After World War II, a Highland Regiment's acting Commanding Officer, who rose from the ranks, is replaced by a peace-time Oxford-educated Commanding Officer, leading to a dramatic conflict between the two.
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Major Jock Sinclair has been in this Highland regiment since he joined as a boy piper. During World War II, as Second-in-Command, he was made acting Commanding Officer. Now the regiment has returned to Scotland, and a new commanding officer is to be appointed. Jock's own cleverness is pitted against his new C.O., his daughter, his girlfriend, and the other officers in the Mess.Written by
Aryk Nusbacher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This movie is part of the Criterion Collection, spine #225. See more »
Pipe Major MacLean is never shown with a set of bagpipes. In particular, he is a mere observer at band practice. A pipe major is not only the leader of the band but also its chief instructor, and it is unthinkable that he would not play an active role in all practices. See more »
Alec Guinness In A Magnificent, Powerful Performance
A clash of wills and personalities between two men, one a psychologically scarred idealist, the other driven by ego and his own needs to the point of cruelty, is examined in the peacetime military drama, `Tunes of Glory,' directed by Ronald Neame and starring Alec Guinness and John Mills. Major Jock Sinclair (Guinness) is the acting Colonel of a Scottish regiment, but as the story begins he has been notified that he has been passed over for promotion and his replacement, Lieutenant Colonel Basil Barrow (Mills) is en route to take command. Sinclair is a soldier's soldier, a man's man loved and respected (with some qualifications) by his men. He has clawed his way up through the ranks, was once a piper (he would've been happy as a Pipe Major, in fact, but Hitler-- as he says at one point-- `Changed all that'), and feels strongly that he should have been made Colonel of the regiment. Barrow, on the other hand, is an aristocrat and a third generation officer of this particular regiment. He suffers, however, from his experience in a prisoner-of-war camp, and has never fully recovered, the impact of which is succinctly expressed when he tells his Captain that he never really came back. From the beginning, it's an almost impossible situation, and from the moment Barrows arrives the atmosphere is thick with tension as he and Sinclair square off in a contest from which it is readily evident that neither will emerge unscathed in one way or another .
Working from a tight, intelligent screenplay by James Kennaway (adapted from his own novel), Neame delivers a taut, insightful character driven drama that explores the diversity of human nature, and illustrates the good and evil contained within us all and the traits which ultimately determine which will be the prevalent manifestation of the individual personality. Through the device of placing the protagonist and the antagonist-- each the antithesis of the other-- in a no-win situation, the film examines motivations, actions and reactions that can lead the story in any number of directions, none of which are positive, but all of which are logical and which finally leads to a conclusion that is extremely powerful, incisive and totally believable.
As Jock Sinclair, you see Alec Guinness in a role quite unlike anything else he's ever done; it was, in fact, his own personal favorite of all of his cinematic creations. Sinclair is a man who is course and rough-hewn, an egoist who, when the personal need arises, will wantonly subject those around him to psychological cruelty in order to elevate himself and his position and to assuage his own ego. At mess, for example, he derides a young officer for not smoking his cigarette like a man; he orders every `man' to drink whiskey, implying that to do otherwise constitutes an assessment of an individual's masculinity. Boisterous bravura and ribald behavior are his tools of navigation through life, coupled with an attitude of doing things his way or the wrong way. And Guinness plays it to the hilts. Beginning with his whole perspective and attitude, he IS Sinclair, while physically he embodies and expresses exactly who this man is and what he stands for. At times, his eyes fairly bulge with an enthusiasm that suggests a lasciviousness underlying the cruelty; when he walks he strides purposefully, and carries himself in such a way that when he enters a room he veritably fills it and makes his presence felt so that the very air seems oppressed by him. It's a performance that, even in a strong year of Oscar contenders (Trevor Howard, Lancaster, Lemmon, Olivier and Tracy were all up for Best Actor-- Lancaster won) he deserved to be among them. In this film Guinness is quite simply unforgettable in one of his most powerful roles.
John Mills, as well, delivers a superb, introspective performance as Barrow, capturing the way in which this man must live so inwardly to survive, and conveying how difficult it is for him to continue on while attempting to live up to his heritage and the expectations of a position to which he is clearly unfit in his current mental state. In Barrow we see reflected the prevailing attitude of the times that `might makes right,' and that anything less is akin to unacceptable negligence, that same military mind-set that put Jake Holman at odds with the world in `The Sand Pebbles,' and led to the unfortunate incident depicted so eloquently in `A Few Good Men.' It's an excellent, understated, sensitive performance by Mills, who plays brilliantly off of Guinness's brutishness.
The film also boasts a number of excellent supporting performances, especially Dennis Price, as Major Charlie Scott, whose stoic assessment of himself as well as the situation at hand serves as the film's conscience; Gordon Jackson as the sympathetic Captain Jimmy Cairns; and Duncan Macrae in a memorable turn as Pipe Major Duncan MacLean.
Also included in this outstanding supporting cast are Kay Walsh (Mary), John Fraser (Ian), Susannah York (In her film debut as Morag Sinclair), Percy Herbert (Riddick), Allan Cuthbertson (Eric) and Angus Lennie (Orderly). A powerful film that so successfully demonstrates the devastating effects of dysfunctional human relationships and conveys the need to look beyond ourselves, `Tunes of Glory' presents a story to which everyone will be able to relate because the theme is applicable to any setting involving human interactions. A thoroughly involving film featuring a number of memorable performances (especially by Guinness) that will give you reason to take pause and reflect, and hopefully add some perspective to a world too often mired in unnecessary turmoil. I rate this one 10/10.
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