Main content

Toffs, Queers and Traitors: The Extraordinary Life of Guy Burgess

A Storyville documentary. How the most celebrated spy ring of the 20th century grew out of the class system, sexual hypocrisy and the incompetence of some people who ran Britain.

It was a scandal that shook the British establishment to its roots. In June 1951, the government was forced to admit that two Foreign Office diplomats had disappeared. One of them, Donald Maclean, had slipped through their fingers three days before he was due to be questioned for passing secrets to the Russians. The other, Guy Burgess, was a total surprise. He was a charming, clever Etonian, with powerful friends everywhere. And lovers too - at a time when homosexuality was illegal, Burgess made no secret of his sexual tastes. He turned out to be the most flamboyant of a ring of privileged Cambridge students who had secretly joined the Communists in the 1930s, disgusted by their own government's policy of appeasing Hitler.

With the help of newly declassified documents, George Carey's film shows how the most celebrated spy ring of the 20th century grew out of the class system, sexual hypocrisy and the sheer incompetence of some people who then ran Britain.

15 days left to watch

1 hour, 25 minutes

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    Nat King Cole

    Unforgettable

  • 00:01

    Sarband

    I Gnossienne

  • 00:03

    Alan Price

    I'm A Gambler

  • 00:10

    Julian Bream

    Tres Piezas Espanolas: Passacaglia

  • 00:54

    Cisco Houston & Woody Guthrie

    Worried Man Blues

  • 01:24

    Erik Satie

    Lent

  • 01:27

    George Frideric Handel

    Zadok The Priest

  • 01:28

    Nat King Cole

    Unforgettable

Credits

Role Contributor
Director George Carey
Producer Teresa Cherfas

Broadcasts

Featured in...