On the Fiddle

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.

On the Fiddle
Original UK quad size poster
Directed byCyril Frankel
Produced byBenjamin Fisz
Screenplay byHarold Buchman
Based onStop at a Winner (novel)
by R.F. Delderfield
StarringAlfred Lynch
Sean Connery
Cecil Parker
Stanley Holloway
Music byMalcolm Arnold
CinematographyEdward Scaife
Edited byPeter Hunt
Coronado Productions
Distributed byAnglo Amalgamated (UK)
Release date
  • 10 October 1961 (1961-10-10) (UK)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

It was Sean Connery's tenth film, 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 judge he is only working in the black market while waiting to enlist in the war effort. On hearing this plea, the judge 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.

However, their antics soon lead to them being sent on a mission to occupied France where they unexpectedly succeed with their offbeat actions.

Main cast



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 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]


  1. 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
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