Imagine making a classic spy film like From Russia with Love and in the closing sequence the tall, leggy, dazzlingly attractive girl disappears into the sunset in a speedboat not with Sean Connery but with a shortish, dull- looking man who resembles an old-fashioned bank manager. Not a recipe for box-office appeal, obviously. But that is the real likeness of a spy, or was, according to a file recently released from the National Archives in Kew concerning the recruitment of spies during the Second World War.
The file indicated that MI5 had problems recruiting spooks who were sufficiently unglamorous; the qualification was to be about 5ft 7ins, look anonymous in an old cap and be good at remaining stationary in all weathers, eavesdropping. Not a recipe for an exciting film, one must confess. How lucky for cinema-goers that film-makers have never been constrained by anything as boring as reality.Reuse content