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Oh! What a Lovely War (1969, John Gielgud, Dirk Bogarde)



Richard Attenborough’s first movie as director is an uneven yet inspired antiwar movie, based on the highly popular 1963 Joan Littlewood stage production, set to music and presented as a series of vignettes of events from World War I. Many of the musical sketches are impressive, but there are slow moments as well. The satire of man’s fascination with war has sufficient bite.

According to the Oxford Companion to Film… ‘it employed a deliberately non-naturalistic style to present a panoramic history of the First World War, built around popular songs of the time. The enormous cast was largely made up of major stars whose individual contributions were small. Star-studded and lavishly produced, the film lacked the sharpness of the original with its bitter humour. It was, however, a striking commercial success.’ In 1977 a New York review said… ‘this musical lampoon is meant to stir your sentiments, evoke nostalgia, and make you react to the obscenity of battles and bloodshed, and apparently it does all that for some people.’

The script was by thriller writer Len Deighton of all people.

production details
UK | Paramount – Accord | 138 minutes | 1969

Writer: Len Deighton
Stage show: Joan Littlewood, Charles Chilton
Director: Richard Attenborough
Cinematography: Gerry Turpin
Musical Director: Alfred Ralston
Production Design: Don Ashton

Joe Melia as The Photographer
Ron Pember as Corporal
Marianne Stone as Mill Girl
John Gabriel as Nikolai Lenin (uncredited)
Vincent Ball as Australian Soldier
Michael Bates as Drunk Lance Corporal
Gerald Sim as Chaplain
Harry Locke as Heckler
Cecil Parker as Sir John
Wensley Pithey as Archduke Ferdinand (uncredited)
Thorley Walters as Staff Officer
Corin Redgrave as Bertie Smith
Nanette Newman as Nurse
Vanessa Redgrave as Sylvia Pankhurst
Edward Fox as Aide to Field-Marshal Haig
Michael Redgrave as Gen. Sir Henry Wilson
John Gielgud as Count Leopold Von Berchtold
Dirk Bogarde as Stephen
Maggie Smith as Music Hall Star
Phyllis Calvert as Lady Dorothy Haig
John Rae as Grandpa Smith
Robert Flemyng as Staff Officer in Gassed Trench
Jeremy Child as Wealthy Young Man (uncredited)
Derek Newark as Shooting Gallery Proprietor
John Clements as Gen. von Moltke
Kenneth More as Kaiser Wilhelm II
Norman Shelley as Staff Officer in Ballroom
Jack Hawkins as Emperor Franz Josef
John Mills as Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig
Angela Thorne as Elizabeth May ‘Betty’ Smith
Penelope Allen as Solo Chorus Girl
Stanley McGeagh as Soldier in Gassed Trench (uncredited)
Maurice Roeves as George Smith
Fanny Carby as Mill Girl
Norman Bird as Training Sgt (uncredited)
Laurence Olivier as Field Marshal Sir John French
Ian Holm as President Poincare
Juliet Mills as Nurse
Jean-Pierre Cassel as French Colonel
Ralph Richardson as Sir Edward Grey
Susannah York as Eleanor
Paul Daneman as Czar Nicholas II
Guy Middleton as Gen. Sir William Robertson
Wendy Allnutt as Florence Victoria ‘Flo’ Smith
Colin Farrell as Harry Arnold Smith
Malcolm McFee as Frederick Percy ‘Freddie’ Smith
Paul Shelley as Jack Henry Smith
Kim Smith as Richard ‘Dickie’ Smith
Mary Wimbush as Mary Emma Smith
John Owens as Seamus Moore
Pia Colombo as Estaminet Singer
Isabel Dean as Sir John French’s Lady
Christian Doermer as Fritz
Natasha Parry as Sir William Robertson’s Lady
Anthony Ainley as 3rd Aide
Geoffrey Davies as Aide to Haig
