Oh! What a Lovely War (1969): Attenborough’s Directing Debut, Satire of War

Richard Attenborough, then a well known actor, made his directorial debut with Oh, What a Lovely War, a musical comedy, based on Joan Littlewood’s stage play of 1963 (which itself was based on a 1961 radio play).

The title is derived from the music hall song, “Oh! It’s a Lovely War,” which is one of the major numbers in the film.

The film’s cast reads like a who’s who list of the British theater and cinema, including Olivier, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, John Mills, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave, Susannah York, and many others.

Though it was originally a satire of WWII, released in 1969, in the midst of the controversial Vietnam War, the musical (still done on stage) became a more universal satire of any war.

Attenborough is best known for directing the biopic Gandhi, which swept all the major Oscar Awards in 1982.


Running time: 144 Minutes.