Oh! What A Lovely War (1969) - Rotten Tomatoes

Oh! What A Lovely War1969

Oh! What A Lovely War (1969)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Oh! What A Lovely War Photos

Movie Info

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?).

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John Mills
as Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig
Maggie Smith
as Music Hall Star
Dirk Bogarde
as Stephen
Vanessa Redgrave
as Sylvia Pankhurst
Ralph Richardson
as Sir Edward Grey
Meriel Forbes
as Lady Grey
Wensley Pithey
as Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Ruth Kettlewell
as Duchess Sophie
Ian Holm
as President Poincare
John Gielgud
as Count Berchtold
Kenneth More
as Kaiser Wilhelm II
John Clements
as Gen. von Moltke
Paul Daneman
as Czar Nicholas II
Stella Courtney
as Poincare's Lady
Kathleen Helme
as Berchtold's Lady
Ruth Gower
as Von Moltke's Lady
Joe Melia
as The Photographer
Anthony Morton
as Italian Military Attache
Steve Plytas
as Turkish Military Attache
Jack Hawkins
as Emperor Franz Josef
John Hussey
as Soldier on Balcony
Kim Smith
as Dickie Smith
Mary Wimbush
as Mary Smith
Paul Shelley
as Jack Smith
Wendy Allnutt
as Flo Smith
John Rae
as Grandpa Smith
Kathleen Wileman
as Emma Smith at Age 4
Corin Redgrave
as Bertie Smith
Malcolm McFee
as Freddie Smith
Colin Farrell (II)
as Harry Smith
Maurice Roëves
as George Smith
Angela Thorne
as Betty Smith
Julia Wright
as His Secretary
Robert Flemyng
as Staff Officer
Jean-Pierre Cassel
as French Colonel
David Scheuer
as French Soldier
Michael Wolf
as German Officer
Jeremy Child
as Wealthy Young Man
Norman Shelley
as Staff Officer
Thorley Walters
as Staff Officer
Ambrose Coghill
as His Father
Penelope Allen
as Solo Chorus Girl
Sheila Cox
as Chorus Girl
Sue Robinson
as Chorus Girl
Joyce Franklin
as Chorus Girl
Carole Gray
as Chorus Girl
Dinny Jones
as Chorus Girl
Delia Linden
as Chorus Girl
David Lodge
as Recruiting Sergeant
Michael Redgrave
as Gen. Sir Henry Wilson
Laurence Olivier
as Field Marshal Sir John French
Peter Gilmore
as Pvt. Burgess
Marianne Stone
as 2nd Mill Girl
Derek Newark
as Shooting Gallery Proprietor
Richard Howard
as Young Soldier at Mons
John Trigger
as Officer at Station
Ron Pember
as Corporal at Station
Juliet Mills
as Nurses at Station
Nanette Newman
as Nurses at Station
Tony Vogel
as German Soldier
Paul Hansard
as German Officer
John Woodnutt
as British Officer
Tony Thawnton
as Officer on Telephone
Cecil Parker
as Sir John
Isabel Dean
as Sir John French's Lady
Guy Middleton
as Gen. Sir William Robertson
Natasha Parry
as His Lady
Cecilia Darby
as Sir Henry Wilson's Lady
Phyllis Calvert
as Lady Haig
Freddie Ascott
as `Whizzbang' Soldier
Christian Thorogood
as Irish Soldier
Paddy Joyce
as Irish Soldier
John Dunhill
as Irish Soldier
John Owens
as Irish Soldier
P.G. Stephens
as Irish Soldier
Harry Locke
as Heckler
George Ghent
as Heckler
Bette Vivian
as Heckler
Michael Bates
as Drunken Lance Corporal
Charles Farrell
as Policeman
Pia Colombo
as Estaminet Singer
Vincent Ball
as Australian Soldier
Gerald Sim
as Chaplain
Maurice Arthur
as Soldier Singer in Church Parade
Richard Davies
as Sergeant in Burial Party
Arthur White
as Sergeant in Dugout
Christopher Cabot
as Soldier in Shell Hole
Frank Forsyth
as Woodrow Wilson
John Gabriel
as Nikolai Lenin
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Critic Reviews for Oh! What A Lovely War

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (5)

It is an elaborately staged tableau, a dazzling use of the camera to achieve essentially theatrical effects. And judged on that basis, Richard Attenborough has given us a breathtaking evening.

July 3, 2018 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

The huge potential of this all-star vehicle was mainly squandered through a lack of subtlety or irony.

August 25, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

An often too-clever, sometimes moving piece.

August 25, 2014 | Full Review…
Top Critic

[Attenborough] has chosen to make a big, elaborate, sometimes realistic film whose elephantine physical proportions and often brilliant all-star cast simply overwhelm the material with a surfeit of good intentions.

August 25, 2014 | Full Review…

Dedicated, exhilarating, shrewd, mocking, funny, emotional, witty, poignant and technically brilliant.

February 23, 2012 | Full Review…

It wears a heart so bleedingly on its sleeve one is almost blackmailed into praising it.

January 16, 2020 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Oh! What A Lovely War


A war film unlike any other.

Marcus Woolcott
Marcus Woolcott

Super Reviewer

A strange and interesting Great War film that presents the conflict as, among other things, a garish seaside carnival to which everyone wanted a ticket. More than many films I've seen based on plays, this one incorporates elements of staging you'd expect from the theatre without any ill effects; in some scenes, it's like there's a camera in the theatre and you can see literal set pieces, while others (increasingly, as the film goes on) immerse you in the action you'd need to mostly imagine were you in a theatre. I also found in places that the film's sense of the absurd (if not its hilarity) rivalled that of Monty Python. Do we call it a satire? I think so... but its project of laying bare the conflict's human cost and its deference to the symbolic value of the poppy and the increasingly fatalistic songs of the soldiers is worth noting, too. In all it's not an overly exciting movie to watch, but it's a rich and layered document that ought to survive.

Daniel Perry
Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

Oh! What A Lovely War Quotes

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