On the Fiddle (a.k.a. Operation Snafu), 1961.
Directed by Cyril Frankel.
Starring Alfred Lynch, Sean Connery, Cecil Parker, Stanley Holloway and Eric Barker.
Tricked into joining the RAF by a wily judge, wide boy Horace Pope sets his sights on the main chance, teams with slow-witted, good-hearted gypsy Pedlar Pascoe, and works up a lucrative racket in conning both his colleagues and the RAF. By means of various devious schemes Pope and Pascoe manage to avoid the front lines until they are sent to France – where they find themselves making unexpected and uncomfortably close contact with the enemy…
Before becoming James Bond and becoming world famous, Sean Connery had appeared in a handful of films. On the Fiddle came a year before Dr. No brought James Bond and Connery both firmly into cinema history. A good old light hearted jape was a common occurrence around this period in British cinema with stuff like the Ealing Comedies. On the Fiddle gives a caper twist to the World War II films that were prevalent for a couple of decades after the fact.
On the surface, the main point of interest to the discerning viewer would be seeing Connery in an early role. However he’s playing second fiddle to Alfred Lynch as Pope, a cheeky chappy cockney who unwittingly gets himself enlisted in the Army during the War. From then on he tries everything he can in order to make a quick buck whilst also avoiding the frontline.
Lynch is energetic and likeable. He keeps you watching. From one scam to another the film is easily entertaining. Connery’s role is an interestingly different type from Bond onwards where Connery would be known more for his cool, intelligence and intensity. Here he plays Pedlar, as somewhat simple minded and naïve soldier who finds himself dragged into whatever schemes that Pope is currently concocting. Connery plays almost a gentle giant. He’s almost a little wet behind the ears in this before he’d truly find his calling as 007. Still it’s an interesting role to see him play. Elsewhere the rest of the cast have fun whilst Barbara Windsor pops up in an early role as a blond bar-woman (who’d have thunk it?).
The film does manage to have a few moments of more dramatic depth, particularly when front line action finally catches up with Pope and Pedlar. That said there’s nothing about this film that stands out from the period. It’s watchable certainly but a bit forgettable. Despite its likeable cast and affable joviality it’s difficult to recommend as an important piece of cinema of the era. Perhaps catching it on BBC2 on a Sunday afternoon you might find it worthy of refraining from flicking away, but otherwise there’s little that you’ll find memorable unless you’re a Connery aficionado.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★