Cast & Crew
One winter night at a regiment headquarters in the Scottish highlands, temporary commander Major Jock Sinclair orders his pipers to play and his men to join him in drinking. An up-from-the-ranks officer, Jock led the regiment in World War II and has earned their affection despite his crudeness and penchant for whiskey. After Cpl. Piper Ian Fraser finishes entertaining the rowdy, drunken crowd, he secretly meets his girl friend, Jock's daughter Morag, who wants to conceal their relationship from her father because she believes he is not prepared to accept her involvement with a member of his regiment. As Morag leaves the barracks, older Pipe Major Maclean cautions Morag that Jock will be outraged if he finds her at the barracks. Back in the mess room, Jock announces that tomorrow he will be replaced by Lt. Col. Basil Barrow, an Oxford educated officer and descendant of several of the regiment's previous commanding officers. As the night wears on, Jock and his men are raucously celebrating with whiskey and dance when Basil, who is not expected until the next morning, suddenly arrives and surprises them. Jock introduces Basil to the men and learns from the new commander that he had been a prisoner of war, like himself, during World War II. Late that night, Jock drunkenly complains to his close friend, second-in-command Major Charles Scott, about his replacement, who had only a desk job before his new assignment. Soon after, Jock comes across Fraser and, in jest, asks whether or not his "intentions are honorable" with his girl, not realizing that he is asking about Morag. Shocked, Fraser merely mumbles "yes" and tells him most of the men will always think of him as the commander. The next morning, Jock sternly reminds Morag that his rules about staying away from the barracks are to protect her, prompting her to rebuke him for spending time with his actress friend, Mary. Later, Jock tours the barracks with Basil, who is obsessed with promptness and preserving the regiment's traditions, correcting the men about their attire and insisting that even the smallest infraction be reported. While some men, like R.S.M. Riddick, believe Basil is bringing civility to the barracks, more experienced officers like Maclean think Basil and the men who support him are snobs. Later, Basil announces that in preparation for a regiment cocktail party, all men, including officers, are to report for early morning dance lessons to improve their "noisy ritual." When Jock offers his services to Basil, the commander humiliates him by complaining that facility changes have not been duly noted on regiment charts and reminding him to attend the dance lessons. One night, Jock complains to Mary about the new colonel and attempts to lure her into a night of lovemaking, but Mary, ambivalent about Jock's self-pity and drunkenness, demurs. At the first dance lesson, Basil further humiliates Jock when he demands that he follow his subordinate Maclean, who is leading the men. Weeks later at the cocktail party, the men are graciously hosting the townsmen and women, until a drunken Jock goads his men into heavy drinking and unruly dancing. When Basil witnesses a young woman fall to the ground as the party's volume increases, he explodes in anger and orders the party to cease, stunning the visitors. Embarrassed by his own outburst, Basil flees in his jeep while his concerned assistant, Capt. Jimmy Cairns, jumps in beside him. After recklessly speeding for miles, Basil finally stops, admits his loneliness and recounts that, as a prisoner of war, the only thing that kept him alive was the thought that he would someday return and take control of the same battalion his father and grandfather once commanded. Meanwhile, when Jock unexpectedly finds Fraser and Morag talking intimately at a pub, he hits the young corporal in a fit of fatherly rage, an appalling breach of military law. Wanting to commiserate, Jock goes to Mary's to confess his outburst, but finds Charlie sharing a late-night drink with her. The next day, Basil wrestles with his choices, either to handle the problem internally or to request a formal inquiry that will more than likely lead to a court martial. Although Fraser has not filed a complaint, Charlie, who would like the command for himself, convinces Basil to opt for a formal inquiry, knowing the men will turn on him as a result. Later, Mary reports Charlie's betrayal to the disheveled Jock and rouses him to return to the barracks. Once there, Jock mocks Charlie for his useless sophistication and then brazenly asks the men to dine with him. As Basil looks on, the men join Jock in the mess hall as a sign of allegiance. Later, Maclean forces the priggish Riddick to report the non-commissioned officers' request that Basil reconsider the inquiry. Although Basil insists that Riddick continue collecting evidence, he begins to doubt his decision and searches for Jock, who is sleeping off his drunkenness on a barracks' cot. When Jock questions Basil's devotion to the regiment, Basil proudly states that he was born into the regiment, but Jock casts doubts on his priorities by reminding him that the inquiry would hurt the regiment's reputation. After Basil reluctantly agrees to give him a second chance and leaves the room, Jock chuckles that Basil is a "toy soldier." As Jock engages the men in boisterous drunken reveling at dinner that evening, Jimmy tries to include Basil in the conversation, but when the men fail to acknowledge him, an anxious Basil seeks solace with Charlie, who insinuates that Basil was easily duped by Jock. Humiliated by Charlie's trite sarcasm, Basil goes to the tub room and shoots himself. Although Jock orders a young officer to look directly at the dead man's face, insisting that a soldier must "handle both the living and the dead," he is shaken by haunting memories of his time as a POW. Later in a regiment meeting, Jock outlines an elaborate funeral ceremony, asking for the best piper, but his thoughts are interrupted by hallucinations of wartime pipes and drums. Despite Charlie and Jimmy's attempts to encourage him to have a simple private ceremony for the suicide victim, Jock yells out that they were all accomplices in Basil's murder and paces the front of the room deliriously muttering to himself. Realizing they are witnessing their commander's breakdown, his men quietly leave the hall, while Jimmy and Charlie escort the now weeping man to his jeep to protect him from scrutiny.
