ON THE FIDDLE, a weak WW2 comedy from England in 1961, was re-released in America in 1965 as Operation Snafu, and when it lived down to that title, was rechristened, totally misleading, Operation Warhead. The long-delayed, fiddled with US release came about because by then co-star Sean Connery had turned superstar as James Bond. Sean plays ‘second fiddle’ to Alfred Lynch, who was getting stage notice as one of the “kitchen sink” lads of the day. Lynch, 29, sort of a cross of Albert Finney by way of Michael Caine, but lacking the former’s force and the latter’s charm, didn’t catch on as a film lead, but he did nail a neat role a few years later, supporting Connery, on The Hill. *
Petty hustler ‘Horace Pope’ (Lynch) outsmarts himself with a magistrate and gets “sentenced” to join the R.A.F. Though WW2 is on, Horace is more profiteer than patriot. He pursues assorted scams, aided by good-natured, slow-witted ‘Pedlar Pascoe’ (Connery), a gypsy who signed up to actually serve. Eventually their wheeling deals put them into firefight contact with the Germans in France.
Rather laborious, not silly enough (like the ‘Carry On’ movies) to stir up “larfs”, and when it gets semi-serious, that doesn’t come off either. Lynch is energetic but his style and manner is more wearying than winning. Connery (with a doofus haircut) is appealing, making the most of what he’s tasked with: a job is a job. Such airy matinee value it may have held on home sod at the start of the 60s doesn’t translate decades down the spout.
Directed by Cyril Frankel, the script by Harold Buchman was taken from a novel called “Stop at a Winner”, written by R.F. Delderfield. He was a decent writer, so maybe the book is better than the movie. The enthusiastic Lynch and amiable Connery are granted backing from several noteworthy supporting players: Stanley Holloway, Wilfred Hyde-White, Cecil Parker and a token Yank, comedian Alan King. Further credits were marked by veteran composer Malcolm Arnold and future 007 film editor Peter Hunt.
92 minutes (or close enough), with Kathleen Harrison, Terence Longdon, Eleanor Summerfield, John Le Mesurier, Barbara Windsor, Patsy Rowlands, Graham Stark, Victor Maddern, Michael Sarne.
* The 1965 Bond-influenced attempt to market this minor muddle was pretty shameless—“From Boudoir to Battlefield….It’s SEAN CONNERY…Mixing Dames and Danger as Only He Can!