Top film critic was Soviet spy

Cedric Belfrage passed secrets during the Cold War.

by Jennie Kermode

Spies at work in North By Northwest
Spies at work in North By Northwest

He was the lead film critic at the Daily Express and spent an extensive period in Hollywood working for the New York Sun before moving on to work with MI6, but newly released files in the National Archive have revealed that Cedric Belfrage was a spy. Over the course of three years he passed secret documents to the Soviet Union, but he was never prosecuted - partly because MI5 couldn't prove he had intended harm, and partly because of fears that his popularity could lead to more people sympathising with the other side.

Belfrage, who died in 1990, said that he had always sympathsed with the poor and had been uncomfortable about the wealth inequality he saw in Hollywood. He was deported from the US in 1955 after Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee found that he had once been a secret member of the Communist Party. According to experts, Soviet intelligence services considered Belfrage more valuable than fellow double agent Kim Philby, but Belfrage argued that he had only given them files of minor importance in an attempt to get access to important files of theirs which might help MI6. He subsequently moved to Cuba and eventually settled in Mexico.

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