Oh! What a Lovely War

Oh! What a Lovely War

Director: Richard Attenborough

Cast: Ralph Richardson, Meriel Forbes, Wensley Pithey

     
 

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Oh! What a Lovely War is an every-man-for-himself adaptation of Charles Chilton's 1963 play, as staged in London by Joan Littlewood. The tragedy of World War I is redefined in bawdy music-hall terms, beginning with a verbal free-for-all involving the Crowned Heads of Europe. The war is presented as the "new attraction" at the Brighton Amusement Pier, complete

Overview

Oh! What a Lovely War is an every-man-for-himself adaptation of Charles Chilton's 1963 play, as staged in London by Joan Littlewood. The tragedy of World War I is redefined in bawdy music-hall terms, beginning with a verbal free-for-all involving the Crowned Heads of Europe. The war is presented as the "new attraction" at the Brighton Amusement Pier, complete with syrupy cheer-up songs, shooting galleries, free prizes and a scoreboard toting up the dead. Throughout the proceedings, the camera concentrates on a middle-class family, whose five sons end up as cannon fodder. The final image is a veddy proper British picnic on a graveyard. Of the many fleeting satiric images parading past the camera, one of the most indelible is the sight of several generals playing leapfrog as the world all around them goes to hell in a handbasket. The awesome all-star cast includes Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Maggie Smith, John Gielgud, Michael Redgrave, Jack Hawkins, John Mills, Susannah York, Dirk Bogarde and Phyllis Calvert. We haven't seen this many Englishmen in one place since the last Wimbledon match. The whole affair was supervised by Richard Attenborough, making his directorial debut (a question: why was he up to the challenge of this musical extravaganza, yet seemed helpless in the face of 1985's A Chorus Line?).

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Filmed at the height of the Vietnam conflict, Oh! What a Lovely War is a strange, one-of-a-kind musical film. It is not for all tastes and definitely has its share of flaws: It drags at times, the mixture of styles does not always work, it can be too ironic by half, the revue-like nature of the source material does not always translate well to the screen, the parade of impressive British talent becomes obtrusive, and it is occasionally obscure. But it also is undeniably powerful and features individual sequences that linger in the memory long after the movie is over. Among these are the image of a toy merry-go-round with toy figures which becomes a live merry-go-round with live soldiers and then becomes live soldiers in too-real combat, or the sequence in which a proper English lady convincing young boys to join up for the effort suddenly becomes a tart duping boys into coming up on-stage. And few cinematic moments make as bold a statement as the end sequence, in which a child at a picnic asks what his Daddy did in the war. There is no answer, only the camera deliberately pulling back to reveal first one cross amid some poppies, then another cross, and then more until the viewer sees that the picnic is taking place in a cemetery that eventually fills the screen. In such sequences, director Richard Attenborough displays an impressive mastery of touch. If the film is not a complete success, it does contain individual moments that are exceptional.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/07/2006
UPC:
0097360690149
Original Release:
1969
Rating:
G
Source:
Paramount
Region Code:
1
Time:
2:24:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by director Lord Richard Attenborough; 3-part documentary: Welcome to World War I; The Smith family album; Keep the home fires burning

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Ralph Richardson Sir Edward Grey
Meriel Forbes Lady Grey
Wensley Pithey Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Ruth Kettlewell Duchess Sophie
Ian Holm President Poincare
John Gielgud Count Berchtold
Kenneth More Kaiser Wilhelm II
Paul Daneman Nicholas II
Joe Melia Photographer
Jack Hawkins Emperor Franz Josef
Kim Smith Dickie Smith
Mary Wimbush Mary Smith
Paul Shelley Jack Smith
Wendy Allnutt Flo Smith
John Rae Grandpa Smith
Corin Redgrave Bertie Smith
Colin Farrell Harry Smith
Maurice Roeves George Smith
Angela Thorne Betty Smith
John Mills Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig
Jean-Pierre Cassel French Colonel
Maggie Smith Music Hall Star
David Lodge Recruiting Sergiant
Michael Redgrave General Sir Henry Wilson
Laurence Olivier Field Marshal Sir John French
Peter Gilmore Private Burgess
Juliet Mills First Nurse At Station
Nanette Newman Second Nurse At Station
Susannah York Eleanor
Dirk Bogarde Stephen
Cecil Parker Sir John
Robert Flemyng Staff Officer
Isabel Dean Sir John French's Lady
Guy Middleton Gen. Sir. Wm. Robertson
Natasha Parry Sir Wm. Robertson's Lady
Norman Shelley Staff Officer
Thorley Walters Staff Officer
Phyllis Calvert Lady Haig
Vanessa Redgrave Sylvia Pankhurst
Clifford Mollison First Heckler
Harry Locke Third Heckler
Michael Bates Drunken Corporal
Vincent Ball Australian Singer
Gerald Sim Clergyman
Dorothy Reynolds Second Heckler
John Clements Actor
Marianne Stone 2nd Mill Girl

Technical Credits
Richard Attenborough Director,Producer
Don Ashton Production Designer
Ron Ballanger Special Effects
Douglas Campbell Consultant/advisor
Kevin Connor Editor
Len Deighton Producer,Screenwriter
Brian Duffy Producer
Eleanor Fazan Choreography
Stuart Freeborn Makeup
Peter Handford Sound/Sound Designer
Simon Kaye Sound/Sound Designer
Anthony Mendleson Costumes/Costume Designer
Peter James Set Decoration/Design
Alfred Ralston Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Gerry Turpin Cinematographer
Harry White Art Director

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Oh! What a Lovely War
1. The Players [:10]
2. Declaration Of War [8:05]
3. The Smith Family [:20]
4. Glorious Army [7:31]
5. Join the Forces [:24]
6. The New Recruits [5:36]
7. Waiting For Orders [2:03]
8. Christmas Truce [6:09]
9. Oh! It's a Lovely War [3:23]
10. Gas Mishap [5:33]
11. Army Ball [2:27]
12. Just One More Battle [2:57]
13. In Vain [4:44]
14. Song For the Soliders [:55]
15. Reinforcements [7:04]
16. No More a Mortal Sin [7:11]
17. War Of Attrition [3:12]
18. Attacks and Counterattacks [1:58]
19. The Yanks Are Coming [6:23]
20. Smith Family Reunion [7:52]

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