Anne V. Coates
A. J. Van Montague
Best Writing, Screenplay
Tunes of Glory
The genesis of the project is a little unclear. Some sources (including a biographer of Guinness) say Tunes of Glory was actually offered first to John Mills; the actor felt the project would benefit from another star of equal talent and importance and approached Guinness about playing one of the two officers. Neame, on the other hand, said he was given the screenplay by independent producer Colin Lesslie and that he spoke to Guinness about it first. In either case, the expectation was that the polished Guinness would play the Oxford-educated upper-crust Lt. Col. Basil Barrow, who does everything strictly by the rules (the type of character that had earned Guinness a Best Actor Academy Award for The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957). Mills, with his ordinary everyman image and appeal, would portray Major Jock Sinclair, a hard-drinking, working-class military man who had risen through the ranks to achieve temporary command of the regiment, which he exercises with a mixture of charisma and camaraderie. In an interesting twist, the two actors decided to go against the expected typecasting and switched their roles, in part motivated, no doubt, by Guinness's decision to avoid a repeat of his Kwai performance.
Guinness's part was the flashier role, giving him yet another opportunity to create a character through outward appearance (ginger mustache and hairpiece) and language (thick Scots accent). It is one of his finest and favorite performances (his wife always considered it his best), and it earned him a British Film Academy (BAFTA) Best Actor nomination. Mills's role was less showy but no less complex and difficult, and his work (also one his favorites and among his best) earned him the Best Actor Award at the 1960 Venice Film Festival, as well as a BAFTA nomination.
The screenplay of Tunes of Glory was nominated for an American Academy Award. It was adapted by James Kennaway from his own novel based on his experiences serving with the Gordon Highlanders after World War II. The title refers to the military airs and marches played on bagpipes, and Malcolm Arnold, who had written the memorable music for The Bridge on the River Kwai, composed the suitably evocative bagpipe music that plays throughout the film.
Joining Neame and Guinness from The Horse's Mouth was Kay Walsh, once again playing Guinness's put-upon sometimes girlfriend; cinematographer Arthur Ibbetson, who had been promoted from camera operator by Neame on the previous picture; and editor Anne V. Coates, an Oscar® winner a short time later for her work on Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
Although most of the film was shot at Shepperton Studios in London, Neame also wanted to include some footage from Stirling Castle in Argyllshire, Scotland, the actual regimental base that Kennaway had written into his story. The author, director, and producer went there to meet the commanding officer, who was happy to cooperate with the production, as long as the shooting didn't interfere with the regiment's routine. Neame and company left him a copy of the script to read for his final approval. When they returned a few days later, they found a paperback copy of the novel with a lurid cover sitting on the officer's desk next to the screenplay. In a cheap marketing ploy, the illustration showed Major Sinclair holding a bottle of Scotch with his girlfriend sitting on his lap. The scene was nowhere in either the book or the script, but the commander said he would never let the Argylls participate in a film where the officer was depicted that way. After much cajoling, the only thing the film company was able to secure from him was an agreement to film some exteriors of the castle as long as it was not identified or too recognizable. The shots appear under the opening titles and at the end of the film.
Tunes of Glory marked the big screen debut of Susannah York, who would later be nominated for an Academy Award and win a BAFTA award as Best Supporting Actress for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969). Guinness agreed to test with the inexperienced 19-year-old actress. After the test was complete, York was on the train going home when it suddenly hit her: "My God I've just done a screen test with Alec Guinness!"
Director: Ronald Neame
Producers: Albert Fennell, Colin Lesslie
Screenplay: James Kennaway, based on his novel
Cinematography: Arthur Ibbetson
Editing: Anne V. Coates
Production Design: Wilfred Shingleton
Original Music: Malcolm Arnold
Cast: Alec Guinness (Maj. Jock Sinclair), John Mills (Lt. Col. Basil Barrow), Dennis Price (Maj. Charles Scott), Kay Walsh (Mary Titterington), John Fraser (Cpl. Piper Ian Fraser), Susannah York (Morag Sinclair).
by Rob Nixon
Tunes of Glory
Sir John Mills (1908-2005)
Born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills in Norfolk, England on February 22, 1908. His father was a headmaster of a village school in Suffolk, where Mills was raised. After secondary school, he worked as a clerk in a corn merchant's office while acting in amateur dramatic societies. Ever ambitious, he relocated to London in 1928 to find more work as an actor.
