Tunes of Glory: British drama film from 1960

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Tunes of Glory is a British drama film from 1960 directed by Ronald Neame, based on the 1956 novel and the screenplay of James Kenway. The film is a “dark psychological drama” focusing on the events in the Scottish Highlands Winter Regiment barracks in the post-World War II period. Starring Alec Guinness and John Mills, featuring Dennis Price, Kay Walsh, John Fraser, Susanna York, Duncan McCray, and Gordon Jackson. 

Tunes of Glory

The writer introduced Kenway with Gordon Highlanders and the title refers to the bagpipe that accompanies every important work of the regiment. Malcolm Arnold composed the original pipe music, who also wrote the music for The Bridge on the River Kwai. The film was generally well-received by critics, with the acting, in particular, being praised. Kenway’s screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award.

Tunes of Glory story

The film was shown in 1948 in the chaos of the officers of an unnamed regiment in the heights that Acting Lieutenant Colonel Jock Sinclair (Alec Guinness) announced that this would be his last day as a binge-drinking Sinclair commanding officer who was still published in the Official Gazette as a major despite his command. Since the last full colonel in the battalion was killed during the Battle of North Africa in WWII, he will be replaced by Colonel Basil Barrow (John Mills).


Although Sinclair commanded the battalion during the remainder of the war and won the DSO and MM through El Alamein, Monte Cassino and “From Dover to Berlin” Major General HQ considers Barrow to be a more appropriate commanding officer in peacetime. Drunken Sinclair reveals his frustration with being low-ranking vis-a-vis Barrow: “I acted a colonel, I must be a colonel and by God … I will be a colonel!”


Colonel Barrow arrives early and notices the Battalion’s officers dancing madly, including Major Sinclair. “Barrow” and “Sinclair” exchange their military backgrounds in an icy fashion. Sinclair joined the regiment as a recruited soldier in Glasgow and rose through the ranks, winning the Military Medal and Distinguished Service Medal during the war. On the contrary, Barrow came to the regiment from Eton University and then Oxford University, both in England, and that his ancestors had been colonels in the regiment before him – although Barrow only served a year with the regiment in 1933 before he was assigned to “special missions”, including a lecture at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.


He’s been away from the battalion for fifteen years and when Sinclair recounts with humor that he was in Berlin prison for a short time for being drunk and disorganized (also in 1933), Barrow silently mentions his experience as a prisoner of war in a Japanese prisoner of war camp Sinclair lightly assumes that Barrow received preferential treatment as an officer. (“Officer Privileges and Amateur Plays”) But in reality, Barrow had deep psychological scars after being tortured by the Japanese which did not tell Sinclair that he was not upset by his replacement by a “stupid little man”.


Meanwhile, Morag (Susanna York), Sinclair’s daughter is seen illegally meeting a recruiter (John Fraser).


Barrow instantly passes several orders designed to instill discipline into the battalion that Sinclair allowed to slip in. Particularly controversial is an order that all officers take Highland dance lessons in an effort to make their usual raucous style more formal and suitable for mixed companies. Nevertheless, the unchanged energetic dance of the officers, led by drunken Sinclair at Barrow’s first cocktail party with townspeople, provokes His anger. Barrow’s explosion further damages his power.


Tensions reached a climax when Major Sinclair publicly assaulted Piper, dressed in a uniform that he discovered with his daughter in a bar – “beating a corporal,” as he put it. Barrow decides that a formal report must be submitted to the major, which means that a court-martial is imminent, though He realizes that the action will erode his popularity and authority within the battalion. Barrow was eventually persuaded to back down by Sinclair, who Barrow promised that he would support him in the future (“We’ll make a good team”).


The decision undermines his authority, as Sinclair’s promised support has never materialized and is treated by other officers, in particular Captain Alec Rattray (Richard Leish), with disrespect for the second in command, Major Charlie Scott with the cruelty of the ice, indicating that Sinclair is really running the battalion because he was forced Barrow rejected the charges against him. Now separated from both Sinclair’s clique and the officers who previously supported him, from the Officers’ Entertainment District, a bullet was heard and the investigation confirmed that Barrow had shot himself (the actual event is not visible).


With the death of the colonel, Sinclair realizes that he is in charge of inviting the officers to a meeting and announcing plans for a lavish funeral suited to a field marshal, complete with a march through town where all the “Tunes of Glory” will be played by a flute recounting the melodies he wishes to play: “Brave Scotland” and “” The Nut Brown Maiden and Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee When it is pointed out how inconsistent the plans were, especially given the manner in which the colonel died, Sinclair insists that it was not suicide but murder. He tells everyone that he himself is the killer and that the other senior officers were complicit with him except for the colonel’s assistant. Sinclair suffers from a nervous breakdown and escorts him from the barracks while the officers and men live as he passes through the lockdown scene.

Tunes of Glory

Tunes of Glory film actors’ roles

  • Alec Guinness as Major Jock Sinclair, DSO, MM.
  • John Mills as Lieutenant Colonel Basil Barrow.
  • Denise Price as Major Charles Scott, MC & Bar.
  • Kay Walsh as Mary Titterington.
  • John Fraser as Corporal Piper Ian Fraser.
  • Susanna York as Morag Sinclair.
  • Gordon Jackson as Captain Jimmy Kearns, MC.
  • Duncan McCray as Major MacLean.
  • Percy Herbert as Staff Sergeant Riddick.
  • Alan Cuthbertson as Captain Eric Simpson.
  • Paul Whitson-Jones as Major “Dusty” Miller.
  • Gerald Harper as Major Hugo Macmillan.
  • Richard Lesch as Captain Alec Rattray.
  • Peter McEnery as Second Lieutenant David McKinnon.
  • Keith Faulkner as Corporal Piper Adam.
  • Angus Lenny as Organizer Room Clerk.
  • John Harvey as Sergeant Finney.
  • Andrew Kerr as Lance Corporal Campbell.
  • Jameson Clark as Sir Alan.
  • Lockwood West Vice President of the University.

Results of the film after its release

In his book Esquire, Dwight MacDonald described the Tunes of Glory as “a finite but satisfying tale” and wrote that “it is one of those films, like the Sundowners Zinnemann, which is not very much cinematically and out of fashion (no violence, no low life) however I managed to provide very good entertainment. ”


The film was praised by Bosley Crowther of The New York Times, who wrote “Not only Alec Guinness and John Mills nicely decorate the main roles in this drama of professional military men but also every actor, even the arcade, beautifully excuses himself. “


Variety described Ronald Niemi’s direction as” fragile and strong “and said Mills had a” difficult mission “to appear opposite Guinness” especially in a role fundamentally unsympathetic, but always a match for his co-star. “


The film’s script, especially the last scene showing Sinclair’s collapse, was criticized by some critics at the time of release. A critic on Sight & Sound wrote that the ending was “unforgivable” and that the scene “is far less than a tragic remorse than deeply contrived emotion.” Tunes of Glory has a 73% rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.


James Kenway, who adapted the script from his novel, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay but lost to Elmer Gantry. It also received several BAFTA nominations, including Best Picture, Best British Film, Best British Screenplay, and Best Actor nominations for both Guinness and Mills.


The film was the official British entry into the 1960 Venice Film Festival and John Mills won Best Actor there. In the same year, the film was awarded the title of “Best Foreign Film” by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.