved his baton in anger at the now ex-soprano, and the curtain slowly lowered. Britten did not speak to, or even acknowledge Hemmings ever again.

Benjamin Britten (right) with Peter Pears.

Benjamin Britten (right) with Peter Pears.

Ten years later Antonioni chose Hemmings for the role in Blow-Up because he wanted a fresh young actor who had no self-conscious acting style. The Italian director detested ‘Method’ acting, and in The Passenger, filmed in London in 1974 and the third of Ponti’s English language films, Antonioni kept on saying to Nicholson, ‘Jack, less twitching’. Antonioni once said: ‘Actors feel somewhat uncomfortable with me. They have the feeling that they’ve been excluded from my work. And, as a matter of fact, they have been.’ He first saw Hemmings act in an adaptation of Dylan Thomas’s Adventures in the Skin Trade, at a small theatre in Hampstead. A few days later, at the first audition for Blow-Up held at the Savoy hotel, and before the young actor had said a word, Antonioni told Hemmings, ‘you look wrong. You’re too young.’ Hemmings replied ‘Oh no. I can look older. I’ve done it before. You can trust me on this. I am an actor.’

After one more audition, Antonioni did trust him, and Hemmings went on to play his most famous role – the ‘swinging’, hip fashion photographer, who discovers by accident that some photos he took seem to reveal a murder. The character was purposely based on David Bailey who in the mid-sixties was at the height of his fame. Even a scene where Hemmings buys a large old propellor in a junk shop was based on Bailey doing exactly that. At eight quid they even got the price right, much to Bailey’s shock when he was watching the film in New York with his new wife, Catherine Deneuve. Bailey was once asked whether his photo sessions ever got as sexy as the one between Hemmings and Veruschka. ‘When I was lucky,’ he replied.

A publicity still of Veruschka and Hemmings from Blow-Up.

A publicity still of Veruschka and Hemmings from Blow-Up.

Poster for Blow-Up, released in 1967.

Poster for Blow-Up, released in 1967.

The shoot for the film began in April 1966 and wherever the filmmakers went they left their mark on London. Antonioni thought the roads were a bit grey in Woolwich and had them painted black, and it was said that even pigeons were dyed so they were just the right sort of pigeons. The Rolls-Royce, once owned by Jimmy Savile, was originally white and the director had that re-sprayed to black. Antonioni once talked of his fastidious attention to detail: ‘When I was making Blow-Up there was a lot of discussion about the fact that I had a road and a building painted. Antonioni paints the grass, people said. To some degree, all directors paint and arrange or change things on a location, and it amused me that so much was made of it in my case.’

Most people thought that Antonioni was only up to his old particular ways when they watched Hemmings drive his Rolls Royce down a long terrace of Victorian and Edwardian buildings, all painted entirely red. The buildings, however, really were that colour and were made up of dozens of properties all owned by the motorcycle spares company, Pride and Clarke, and every one painted red.

The company was founded in 1920 by John Pride and Alfred Clarke and was based on the Stockwell Road for over sixty years. In its heyday the showrooms of ‘Snide and Shark’, as they were occasionally called, took up a huge stretch of the road and if the Guinness Book of records had ever been interested in motorbike spares’ counters, they would have featured Pride and Clarke’s because it was the longest in the world. With about 2000 new motorbikes on display plus a good selection of traded-in second hand machines in their showrooms, on a Saturday afternoon, around the time Blow-Up was being made, thousands of bikers from all over the country would congregate outside the bright-red Pride and Clarke shopfronts.

3. Pride and Clarke Mortons Archive copy 2

Inside the Pride and Clark shop on the Stockwell Road, c.1964.

The contemporary press releases for Blow-Up made sure that attention was made to ‘the swinging world of fashion, dolly girls, pop groups, beat clubs, models and parties’ and one of the best lines in the film is when David Hemmings says to Veruschka at a party: ‘I thought you were meant to be in Paris!’ to which she stonily replies, ‘I am in Paris.’ The 26-year-old Veruschka, or Countess Vera Gottliebe Anna Gräfin von Lehndorff-Steinort, to give her full name, was an extremely tall German model, born just before the start of the war in East Pussia. Her father was said to have fainted when the extraordinarily long baby was born, but Veruschka hardly got to know him, as he was executed five years later for his part in the July Assassination Plot against Hitler in 1944. Around the time the film was released she told the press that she now wanted to be a proper actress: ‘I should like now to go into the movies,’ she said ‘but it is difficult – the men are so small.’ The experience of working with Hemmings must have scarred; he was eight or nine inches shorter than her six feet four.