He took tap-dancing lessons and made his stage debut as a chorus boy in The Five O'Clock Girl at the London Hippodrome in 1929. Later that year, he joined an acting troupe that toured India and the Far East with a repertory of modern plays, musical comedies and Shakespeare. It was during this tour when he scored his big break - he was spotted by Noel Coward while in Singapore and promptly taken under the playwright's wing when he returned to London in 1931.
On his return, he starred on the West End (London's Broadway), in Coward's Cavalcade and earned the lead in a production of Charley's Aunt. His song and dance talents came in handy for his film debut, an early British musical-comedy The Midshipmaid (1932). His biggest hits over the next few years would all fall into the genre of light comic-musicals: Britannia of Billingsgate (1933), Royal Cavalcade (1935), and Four Dark Hours(1937). He scored a his first big part as Robert Donat's student in the MGM backed production Mills went on to play Robert Donat's Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). He developed some more heft to his acting credentials that same year when he made his debut at the celebrated Old Vic Theatre as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
He served briefly in the Navy, 1940-41, during World War II before receiving a medical discharge. When Mills returned to the screen, he began a great turn as the atypical sturdy, dignified Englishman ("English without tears" went the popular phrase of the day). He starred as a stalwart lead in a amazing string of hit films: In Which We Serve (1942), We Dive at Dawn (1943), This Happy Breed (1944), The Way to the Stars (1945), and Waterloo Road (1945). Although Mills was ever dependable, they did not show his breakout talents until he starred as Pip in David Lean's gorgeous adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations (1946). As the young orphan who morphs into a man of wealth and stature, Mills showed the depth as an actor by offering a finely modulated performance.
By the late '40s, Mills was a bona fide star of British films, and over the next decade the strong roles kept coming: as the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott in Scott of the Antarctic (1948); Bassett, the handy man who tries to help a troubled child (the brilliant John Howard Davies) of greedy, neglectful parents in the superb domestic drama The Rocking Horse Winner (1950); an overprotective father who gets trapped in a murder yarn in Mr. Denning Drives North (1952); a fine Willie Mossop in David Lean's Hobson's Choice (1954); an impressive "against-type" performance as a Russian peasant in War and Peace (1956); a sympathetic police inspector coaxing the trust of a juvenile (his daughter Hayley) who knows the facts of a murder case in the underappreciated Tiger Bay (1959); a rowdy Australian sheep shearer in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (also 1959); and arguably his finest performance - a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for a hard-as-nails army colonel who fears the loss of control over his regiment in Tunes of Glory (1960).
The mid-60s saw an isolated effort as a film director: Gypsy Girl (which starred his other daughter Juliet - who would later find fame on US television in Nanny and the Professor (1970-72); and showed the development of Mills into a charming character actor: the working-class patriarch in the modest comedy The Family Way (starring Hayley as his daughter); and a terrific comic bit as a murderous Lord who tries to kill off his kin for the family inheritance in Bryan Forbes The Wrong Box (all 1966).
By the '70s, his film work slowed considerably, but he was always worth watching: an Oscar winning performance as a mute villager in David Lean¿s study of the Irish troubles Ryan's Daughter (1970); as the influential General Herbert Kitchener Young Winston (1972); and as a driven oil driller in Oklahoma Crude (1973). With the exception of a small role in Sir Richard Attenborough's Ghandi (1982 - where he was credited as Sir John Mills after his knighthood in 1976), and a regrettable cameo in the deplorable Madonna comedy Who's That Girl (1987).
Very little was seen of Mills until recent years, where the most memorable of his appearances included: Old Norway in Hamlet (1996); as the stern chairman opposite Rowan Atkinson in the hit comedy Bean (1997); and - in a daring final role for his proud career - a nonagenarian partygoing cocaine user in Stephen Fry's bawdy social satire Bright Young Things (2003)! Mills is survived by his wife of 64 years, the novelist and playwright Mary Hayley Bell; his daughters, Juliet and Hayley; son, John; and several grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Sir John Mills (1908-2005)
Tunes of Glory on DVD
Guinness plays Jock Sinclair, an alcohol-guzzling, rather dim-witted commanding officer who's in charge of a troop of soldiers in post-World War II Scotland. You'd better appreciate bagpipe music, because there's a healthy dose of it in this movie. Sinclair, you see, started his career as a pipes player, and his job involves keeping a team of pipers in tip-top form. Jock received his high standing via heroics on the battlefield, and he still remembers where he came from, so he's willing to drink and carry on with his men as long as they give him the respect he deserves. He receives it, and the men are able to exist in a relatively lax environment.