Peter Gilmore as Pte Burgess
Ben Howard as Pte Garbett
Norman Jones as Scottish Soldier
Angus Lennie as Scottish Soldier
Paddy Joyce as Irish Soldier
Christine Noonan as Mill Girl (uncredited)
Clifford Mollison as Heckler
Richard Davies as Sergeant in Burial Party (uncredited)
Stanley Lebor as Soldier (uncredited)
Jane Seymour as Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Meriel Forbes as Lady Pamela Grey
David Lodge as Recruiting Sergeant at Music Hall
Maurice Arthur as Soldier Singer at Chaplain’s Address
Freddie Ascott as ‘Whizzbang’ Soldier
Cecilia Darby as Sir Henry Wilson’s Lady
George Ghent as Heckler at Pankhurst Speech
Dorothy Reynolds as Heckler at Pankhurst Speech
John Trigger as Officer at Railway Station
Kathleen Wileman as Emma Smith – Age 4
Pamela Abbott as Czarina Alexandra (uncredited)
Charlotte Attenborough as Emma Smith – Age 8 (uncredited)
Roy Beck as American GI (uncredited)
Annie Bee as Girl Friend in ‘Goodbyee’ (uncredited)
Joanne Brown as Singer (uncredited)
Christopher Cabot as Soldier in Shell Hole (uncredited)
Frank Coda as Soldier in ‘Goodbyee’ (uncredited)
Ambrose Coghill as His Father (uncredited)
Stella Courtney as Poincaré’s Lady (uncredited)
Sheila Cox as Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Elizabeth Craven as Kaiserin Augusta (uncredited)
John Dunn-Hill as Irish Soldier (uncredited)
Ray Edwards as 3rd Staff Officer in Ballroom (uncredited)
Charles Farrell as Policeman (uncredited)
Hermione Farthingale as Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Frank Forsyth as President Woodrow Wilson (uncredited)
Joyce Franklin as Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Zeph Gladstone as Sir John’s Chauffeuse (uncredited)
Ruth Gower as General von Moltke’s Lady (uncredited)
Kim Grant as Soldier in ‘Goodbyee’ (uncredited)
Carole Gray as Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Paul Hansard as German Officer (uncredited)
Kathleen Helme as Berchtold’s Lady (uncredited)
Richard Howard as Young Soldier at Mons (uncredited)
John Hussey as Soldier on Balcony (uncredited)
Dinny Jones as Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Lind Joyce as Scoreboard Girl (uncredited)
Dolores Judson as Haig’s Girlfriend (uncredited)
Ruth Kettlewell as Duchess Sophie (uncredited)
Delia Linden as Chorus Girl (uncredited)
Richard Loring as Soldier in ‘Goodbyee’ (uncredited)
Tom Marshall as Soldier in ‘Goodbyee’ (uncredited)
Isabelle Metcalfe as Girl Friend in ‘Goodbyee’ (uncredited)
Jenny Morgan as Girl Friend in ‘Goodbyee’ (uncredited)
Anthony Morton as Italian Military Attaché (uncredited)
Steve Plytas as Turkish Military Attaché (uncredited)
Andrew Robertson as 2nd Scottish Soldier (uncredited)
Sue Robinson as Chorus Girl (uncredited)
David Scheuer as French Soldier (uncredited)
Valerie Smith as Girl Friend in ‘Goodbyee’ (uncredited)
Guy Standeven as American Officer (uncredited)
Pippa Steel as Scoreboard Girl (uncredited)
P.G. Stephens as Irish Soldier (uncredited)
Tony Thawnton as Officer on Telephone (uncredited)
Christian Thorogood as Irish Soldier (uncredited)
Brian Tipping as 4th Scottish Soldier (uncredited)
Bette Vivian as Heckler at Pankhurst Speech (uncredited)
Tony Vogel as German Soldier (uncredited)
Arthur White as Sergeant in Dugout (uncredited)
Michael Wolf as German Officer (uncredited)
John Woodnutt as British Officer (uncredited)
Julia Wright as Haig’s Secretary (uncredited)
Mary Yeomans as Scoreboard Girl (uncredited)