The party scene was shot in a house next to the Thames on Cheyne Walk. Owned by the designer Christopher Gibbs, it was full of Moroccan cushions and medieval tapestries. Antonioni paid beautiful people to be extras at £30 each (easily over an average week’s wage in 1966), [6] essentially just to get trashed. Paul McCartney once said, ‘I remember the word around town was “There’s this guy who’s paying money for people to come and get stoned at some place in Chelsea. And of course in our crowd that spread like wildfire…Everyone was being paid, like blood donors, to smoke pot.”’

Kieran Fogarty, in Jonathan Green’s Days In The Life, remembered the filming of the party scene in Blow-Up: ‘I was flung into this bedroom in Cheyne walk…plonked on the front of this bed with about another nine people on it and Antonioni tossed a couple of kilo bags of grass on the bed and said, “Right, get on with it.” It took five days. It just went on and on…people would stumble out going “Yeeeaahhh” and go gibbering back. Most of swinging London was there, every deb that was halfway decent looking, and wild they were too. Outrageously dressed, superheavy make-up …’

1966: Two men enjoying a conversation with each other while attending a party at Chrisopher Gibbs' place. Photo by Terrence Spencer

1966: Two men enjoying a conversation with each other while attending a party at Chrisopher Gibbs’ place. Photo by Terrence Spencer

Frank Horvat 1965: Paris, photo test with Veruschka

Frank Horvat 1965: Paris, photo test with Veruschka

One of the reasons the party scene took so long to film was that Veruschka, most of the time, really was in Paris. She would phone the house every few hours saying ‘Tell Michelangelo that my taxi crash …’. Whoever picked up the phone would wander around the house saying ‘It’s Veruschka! Her taxi’s crashed, she’ll be here in five or six hours’. Despite the camera running for almost a week, the scene at the party ended up just 30 seconds long.

Michelangelo Antonioni, who in 1960 won the Special Jury Prize at Cannes with his film L’Avventura, wrote an article in that year’s December edition of Films and Filming entitled: Eroticism – The Disease of Our Age. He asked ‘Why are literature and the entertainment arts so thick with eroticism today? It is the more obvious symptom of an emotional sickness.’ Six years later, after deciding to take no notice of himself whatsoever, Blow-Up became known as the first British mainstream film to show pubic hair, not to mention naked teenage models (including the 19 year old wife of John Barry, Jane Birkin). Not that anyone noticed particularly, as all around the country the public were treated to a ‘censored’ version of the film, not because the British Board of Film Censors or the local authorities were trying to protect the public’s morals, but because the brief moments of nudity, in those more sheltered days, were being trimmed out by projectionists to add to their private collections.

David Hemmings in a scene from Blow-Up

David Hemmings in a scene from Blow-Up

The film was released in March 1967, just as most people, especially in the capital, were getting rather bored with the idea of ’swinging London’. The result of which was mostly bad reviews from the critics in Britain – Peter Evans in the Daily Express, after describing Hemmings, aptly, as ‘a depraved choirboy,’ wrote: ‘What many people believed was to be some kind of tribute to the vibrant pace-setters turns out to be no less than an epitaph.’ He finished by describing the film as: ‘an unpleasant orgy of self-glorification.’

In Europe and America it was often a different story. Richard Schickel in Life magazine wrote: ‘This movie seems to me one of the finest, most intelligent, least hysterical expositions of the modern existential agony we have yet had on film’. Most of the contemporary reviews talked about the nudity, but none about how Hemmings’ photographer treated the women he encountered. Much of it uncomfortable to watch these days. But it is an enjoyable museum piece that, at least, gives us a good glimpse of groovy sixties London from the eye of an outsider. Additionally, if you want to stop the film at the right moments, you can see, briefly, Michael Palin and a young Janet Street Porter dancing in stripy Carnaby Street trousers during the the Yardbirds nightclub scene.

Janet Street Porter as an extra in Blow-Up.

