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How I Won the War
How I Won the War
is a black comedy film directed and produced by Richard Lester, released in 1967, based on a novel of the same name by Patrick Ryan. The film stars Michael Crawford
Michael Crawford
as bungling British Army Officer Lieutenant Earnest Goodbody, with John Lennon
John Lennon
(in his only non-musical role, as Musketeer Gripweed), Jack MacGowran
Jack MacGowran
(Musketeer Juniper), Roy Kinnear
Roy Kinnear
(Musketeer Clapper) and Lee Montague (Sergeant Transom) as soldiers under his command. The film uses an inconsistent variety of styles—vignette, straight-to-camera, and, extensively, parody of the war film genre, docu-drama, and popular war literature—to tell the story of 3rd Troop, the 4th Musketeers (a fictional regiment reminiscent of the Royal Fusiliers) and their misadventures in the Second World War. This is told in the comic/absurdist vein throughout, a central plot being the setting-up of an "Advanced Area Cricket Pitch" behind enemy lines in North Africa, but it is all broadly based on the Western Desert Campaign
Western Desert Campaign
in mid-late 1942[1] and the crossing of the last intact bridge on the Rhine
Rhine
at Remagen
Remagen
in early 1945. The film was not critically well received.

Contents

1 Plot 2 Cast 3 Production 4 Narrative and themes 5 The Regiment 6 Comparison with the novel 7 Comparison with Candide 8 References 9 External links

Plot[edit] Lieutenant Goodbody, is an inept, idealistic, naïve, and almost relentlessly jingoistic wartime-commissioned (not regular) officer. One of the main subversive themes in the film is the platoon's repeated attempts or temptations to kill or otherwise rid themselves of their complete liability of a commander. While Goodbody's ineptitude and attempts at derring-do lead to the gradual demise of the unit, he himself survives, together with the unit's persistent deserter and another of his charges who ends up confined to psychiatric care. Every time a character is killed he is replaced by an actor in bright red, blue, or green-coloured World War II
World War II
uniform, whose face is also coloured and obscured so that he appears to be a living toy soldier. This reinforces Goodbody's repeated comparisons of war to playing a game. Cast[edit]

Michael Crawford
Michael Crawford
as Lieutenant Earnest Goodbody John Lennon
John Lennon
as Gripweed Roy Kinnear
Roy Kinnear
as Clapper Lee Montague as Sergeant Transom Jack MacGowran
Jack MacGowran
as Juniper Michael Hordern
Michael Hordern
as Grapple Jack Hedley as Melancholy Musketeer Karl Michael Vogler
Karl Michael Vogler
as Odlebog Ronald Lacey
Ronald Lacey
as Spool James Cossins as Drogue Ewan Hooper as Dooley Alexander Knox
Alexander Knox
as American General Robert Hardy
Robert Hardy
as British General Sheila Hancock
Sheila Hancock
as Mrs. Clapper's Friend Charles Dyer as Flappy-Trousered Man Bill Dysart as Paratrooper Paul Daneman as Skipper Peter Graves as Staff Officer Jack May as Toby Richard Pearson as Old Man at Alamein Pauline Taylor as Woman in Desert John Ronane as Operator Norman Chappell as Soldier at Alamein Bryan Pringle
Bryan Pringle
as Reporter Fanny Carby as Mrs. Clapper Dandy Nichols as 1st Old Lady Gretchen Franklin
Gretchen Franklin
as 2nd Old Lady John Junkin as Large Child John Trenaman as Driver Mick Dillon as 1st Replacement Kenneth Colley
Kenneth Colley
as 2nd Replacement