Enter Basil Barrow (John Mills), a well-heeled military academy graduate who's been sent to eventually replace Sinclair. Barrow and Sinclair fall into an increasingly nasty battle of wills that hinges on winning (or maintaining) control of the men. It's fascinating to watch Guinness play against type (if, in fact, an actor of such enormous range can be said to have a "type"), but Mills more than holds his own with The Master. The more ill-mannered Jock becomes - and he often steps way over the line - the more Barrow desperately tries to maintain by-the-book control. Surprisingly, Jock's key misstep comes in the handling of his young daughter (Susannah York, in her film debut), which suggests that he has bigger problems than merely trying to preserve the loyalty of a bunch of bagpipe-playing soldiers.
Neame, who began his career as a cinematographer, had a flair for drawing sharp performances from his actors, and Tunes of Glory is certainly no exception. Guinness often cited his work here as the best of his career, which is saying something. Neame knew when to leave well-enough alone- there's nothing flashy about his handling of the material. He simply steps back and lets talented actors bring their characters to life. It should be noted that Tunes of Glory also contains fine supporting turns from Kay Walsh, John Frasier, and Duncan Macrae, which add considerably to the film's overall impact. (For more top-notch handling of actors, see Neame's 1969 release, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, for which Maggie Smith won an Academy Award® for Best Actress.)
Criterion has done its usual fine job restoring Tunes of Glory. The colors are vivid, and the separation can't be faulted. The soundtrack leaves something to be desired, but that's expected given that the picture was released in 1960 - don't expect to be blown away by a Dolby remix on those bagpipes! The disc isn't crawling with extras, although the ones that are there are entertaining. The trailer, as is so often the case, tries to sell a film that has little to do with the one that was actually made. More coherent are discussions with Neame, Guinness, and Mills (who appears via audio-only.) Guinness' revealing 1973 TV interview covers the beginning of his career, then leads up to Tunes of Glory.
For more information about Tunes of Glory, visit Criterion Collection. To order Tunes of Glory, go to TCM Shopping.
by Paul Tatara
Tunes of Glory on DVD
So, tell me Corporal, are your intentions honorable?- Jock Sinclair
Aye, sir.- Cpl. Fraser
Then you're a damn fool. You leave "honorable intentions" to fathers like me.- Jock Sinclair
Whisky for the gentlemen that like it. And for the gentlemen that don't like it - Whisky.- Major Jock Sinclair
We're on a first name basis in this regiment. Your first name is Derek; my first name is Major.- Major Jock Sinclair
The name of the Highland regiment portrayed is never mentioned, although the screenwriter served in the Gordon Highlanders. However, the same regimental tartan (designed for this film) and bonnet badges were worn by the Highland regiment in _Carry On Up the Khyber (1968)_ , and so the regiment in Tunes of Glory may well be the "3rd Foot & Mouth."
John Mills wore his regimental kilt once more, when he portrayed a Highland Officer in a wartime P.O.W. sketch on the Morecambe and Wise.
Alec Guinness was offered the role of Lt. Col. Barrow, but asked for the role of Maj. Sinclair instead; he then suggested John Mills for the other role.
The film's title Tunes of Glory refers to military airs and marches traditionally played by Scottish bagpipers. The opening and closing cast credits vary slightly in order. Although the film's credits include a copyright statement for The H.M. Films Ltd., the film was not registered for copyright at the time of its release; however, The H.M. Films Ltd. registered the film on December 11, 1978 under the number PA42-782.
According to a October 2, 1960 New York Times article, when John Mills and Alec Guinness were originally offered the respective roles of "Major Basil Barrow" and "Lt. Cole Jack Sinclair," each turned down the roles, wanting the opposite role instead. In his autobiography, however, Mills states that he introduced the script to Guinness and the two decided between them, which was to take each role, claiming that they made the "off-beat" casting choice, themselves. A December 29, 1959 Hollywood Reporter article noted that the film was to be produced abroad for United Artists and City Entertainment Corporation; however, no further information or screen credit is given to City Entertainment Corporation.
As noted onscreen, the film was shot at Shepperton Studios, London, England. The backdrop for the credits and the closing shots of the film is Stirling Castle in Stirling, Scotland, but it is unclear if additional location shooting took place there. A modern source adds Frazer Hines to the cast. Tunes of Glory marked the film debut for British actress Susannah York and the picture was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, but lost to Elmer Gantry. The film marked the official British selection in the 1960 Venice Film Festival, where John Mills won the Best Actor award.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the New York Times Film Critics Association.
Winner of the Best Actor Prize at the 1960 Venice Film Festival.
Released in United States September 4, 1960
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1960
Shown at Venice Film Festival September 4, 1960.
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States September 4, 1960 (Shown at Venice Film Festival September 4, 1960.)
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1960