Janet Street Porter as an extra in Blow-Up.

Four months after Blow-Up was premiered at the London Pavilion, The Sexual Offences Act was made law in July 1967. It decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men, both of whom had to have attained the age of 21. Although the comments of Roy Jenkins, the Home Secretary at the time, captured the government’s attitude: ‘those who suffer from this disability carry a great weight of shame all their lives.’ Lord Arran, one of the original proposers of the bill, tried to minimise criticisms by making the qualification to what he called an ‘historic’ milestone: ‘I ask those [homosexuals] to show their thanks by comporting themselves quietly and with dignity … any form of ostentatious behaviour now or in the future or any form of public flaunting would be utterly distasteful …’

A few years later the motorcycle business started to change and during the seventies Japanese motorcycle companies such as Suzuki, Honda and Kawasaki took over from the old British and European marques. Alfred Clarke was an astute businessman (the nickname ‘shark’ wasn’t gained for nothing) and the Pride and Clarke firm was sold to Inchcape for about £3 million pounds in 1979.

Then and Now: The Stockwell Road in 2015 and 1977 the year that Sammy Hagar's 'Red Album' was released.

Then and Now: The Stockwell Road in 2015 and 1977 the year that Sammy Hagar’s ‘Red Album’ was released.

Before the company and the red paint were whitewashed from history, however, the striking red buildings of the Pride and Clarke showrooms had one more brush with fame. In 1977, the former Montrose vocalist Sammy Hagar was in London to record his second solo album at Abbey Road. Known to his fans, but to no one else, as the ‘Red Rocker’, someone at Capitol Records had the bright idea that the Pride and Clarke shops on the Stockwell Road were perfect for the cover of the so called Red Album. So as not to look too downmarket, he was told to stand next to an expensive American car, also coloured red. There is no record of what Sammy Hagar made of the Stockwell Road and there’s no record left of the ubiquitous Pride and Clarke shops. Unless you look very, very closely.


The Day the Traitors Burgess and Maclean Left Town

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Donald Duart Maclean and Guy Francis de Moncy Burgess

Guy Burgess woke at around 9.30 on the morning of Friday, 25 May 1951 in his untidy, musty-smelling bedroom. Next to his bed was an overflowing ashtray and lying on the floor was a half-read Jane Austen novel. Since his return from Washington DC three weeks previously, where he had been second secretary at the British embassy, he had been rising relatively late.

Burgess had left in disgrace, and at the British Ambassador’s behest, after several embarrassing incidents. These included being caught speeding at 80 mph three times in just one hour, pouring a plate of prawns into his jacket pocket and leaving them there for a week and perhaps more importantly, as far as his job was concerned, he was rather too casual with important and confidential papers. This wasn’t all, while in America he had been drunk nearly continuously and he was thoroughly disliked by most of the people with whom he came in contact.

Now back in London Burgess was living in a small three-roomed flat in Mayfair situated at Clifford Chambers, 10 New Bond Street and opposite Asprey the famous jewellers. The location was (and is of course) a very salubrious part of London.

In 1951, if for some reason you had been looking for an area in the world that was visually and politically diametrically opposed to anywhere in the Soviet Union, Bond Street would have been pretty high up on your list. Burgess, the infamous Eton and Cambridge-educated Soviet spy, coped with the irony with surprising ease at least until this Friday morning when his world suddenly turned upside down.

Clifford Chambers, 10 New Bond Street in Mayfair today.

Jack ‘Jacky’ Hewit

Not long after he had woken Burgess had been brought a cup of tea by his flatmate, and erstwhile lover, Jack Hewit. Known to to his friends as ‘Jacky’, Hewit was now a slightly over-weight office clerk but had once been a ballet and chorus dancer in the West End. They were now very close friends and had been sharing various flats in and around Mayfair for fourteen years. Hewit later wrote of that morning:

Guy lay back, reading a book and smoking, and he seemed normal and unworried. When I left the flat to go to my office, Guy said ‘See you later, Mop’ – that was his pet name for me. We intended to have a drink together that evening.

Burgess and Hewit’s flat on New Bond Street.

Not the most salubrious flat in Mayfair.

Burgess’s books he eventually left behind he took with him a volume of Jane Austen’s collected novels.

