|On the Fiddle|
Original UK quad size poster
|Directed by||Cyril Frankel|
|Produced by||Benjamin Fisz|
|Screenplay by||Harold Buchman|
|Based on||Stop at a Winner|
by R.F. Delderfield
|Starring||Sean Connery |
|Music by||Malcolm Arnold|
|Edited by||Peter Hunt|
|Distributed by||Anglo Amalgamated (UK)|
American International Pictures (USA)
On the Fiddle (released as Operation Snafu and Operation War Head in the United States) is a 1961 British comedy film directed by Cyril Frankel and starring Sean Connery, Alfred Lynch, Cecil Parker, Stanley Holloway, Eric Barker, Mike Sarne, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Kathleen Harrison, Victor Maddern and John Le Mesurier. It was based on the 1961 novel Stop at a Winner by R.F. Delderfield who served in the RAF in World War II.
During the Second World War, spiv Horace Pope is taken to court for street peddling. In mitigation, he tells the judge he is only working in the black market while waiting to enlist in the war effort. On hearing this plea, the judge calls his bluff and forces him to sign up.
Pope joins the RAF. Very quickly, he makes friends with the easy going, but loyal, Pedlar Pascoe who happily goes along with all of his scams, which mainly involve taking money for leave passes and for organising postings close to home. The pair do their utmost to make a bit on the side and avoid being sent into action.
Their record eventually catches up with them, but by that time they've been being sent on a mission to occupied France, where they continue their scams, selling food and supplies to the grateful newly-liberated French.
They unexpectedly become heroes, after killing a group of German soldiers who had them pinned down in a forest. They are decorated by the American forces, to whom they've been attached, and their commanding officer (who has a sneaking admiration for their schemes), tears up their record of crimes.
- Alfred Lynch as Horace Pope
- Sean Connery as Pedlar Pascoe
- Cecil Parker as Group Captain Bascombe
- Stanley Holloway as Cooksley
- Alan King as Technical Sergeant Buzzer
- Eric Barker as Doctor
- Wilfrid Hyde-White as Trowbridge
- Kathleen Harrison as Mrs Cooksley
- Beatrix Lehmann as Lady Edith
- Eleanor Summerfield as Flora McNaughton
- Miriam Karlin as WAAF Sergeant
- Terence Longdon as Air Gunner
- Victor Maddern as First Airman
- Harry Locke as Huxtable
- John Le Mesurier as Hixton
- Viola Keats as Sister
- Peter Sinclair as Mr Pope
- Edna Morris as Lil
- Thomas Heathcote as Sergeant
- Brian Weske as Corporal
- Jack Lambert as Police Constable
- Cyril Smith as Ticket Collector
- Simon Lack as Flight Lieutenant Baldwin
- Graham Stark as Sergeant Ellis
- Jean Aubrey as WAAF Corporal
- Jack Smethurst as Dai Tovey
- Priscilla Morgan as Gwynneth Tovey
- Richard Hart as P.O. Trumper
- Ian Whittaker as Lancing
- Stuart Saunders as Sarge
- Monty Landis as Conductor
- Kenneth J. Warren as Dusty
- Neil Hallett as 1st Australian
- Patsy Rowlands as Evie
- Bill Owen as Corporal Gittens
- Harold Goodwin as Corporal Reeves
- Barbara Windsor as Mavis
- Toni Palmer as Ivy
- Ann Beach as Iris
- Gary Cockrell as U.S. Snowdrop
- Michael Sarne as German Officer
The film was adapted by Harold Buchman from the 1961 novel Stop at a Winner by R. F. Delderfield who served in the RAF during World War II.
The film was not released in the United States until 21 May 1965, retitled "Operation Snafu" and later "Operation War Head" by the US distributor American International Pictures. The only purpose of the US release was to capitalise on the popularity of Sean Connery, who by then had become world-famous as James Bond in Dr No, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. The titles, as well as the advertising campaign, downplayed the comedic aspects of the film as well as Connery's original second-billing. During a 1961 trip to England Alan King made a brief appearance in the film and forgot about it until the American release gave him second billing. He and Connery would work together again on The Anderson Tapes.
Reviewing the film in The New York Times, following its 1965 US release, Howard Thompson noted that the release was "an obvious cash-in" on Connery's popularity as James Bond, but found it, "a friendly little wartime comedy from England." He wrote that, "The wonder is that a picture with a story already done, gag by gag, a hundred times is so easy to take. It is, though — flip, friendly, brisk and a wee bit cynical in its take-it-or-leave-it jauntiness", and concluded that, "The film is familiar and trifling, but it's perky."
- IMDb: On the Fiddle (1961) - Release Info Linked 2014-08-10
- pp. 138-169 Chase, Chris Name Dropping Simon and Schuster, 4 Sep. 1997
- New York Times, 22 May 1965: Screen: 'Operation Snafu': Comedy and New Stage Show at Paramount Re-linked 2014-08-10