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The Singer Not the Song (1961)

Not Rated | | Drama, Western | 2 May 1962 (USA)
In a small Mexican town, a Catholic priest (Sir John Mills) and a local bandit (Sir Dirk Bogarde) clash, but the brave priest ultimately wins the outlaw's respect.


Roy Ward Baker (as Roy Baker)


Audrey Erskine-Lindop (novel) (as Audrey Erskine Lindop), Nigel Balchin (screenplay)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dirk Bogarde ... Anacleto Comachi
John Mills ... Father Michael Keogh
Mylène Demongeot ... Locha de Cortinez
Laurence Naismith ... Old Uncle
John Bentley John Bentley ... Police Captain
Leslie French Leslie French ... Father Gomez
Eric Pohlmann ... Presidente
Norman Florence ... Vito (as Nyall Florenz)
Roger Delgado ... Pedro de Cortinez
Philip Gilbert ... Phil Brown
Selma Vaz Dias Selma Vaz Dias ... Chela
Laurence Payne ... Pablo
Jacqueline Evans Jacqueline Evans ... Dona Marian
Lee Montague ... Pepe
Serafina Di Leo Serafina Di Leo ... Jasefa


During the 1950s, in a small isolated Mexican village, the local Roman Catholic priest, Father Gomez (Leslie French), is an older man with a broken spirit. During his tenure in the village of Quantano, he fought hard to keep his flock of parishioners, in spite of threats and intimidation from the part of local bandit Anacleto Comachi (Sir Dirk Bogarde) and his men. The atheistic bandit has imposed his tyrannical rule over the region for many years. The local Police cannot find any witnesses to come forward and testify to any wrongdoing from the part of Anacleto. Therefore, they cannot charge him or arrest him. The Catholic Church replaces Father Gomez with a younger, more energetic priest, Father Keogh (Sir John Mills) from Ireland. Before departing the village, Father Gomez warns Father Keogh of the dangers of defying Anacleto Comachi's authority. But Father Keogh openly defies the bandit and administers his daily priestly duties at the village church. He even manages to persuade ... Written by nufs68

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The strange and terrible combat of two men in a strange and terrible Mexican town. See more »


Drama | Western


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

2 May 1962 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Le cavalier noir See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Rank Organisation See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Introducing a clip from this movie in the rather staid context of the BBC's Best of British (1987) program in the late 1980s, Sir John Mills openly acknowledged its homosexual overtones. See more »

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User Reviews

THE SINGER NOT THE SONG (Roy Ward Baker, 1961) ***
27 February 2008 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

My first (and for a long time) only viewing of this film was way back in the mid-1980s (during the early days of VHS in my neck of the woods) via a tape of a local TV screening my father loaned from a friend of his; even though I was aware of a couple of Italian TV showings over the years, I never managed to catch up with it – until another friend of my father’s alerted me (around Good Friday of last year) that it had been released – and, as it happens, subsequently deleted – on R2 DVD in the UK…which is how I eventually reacquainted myself with it on the day marking the centenary of one of its lead actors, John Mills. The reason I went into such detail about my previous experience with this particular film is because, even though it’s been 23 years since my sole viewing of (what is nowadays perhaps considered) a fairly obscure title, I myself have never forgotten it.

The ‘rejected priest in a godless Mexico’ theme recalls John Ford’s THE FUGITIVE (1947) and Luis Bunuel’s NAZARIN (1959), while the ‘homosexual undertones in a Western setting’ angle is reminiscent of the Howard Hughes/Howard Hawks concoction THE OUTLAW (1943) – with henchman Laurence Naismith’s ambiguous father-son-lover relationship with bandit leader Dirk Bogarde being particularly a throwback to the Thomas Mitchell/Jack Beutel one in the earlier film. Incidentally, THE SINGER NOT THE SONG’s controversial ending plays almost like a male version of that featured in yet another steamy over-the-top Western – DUEL IN THE SUN (1946)! This was the fourth of six collaborations between Mills and director Baker and which also included the latter’s debut, THE October MAN (1947) – a well-regarded thriller I’d love to watch and which, incidentally, has just been released on R2 DVD as part of a “John Mills Centenary Collection”. Bogarde, who himself considered the whole thing “beyond camp”, is almost always completely black-clad and, at one point, even sports cool shades!; here, he was already beginning to bravely delve on screen into his real-life gay side – which would come to full fruition later that same year in Basil Dearden’s VICTIM and other later acclaimed international films.

Nigel Balchin’s complex screenplay is at once fascinating and heavy-going, occasioning a few lulls particularly during the last third of the film’s lengthy 132-minute duration; besides, the ‘alphabet murders’ element to Bogarde’s tyrannical rule – not to mention pretty, pouting Mylene Demongeot’s forbidden love for middle-aged priest Mills – isn’t very convincing. On the other hand, Otto Heller’s spectacular color cinematography and Philip Green’s playfully evocative score, stand out as undeniable assets to the film. Having said that, DD Video’s full-frame presentation would have usually put me off acquiring a title on DVD – but, for the reasons delineated in my introduction, I gladly made an exception in this case.

Roy Ward Baker’s accompanying brief interview is very interesting: he wasn’t keen on doing the film himself but concedes now that it is beautifully-made; he also discloses that, initially, it was supposed to star Richard Burton instead of John Mills (but he was only interested in playing the bandit…except that the role was always intended for Bogarde – this, in fact, turned out to be the last film the latter made under contract to Rank) and that there was a mysterious enmity between the two male stars. I usually enjoy listening to Ward Baker’s Audio Commentaries (on his Hammer flicks) and, while I would have liked one for THE SINGER NOT THE SONG as well, the fact that he is now in his nineties and that he does not have fond memories of the shooting of the picture has understandably put paid to that prospect!

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