The Tamarind Seed
|The Tamarind Seed|
|Directed by||Blake Edwards|
|Screenplay by||Blake Edwards|
|Based on||The Tamarind Seed|
by Evelyn Anthony
|Produced by||Ken Wales|
|Edited by||Ernest Walter|
|Music by||John Barry|
|Box office||$8 million (US/Canada)|
$5 million (rest of world)
The Tamarind Seed is a 1974 American-British drama romance thriller film written and directed by Blake Edwards and starring Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif. Based on the 1971 novel The Tamarind Seed by Evelyn Anthony, the film is about a British Home Office functionary and a Soviet era attaché who are lovers involved in Cold War intrigue. The Tamarind Seed was the first film produced by Lorimar Productions. The film score was composed by John Barry.
After a failed love affair with a married man, British Home Office assistant, attractive Judith Farrow meets handsome Soviet attaché Colonel Sverdlov while on vacation in Barbados, but their budding personal relationship does not go unnoticed by British Intelligence. Judith is enchanted by a story that the seeds of a tamarind tree on a certain plantation take the form of the head of a slave hanged from a tamarind, a tale mocked by Sverdlov. Returning to London, Judith finds a surprise gift from Sverdlov: an envelope containing a tamarind seed.
Convinced Sverdlov is recruiting Judith to be a spy, British Intelligence Officer Jack Loder has his hands full with a clandestine Russian spy, code-named ‘Blue’, when he learns his assistant, George MacLeod, is having an affair with the wife of a British diplomat, Fergus Stephenson, who is a conduit of state secrets. Loder cautions Judith who is to contact him if she hears from Sverdlov.
Meanwhile Sverdlov, assigned to the Soviet Embassy in Paris, suspects his boss, Soviet General Golitysn distrusts him and insists Judith can be recruited as a spy, a story he shares with Judith when he visits her in London. Amidst drumbeat of suspicions on the cusp of betrayal and blackmail a gaggle of real and possible double-agents abound in a tangled web amidst a budding Sverdlov-Judith love story that could also be a ruse.
Sverdlov pleads with General Golitsyn for more time to recruit demure Judith, a ploy that’s wearing thin with the suspicious General. Sverdlov steals the ‘Blue’ file, his bargaining chip with London to get asylum in Canada and he finagles a romantic stop in Barbados where he’s to meet Judith. Sverdlov eludes an assassination attempt by General Golitsyn’s agents at London Airport and meets Judith in Barbados where they are sequestered in a beachside bungalow rife with unrequited love. But the General is hot on his tail and jets a group of Soviet agents disguised as wealthy businessmen on holiday to attack the bungalow with napalm, an explosive bullet-riddled event that reportedly kills Sverdlov, destroys the ‘Blue’ file and traumatizes Judith who narrowly escapes with her life.
Loder now knows ‘Blue’ is Fergus Stephenson, a double-agent he can now manipulate. Loder meets convalescing shell-shocked Judith in Barbados where he divulges that newspaper accounts of Sverdlov’s death were a false cover; seconds before the explosion Sverdlov was whisked away to Canada. Her doubts dissolve when Loder gives her an envelope that contains a tamarind seed. In a bucolic Canadian mountain valley Judith and Sverdlov share a lovers' embrace.
- Julie Andrews as Judith Farrow
- Omar Sharif as Feodor Sverdlov
- Anthony Quayle as Jack Loder
- Dan O'Herlihy as Fergus Stephenson
- Sylvia Syms as Margaret Stephenson
- Oskar Homolka as General Golitsyn
- Bryan Marshall as George MacLeod
- David Baron as Richard Paterson
- Celia Bannerman as Rachel Paterson
- Roger Dann as Col. Moreau
- Sharon Duce as Sandy Mitchell
- George Mikell as Maj. Stukalov
- Kate O'Mara as Anna Skriabina
- Constantine Gregory as Dimitri Memenov
- John Sullivan as 1st KGB Agent
- Terence Plummer as 2nd KGB Agent
- Leslie Crawford as 3rd KGB Agent
- Alexei Jawdokimov as Igor Kalinin
- Janet Henfrey as Embassy Section Head
"This is a nice film," said Andrews, "It's just right for my comeback."
Lew Grade said the film "did fairly well" at the box office but claims that he struggled to make much money from it because Edwards and Andrews took such a large percentage of the profits (Andrews 10% of the gross, Edwards 5%). This was common practice for a top-billed star and writer/director.
In a 1974 review in Movietone News, Kathleen Murphy wrote that the film was a good example of the concept of "the community of two" against the backdrop of complex international forces waging a cold war. Murphy writes:
Characteristically, the last bastion of stability and decency resides in the community of two, lovers whose loyalty and commitment to each other may momentarily transcend—but is ultimately and perfunctorily done in by—Cold War games. The games themselves have grown overly familiar and predictably nihilistic: means are expended to achieve ends that possess reality only to those unknown bookkeepers who keep track of the debits and assets of international espionage. ... The system kills—by moral attrition, or violently, physically—but always the abstraction of international security is best preserved by a terrible and wasteful expenditure of human resources. By debasing the moral coinage that allows men and women to deal with one another with even minimal trust or affection, the world is made safe for ... well, not people, but ... something.
Murphy concluded that The Tamarind Seed turns this genre of "the community of two" into the genuine article that "shifts and reshapes our thinking and feeling and seeing." In its place, a "new perception of reality" transcends the confines of the movie theater and makes its way into the "larger, less defined, and thus less understandable, territory of our lives."
- Champlin, Charles. (Apr 18, 1975). "CRITIC AT LARGE: Tide Turns for Blake Edwards". Los Angeles Times. p. 26a.
- Brenner, Paul. "The Tamarind Seed". AllMovie. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
- Lew Grade, Still Dancing: My Story, William Collins & Sons 1987 p 227
- NORMA LEE BROWNING. (Oct 8, 1972). "Energetic Julie Andrews Takes on TV". Chicago Tribune. p. n1.
- Hall, William. (July 1, 1973). "A Gee Rating for Julie in 'The Tamarind Seed': Gee Rating for Julie in 'Tamarind Seed'". Los Angeles Times. p. n1.
- "Locations for The Tamarind Seed". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 8, 2013.
- Norma Lee Browning. (Dec 6, 1973). "Richard Harris is 99 44/100% recovered". Chicago Tribune. p. c17.
- Murphy, Kathleen (September 1974). "A Community of Two: Blake Edwards's 'The Tamarind Seed'". Movietone News 35. Retrieved March 9, 2013.