On the Fiddle

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On the Fiddle
On the Fiddle 1961 quad poster.jpg
Original UK quad size poster
Directed by Cyril Frankel
Screenplay byHarold Buchman
Based on Stop at a Winner
by R.F. Delderfield
Produced by Benjamin Fisz
Cinematography Edward Scaife
Edited by Peter Hunt
Music by Malcolm Arnold
Coronado Productions
Distributed by
Release date
  • 10 October 1961 (1961-10-10)(UK)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

On the Fiddle (released as Operation Snafu and Operation War Head in the United States) is a 1961 British comedy film directed by Cyril Frankel and starring Sean Connery, Alfred Lynch, Cecil Parker, Stanley Holloway, Eric Barker, Mike Sarne, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Kathleen Harrison, Victor Maddern and John Le Mesurier. It was based on the 1961 novel Stop at a Winner by R.F. Delderfield who served in the RAF in World War II.


It was Sean Connery's tenth film and his first lead role, released the year before his big breakthrough as James Bond in the 1962 film Dr No .


During the Second World War, spiv Horace Pope is taken to court for street peddling. In mitigation, he tells the magistrate he is working in the black market only while waiting to enlist in the war effort. On hearing this plea, the magistrate calls his bluff and forces him to sign up.

Pope joins the RAF. Very quickly, he makes friends with the easy going, but loyal, Pedlar Pascoe who happily goes along with all of his scams, which mainly involve taking money for leave passes and for organising postings close to home. The pair do their utmost to make a bit on the side and avoid being sent into action.

Their record eventually catches up with them, but by that time they've been sent on a mission to occupied France, where they continue their scams, selling food and supplies to the grateful newly-liberated French.

They unexpectedly become heroes, after killing a group of German soldiers who had them pinned down in a forest. They are decorated by the American forces, to whom they've been attached, and their commanding officer (who has a sneaking admiration for their schemes), tears up their record of crimes.




The film was adapted by Harold Buchman from the 1961 novel Stop at a Winner by R. F. Delderfield who served in the RAF during World War II.


The fighting scenes in the woods were shot in and around "The Sandpit" on Horsell Common near Woking, Surrey. Interiors were completed at Shepperton Studios, Surrey.

US release

The US poster tried to make it seem more like a James Bond film than a comedy. On the Fiddle FilmPoster.jpeg
The US poster tried to make it seem more like a James Bond film than a comedy.

The film was not released in the United States until 21 May 1965, retitled "Operation Snafu" [1] and later "Operation War Head" [1] by the US distributor American International Pictures. The only purpose of the US release was to capitalise on the popularity of Sean Connery, who by then had become world-famous as James Bond in Dr No , From Russia with Love and Goldfinger . The titles, as well as the advertising campaign, downplayed the comedic aspects of the film as well as Connery's original second-billing. During a 1961 trip to England Alan King made a brief appearance in the film and forgot about it until the American release gave him second billing. [2] He and Connery would work together again on The Anderson Tapes.


Reviewing the film in The New York Times , following its 1965 US release, Howard Thompson noted that the release was "an obvious cash-in" on Connery's popularity as James Bond, but found it, "a friendly little wartime comedy from England." He wrote that, "The wonder is that a picture with a story already done, gag by gag, a hundred times is so easy to take. It is, though — flip, friendly, brisk and a wee bit cynical in its take-it-or-leave-it jauntiness", and concluded that, "The film is familiar and trifling, but it's perky." [3]

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  1. 1 2 IMDb: On the Fiddle (1961) - Release Info Linked 2014-08-10
  2. pp. 138-169 Chase, Chris Name Dropping Simon and Schuster, 4 Sep. 1997
  3. New York Times, 22 May 1965: Screen: 'Operation Snafu': Comedy and New Stage Show at Paramount Re-linked 2014-08-10