From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

Swinging Lebanon in 1960s spy caper films

vlcsnap-2014-04-21-13h31m26s23vlcsnap-2014-04-29-21h21m27s182David Niven, Ann Margret, Laurence Harvey, David Hemmings, Richard Attenborough — all cavorted briefly through Lebanon in the 1960s when it was a glossy, self-consciously exotic setting for sub-Bond spy films or spy spoofs.  None of the films are all that memorable.  But like the many films that were set in and tried to exploit the Swinging Sixties in London, they now have a touch of melancholy that gives them a texture and weight they lacked at the time they were made.

  vlcsnap-2014-04-20-16h33m09s0 A white e-type snakes through Beirut… Ann Margret at the wheel… vlcsnap-2014-04-29-21h23m15s238David Hemmings and Richard Attenborough take a jeep up into the mountains above Jubail to plan their light as gossamer caper to defraud a bank using only Attenborough’s dodgy Arab accent and Hemmings’ not yet used up golden boy glow from Blow Up…vlcsnap-2014-04-29-21h23m49s66 vlcsnap-2014-04-20-16h31m34s63vlcsnap-2014-04-20-16h30m44s89    At Pepe’s Fishing Club in Byblos, a legendary hangout for the stars in the 1960s, Laurence Harvey’s mind is clearly boggled by the concept of the Lebanese mezze… while Ann Margret smiles knowingly as fishing boats jig in the tiny harbour… vlcsnap-2014-04-20-16h14m14s166

the St Georges

still intact…


a tram trundles through Beirut… the markets look like Jerusalem or Cairo..still colonial looking policemen are on patrol… the only woman with her hair covered is wearing a diaphanous scarf…

vlcsnap-2014-04-20-16h16m12s74a spectacular rooftop swimming pool looking out over what was the St Georges Bay…

vlcsnap-2014-04-20-16h18m06s182the back of the head of a spy as he takes a helicopter ride over what was then the most modern and dynamic skyline in the Arab world


There is really no need to say anything else… no need to put pictures of what it all became and what it is now… these undemanding light vehicles for middle-ranking stars — seeking a little water-skiing in the morning, skiing in the afternoon and a pay check — are now a tiny epitaph of their own… as much as the black and white newspaper cuttings in Pepe’s of Marlon or Sophia in their pomp


( the stills are taken from Only When I Larf, Rebus, Where The Spies Are and Secret Agent Fireball )


  1. thanks for the question — I will put the names of the films into the post — but let me give them to you now too — the one with hemmings and attenborough is called Only When I Larf — the one with laurence harvey and ann margret is called Rebus — and the one with David Niven is Where The Spies Are


  2. lara

    oh ! these photos bring back so much memories … i love byblos , the city of life …. thanks for posting . have a great weekend ahead .


  3. lara

    how nice! can’t wait to here your story 🙂 the weather here is really cold , so i’m spending the afternoon making date maamoul 🙂 have a great sunday 🙂


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