Hollywood on the Potomac: I Spy

by Editorial

The son of former CIA director William Colby explores his father’s covert life on film.
By Janet Donovan

Documentary filmmaker Carl Colby. (Janet Donovan).

Carl Colby was an ordinary kid leading an extraordinary life; only he didn’t know that then – as children often don’t. Colby is the son of former CIA Director William Colby, who lived a mysterious life and who died, according to some, a mysterious death.

In his documentary film “The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father,” Colby explores his idyllic childhood in Italy, his later realization that his dad was a CIA operative, and the destruction of his family via political scandal, divorce and, ultimately, the unusual circumstances surrounding his father’s death by drowning. Some may call it a spy novel, except it’s all true.

“This is the story about a man who took on the toughest, dirtiest assignments ever given out by a president. My dad did those jobs until he could do no more,” Colby says.

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“It’s a cautionary tale; it’s a morality tale.

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My mother keeps my father to a very high moral standard and they kind of compete for the high moral ground.

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But ultimately, he’s a soldier.

“It’s a strange world. You’re asking very talented men and women to ask other people to betray their country. You’re asking them to do illegal things in other countries where they could be picked up, arrested, prosecuted, held in jail and they never get any accolades. There are no parades for CIA officers.”

To swipe a line from Art Buchwald, Colby adds: “I’ll always have Italy.”

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