At the same time as Burgess was waking up, Donald Duart Maclean had already caught his usual train from Sevenoaks some two hours previously and was sitting at his desk in Whitehall. He was head of the American department at the Foreign Office in King Charles Street.

The job sounds important but care was already being made that it was of no operational significance. For several weeks now, along with three other suspects, Maclean had been under suspicion for leaking atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. In the last few days, however, the four had become just one.

Donald Maclean in 1935 aged 22

Two years younger than Burgess, Maclean was exactly 38 years old for it was his birthday and he had asked if he could take the next morning as leave (Saturday mornings were still worked by many civil-servants in the 1950s) so he could celebrate with family friends at home in Surrey.

Maclean was the son of one of the most illustrious Liberal families in the country. His father, Sir Donald Maclean, had first entered Parliament as the Liberal member for Bath in 1906 and was President of the Board of Education in the cabinet when he died in 1932.

At around 10-10.30 that morning a senior MI5 officer and the head of Foreign Office security were received by Mr Herbert Morrison, who had recently become Foreign Secretary, in his large office in Whitehall. After reading a few papers Morrison signed one of them. This gave MI5 permission to question Donald Maclean about links with the Soviet Union.

Herbert Morrison in 1951, his daughter gave birth to Peter Mandelson two years later

Both Maclean and Burgess knew something was wrong. A few days previously they had met for lunch. Originally intending to eat at the Reform club they found the dining room full and they walked to the nearby Royal Automobile Club along Pall Mall. Ostensibly they were meeting about a memorandum that Burgess had previously prepared about American policy in the Far East and the threat of McCarthyism, but on the way Maclean said:

I’m in frightful trouble. I’m being followed by the dicks.

He pointed out two men standing by the corner of the Carlton Club and said, “those are the people who are following me.” Burgess later described the two men:

There they were, jingling their coins in a policeman-like manner and looking embarrassed at having to follow a member of the upper classes.

London Reform Club, 104 Pall Mall in the fifties

Dining room at the Royal Automobile Club

At around the same time as the Herbert Morrison meeting in Whitehall, Burgess left his flat in New Bond Street. He had just received a telephone call from Western Union relaying a telegraph from Kim Philby in Washington about a car he had left behind in Washington. In reality it was a coded message that Maclean would be interrogated after the weekend.

Burgess hurried to the Green Park Hotel on Half Moon Street (a former town house in a terrace built in 1730 – the hotel is still there and is now known as the Hilton Green Park Hotel) just off Piccadilly and about ten minutes walk from his flat. At the hotel he met a young American student called Bernard Miller whom he had befriended on his journey back from the US on the Queen Mary. Burgess later described him as  - “an intelligent progressive sort of chap” .

They had a coffee in the hotel’s comfortable lounge and then went for a walk in nearby Green Park. They had previously planned a short trip to France and Burgess had already booked two tickets for a boat that sailed that night. They hadn’t been walking long before Burgess suddenly stopped, turned to his surprised American friend who had been animatedly chatting away about their trip, and said:

Sorry Bernard, I haven’t been listening, really. You see, a young friend at the Foreign Office is in serious trouble, and I have to help him out of it, somehow.

Burgess assured the shocked Miller that he would do everything he could to make their midnight channel-ferry but he couldn’t be definite until a few hours later.

By now it was just before midday and the American went back to his hotel and Burgess went to the Reform Club for a large whisky and a think about what was lying a head. After half an hour he asked the Porter to call Welbeck 3991 and ordered a hire-car for ten days.

While Burgess was slumped in a large corner armchair at his club Maclean left his office and walked up Whitehall and across Trafalgar Square to meet a couple of friends for lunch in Old Compton Street. They walked through a door which was part of a green facade with the heading ‘Oysters/WHEELER’s & Co./Merchants’ written along the top.

Cyril Connolly and Caroline Blackwood (soon to become Mrs Lucian Freud) outside Wheelers in 1951. Connolly, the writer and critic, was a friend of Burgess. Two days after Burgess returned to London he described Washington to Connolly: “Absolutely frightful because of Senator McCarthy. Terrible atmosphere. All these purges.”