Production[edit] Filming took place during the autumn of 1966 in the German state of Lower Saxony, at the Bergen-Hohne Training Area, Verden an der Aller and Achim, as well as the Province of Almería
Province of Almería
in Spain.[2] Lennon, taking a break from the Beatles, was asked by Lester to play Musketeer Gripweed. To prepare for the role, Lennon had his hair cut down, contrasting sharply with his mop-top image. During filming, he started wearing round "granny-like" glasses, which he continued to sport nearly constantly for the remainder of his life, becoming one of his most distinctive trademarks. A photo of Lennon in character as Gripweed found its way into many print publications, including the front page of the first issue of Rolling Stone, released in November 1967. During his stay in Almería, Lennon had rented a villa called Santa Isabel, whose wrought-iron gates and surrounding lush vegetation bore a resemblance to Strawberry Field, a Salvation Army
Salvation Army
garden near Lennon's childhood home; it was this observation that inspired Lennon to write "Strawberry Fields Forever" while filming.[3] The Spanish film Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed
Living Is Easy with Eyes Closed
(2013) revolves around the filming in Almeria. From 28 to 29 December 1966, Lennon recorded all post-synchronisation work for his character at Twickenham Film Studios
Twickenham Film Studios
in London, England. The film's release was delayed by six months as Richard Lester
Richard Lester
went on to work on Petulia
Petulia
(1968), shortly after completing How I Won the War. Narrative and themes[edit] In writing the script, the author, Charles Wood, borrowed themes and dialogue from his surreal and bitterly dark (and banned) anti-war play Dingo. In particular the character of the spectral clown 'Juniper' is closely modelled on the Camp Comic from the play, who likewise uses a blackly comic style to ridicule the fatuous glorification of war. Goodbody narrates the film retrospectively, more or less, while in conversation with his German officer captor, 'Odlebog', at the Rhine bridgehead in 1945. From their duologue emerges another key source of subversion – the two officers are in fact united in their class attitudes and officer-status contempt for (and ignorance of) their men. While they admit that the question of the massacre of Jews might divide them, they equally admit that it is not of prime concern to either of them. Goodbody's jingoistic patriotism finally relents when he accepts his German counterpart's accusation of being, in principle, a Fascist. They then resolve to settle their disagreements on a commercial basis (Odlebog proposes selling Goodbody the last intact bridge over the Rhine; in the novel the bridge is identified as that at Remagen) which could be construed as a satire on unethical business practices and capitalism. This sequence also appears in the novel. Fascism amongst the British is previously mentioned when Gripweed (Lennon's character) is revealed to be a former follower of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists, though Colonel
Colonel
Grapple (played by Michael Hordern) sees nothing for Gripweed to be embarrassed about, stressing that "Fascism is something you grow out of". One monologue in the film concerns Musketeer Juniper's lament – while impersonating a high-ranked officer – about how officer material is drawn from the working and lower class, and not (as it used to be) from the feudal aristocracy. The Regiment[edit] In the novel, Patrick Ryan chose not to identify a real Army unit. The officers chase wine and glory, the soldiers chase sex and evade the enemy. The model is a regular infantry regiment forced, in wartime, to accept temporarily commissioned officers like Goodbody into its number, as well as returning reservists called back into service. In both world wars this has provided a huge bone of contention for regular regiments, where the exclusive esprit de corps is highly valued and safeguarded. The name Musketeers recalls the Royal Fusiliers, but the later mention of the "Brigade of Musketeers" recalls the Brigade of Guards. In the film, the regiment is presented as a cavalry regiment (armoured with tanks or light armour, such as the half-tracks) that has been adapted to "an independent role as infantry". The platoon of the novel has become a troop, a Cavalry designation. None of these features come from the novel, such as the use of half-tracks and Transom's appointment as "Corporal of Musket", which suggests the cavalry title Corporal of Horse. These aspects are most likely due to the screenwriter Charles Wood being a former regular army cavalryman. Comparison with the novel[edit] The novel uses none of the absurdist/surrealist devices associated with the film and differs greatly in style and content. The novel represents a far more conservative, structured (though still comic) war memoir, told by a sarcastically naïve and puerile Lieutenant Goodbody in the first person. It follows an authentic chronology of the war consistent with one of the long-serving regular infantry units – for example of the 4th Infantry
Infantry
Division – such as the 2nd Royal Fusiliers, including (unlike the film) the campaigns in Italy and Greece. Rather than surrealism the novel offers some quite chillingly vivid accounts of Tunis
Tunis
and Cassino. Patrick Ryan served as an infantry and then a reconnaissance officer in the war. Throughout, the author's bitterness at the pointlessness of war, and the battle of class interests in the hierarchy, are common to the film, as are most of the characters (though the novel predictably includes many more than the film). Comparison with Candide[edit] It has been pointed out, including by Leslie Halliwell, that there are echoes of Voltaire's Candide
Candide
in the story, especially in the continual, improbable, inexplicable reappearance of Colonel Grapple.[citation needed] Grapple is supposed to be Lieutenant Goodbody's old Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU) Training Officer, full of ruthless, old-school British Empire
British Empire
optimism (rather than the Leibnizian optimism of Candide's Pangloss).[citation needed] Another frequently reappearing feature is Musketeer Clapper's endless series of hopeless personal problems, invariably involving his wife's infidelities. Only the second of these recurring scenes is found in the novel, and in this case, unlike Candide, the optimism always comes from the innocent Goodbody (Candide), never Clapper. References[edit]

^ Robert Hardy, 16:23-16:29 (DVD version) ^ Comp. Blazek, Matthias: Vor 50 Jahren startete im Celler Raum der Beat durch – 50 Jahre Beatlemania in Celle, bpr-Projekt GbR, Celle 2013, ISBN 978-3-00-041877-8, p. 5–6. ^ Aftab, Kaleem (18 October 2013). "Living is Easy With Eyes Closed: How John Lennon's Role in a 1960s War Film Inspired a Whole New Movie". The Independent. Retrieved 4 January 2017. 

External links[edit]

How I Won the War
How I Won the War
on IMDb How I Won the War
How I Won the War
at Rotten Tomatoes Feature at Britmovie

v t e

Films directed by Richard Lester

The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film (1959) It's Trad, Dad! (1962) The Mouse on the Moon
The Mouse on the Moon
(1963) A Hard Day's Night (1964) The Knack …and How to Get It
The Knack …and How to Get It
(1965) Help! (1965) A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966) How I Won the War
How I Won the War
(1967) Petulia
Petulia
(1968) The Bed Sitting Room (1969) The Three Musketeers (1973) Juggernaut (1974) The Four Musketeers (1974) Royal Flash (1975) Robin and Marian
Robin and Marian
(1976) The Ritz (1976) Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979) Cuba (1979) Superman II
Superman II
(1980) Superman III
Superman III
(1983) Finders Keepers (1984) The Return of the Musketeers
The Return of the Musketeers
(1989) Get

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