Dir: Richard Attenborough
Starring: John Gielgud and Maggie Smith
A musical fantasia on the First World War
This wonderful spectacle of a film is based on the stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War!, originated by Charles Chilton as a radio play The Long Long Trail in December 1961. It has an ensemble cast and features an elaborate sequence filmed on Brighton station (masquerading as ‘Waterloo’) involving departing troops. The train is formed of several ‘ambulance’ coaches (one of which is No.629) and a ‘birdcage’ from the Longmoor Military Railway, but the locomotive, preserved LSWR M7 Class 0-4-4T No.245 in LSWR pale green, is only just visible in the background of one shot. There is a later musical scene involving a miniature train on Brighton Pier that although in LB&SCR livery and in steam, is really nothing more than a glorified fairground ride, electrically operated, and with fake steam effects. However, it is relevant to what comes next. The scene sees a woman wave at the train as it trundles down the pier full of singing troops, only for it to then disappear from view. The camera then cuts to the woman alone on a deserted Brighton station platform and some four-wheel vans and a 2 BIL EMU are just visible in the background. Although the electrified third rail (laid down in 1932), and the EMU (not introduced until 1935) are both wrong for a film about WWI, the implication is that she is revisiting her thoughts from that earlier time and these inaccuracies should in no way detract from what is a very poignant sequence.