In the early fifties Wheeler’s restaurant was a Soho institution. The owner was Bernard Walsh who started Wheeler’s in Soho in 1929 as a small retail oyster shop. Noticing how popular his oysters were in London’s top restaurants he bought a few tables and chairs and started serving them himself. By 1951, when Maclean and his friends visited for lunch, the restaurant featured a long counter on the left-hand side where a waiter or Walsh himself opened oysters at frightening speed.

There was a large menu which had thirty-two ways of serving sole and lobster but no vegetables save a few boiled potatoes. During post-war austerity when English food was at its dreariest and some of it still rationed, Wheeler’s seemed a luxury.

Francis Bacon with friends, including Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach at Wheeler’s in 1951/2

When Donald Maclean came out of Wheeler’s and turned left this would have been his view in 1951

The restaurant was very crowded on that particular Friday lunchtime and after sharing a dozen oysters and some chablis at the bar Maclean and his friends decided to eat the rest of their lunch elsewhere. Maclean seemed unconcerned and almost nonchalant as he and his friends walked up Greek Street, through Soho Square on to Charlotte Street where they had two further courses at a German restaurant called Schmidt’s situated at numbers 35-37.

This area of London was still known to most people then as North Soho. The name Fitzrovia would generally not be used for a decade or two and was named after the Fitzroy Tavern. Coincidentally ‘Fitzrovia’ was recorded in print for the first time by Tom Driberg, the independent and later Labour MP – and a close friend of Guy Burgess.

Most of the staff at Schmidt’s had been interned during the second world war which maybe explained why the waiters were infamously known as the rudest in the world. In the early 1950s the restaurant still served food using an old European restaurant custom where the waiters brought meals from the kitchen and only then sold them to the customers.

After his relatively long lunch Maclean said goodbye to his friends and gratefully accepted an offer that he could stay with them while his wife was in hospital having their baby.  She was only two weeks from having their third child and he said he’d call them in the following week to arrange the details.

The Welbeck Motors car hire form. Burgess writes his address as ‘Reform Club’.

While Maclean was having lunch Burgess called on Welbeck Motors at 7-9 Crawford Street half a mile or so north of Marble Arch to pick up his hire-car. It was an Austin A70 and was due to be returned on June 4th, ten days later. He paid £25 cash in advance – £15 for the hire of the car and £10 deposit.

Welbeck Motors became famous throughout the country ten years later when they created the first major fleet of mini-cabs. The fleet cost £560,000 and consisted of 800 Renault Dauphine cars that were being built in Acton at the time. Michael Gotla, the man behind the skillful publicity of Welbeck Motors, argued that the 1869 Carriage Act only applied to cabs that “plied for hire” on the street. He argued that his mini-cabs, could break the former black-cab monopoly because they only responded to calls phoned to their main office the number of which was WELBECK 0561.The fares, much to the chagrin of the traditional cabbies who charged far more, were only one shilling per mile .

The Renault Dauphine had the nickname “Widow-maker” due to its very unsafe cornering but the Welbeck Motors fleet of mini-cabs a huge success particularly to people who lived outside central London. The cars were also noticeable as the first to feature third-party advertisements on their bodywork,.

A Corgi model of a Welbeck Motors’ ‘widow-maker’ Renault complete with advertising

The Austin A70

Burgess drove the Austin down to Mayfair where he dropped into Gieve’s the tailors at number 27 Old Bond Street at around 3 pm. The two hundred year old company had only been at the premises for about ten years as the original flagship store a few doors down at number 21 had been destroyed by a German bomb in 1940.

Gieves and Hawkes, incidentally, now possibly the most famous bespoke tailoring name in the world, only merged in 1974 when Gieve’s Ltd bought out Hawkes enabling it to also acquire the valuable freehold of No. 1 Savile Row. The acquisition was good timing because Gieve’s flagship store in Old Bond Street was again destroyed by high-explosive not long after the merger, this time courtesy of the IRA. From 1975, number 1 Savile Row became Gieve’s and Hawkes which is where it is today.

Gieve’s after the IRA bomb in 1974

At Gieve’s, Burgess bought a ‘fibre’ suitcase and a white mackintosh and then went to meet Miller again. After a couple of drinks he dropped the young American back at his hotel telling him: “I’ll call for you at half-past seven.” Burgess didn’t, and Miller never saw him again.

After his relatively long lunch Maclean took a taxi down to the Traveller’s Club – the West End club that had long been associated with the Foreign Office. He had two drinks at the bar and cashed a cheque for five pounds which he did most weekends so it wouldn’t have seemed unusual. There wasn’t anyone at the club he knew and he returned to his office just after three.

Traveller’s Club at 106 Pall Mall

Burgess drove back to the flat where he met Hewit who had by now returned from his office. While they were talking the phone rang which Burgess quickly answered and made it clear that he was talking to Maclean. Visibly upset Burgess left the flat almost immediately and he was never to see Hewit again. He had time before leaving to grab £300 in cash and some saving certificates and packed some clothes and his treasured copy of Jane Austen’s collected novels in his new suitcase. He also asked to borrow Hewit’s overcoat.

Burgess was next seen at the Reform Club in Pall Mall where he asked for a road map of the North of England presumably to lay a false trail and from there he drove to Maclean’s home at Tatsfield in Surrey.

Maclean left the Foreign Office at exactly 4.45 and walked up Whitehall to Charing Cross Station joining the hurrying commuter crowd. The two Mi5 ‘dicks’ were of course still following him but it was only as far as the station where they made sure he got on his usual 5.19 train to Sevenoaks

The two friends arrived within half an hour of each other at Maclean’s house. Burgess was introduced to Melinda, Maclean’s wife, as Mr Roger Stiles – a business colleague. They all sat down for the birthday dinner at seven for which Melinda had cooked a special ham for the occasion. After the meal Maclean put a few things into a briefcase including a silk dressing gown and casually told his wife that he and ‘Stiles’ would have to go on a business trip but would not be away for more than a day.

Melinda Maclean leaving hospital in June after the birth of her baby. She once wrote to her sister saying: “Donald is still pretty confused and vague about himself, and his desires, but I think when he gets settled he will find a new security and peace. I hope so…He is still going to R. (the psychiatrist), however, and is definitely better. She is still baffled about the homosexual side which comes out when he’s drunk, and I think slight hostility in general, to women.”

With Burgess at the wheel of the cream-coloured Austin A70 hire-car they set off for Southampton at around 9 pm. Their destination was Southampton 100 miles away. The cross-channel ferry ‘Falaise’, for which Burgess had his previously bought tickets, was due to leave for St Malo at midnight. They made it with just minutes to spare and after abandoning the Austin on the quayside they ran up the gangway almost as it was being raised. A dock worker called at them: “What about your car?” Burgess shouted: “I’m back on Monday.”

The ship that Burgess and Maclean took to St Malo

He wasn’t of course and Burgess and Maclean never set foot in Britain again. It wasn’t until five years later that Krushchev admitted that the two traitors were now living in the Soviet Union. Burgess, who perhaps unsurprisingly didn’t really enjoy the Soviet lifestyle, continued to order his suits from Savile Row. In 1963 he died of chronic liver failure due to alcoholism.

Maclean found it far easier than his spying partner to assimilate into the Soviet system and became a respected citizen. He died of a heart attack in 1983.

Burgess sunbathing in Russia and making the best of a place he hated.

Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel was written in 1952, the year after Burgess and Maclean’s defection. In it, James Bond has a rare crisis of confidence:

This country-right-or-wrong business is getting a little out-of-date,” he says, “Today we are fighting Communism. Okay. If I’d been alive fifty years ago, the brand of Conservatism we have today would have been damn near called Communism and we should have been told to go and fight that. History is moving pretty quickly these days and heroes and villains keep on changing parts.

The ‘Third Man’ Kim Philby at a press conference in 1955 after he had been accused in Parliament of being an associate of Burgess and Maclean. He shows the confidence and extraordinary charm that enabled him to keep undercover for so long. He defected to Russia from Beirut in 1963 and died in 1988 of heart failure. While in the Soviet Union he had an affair with Melinda Maclean.

The ‘Fourth Man’ Anthony Blunt being interviewed by Richard Dimbleby as the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures. Blunt was one of the first people to search Burgess’s flat after he had absconded enabling him to remove any incriminatory material.

Obviously not documents considered ‘incriminatory’ by Anthony Blunt but these drawings of Lenin and Stalin by Burgess were left behind in the flat at New Bond Street after he had fled to Russia