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Major Barbara (1941)

Approved  |   |  Comedy  |  2 August 1941 (UK)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 832 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 12 critic

A young and idealistic woman, who has adopted the Salvation Army and whose father is an armament industrialist, will save more souls directing her father's business. A comedy with social commentary.


, (uncredited) , 1 more credit »


(original play), (scenario and dialogue), 4 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
The General
Emlyn Williams ...
Marie Lohr ...
Penelope Dudley-Ward ...
Walter Hudd ...
David Tree ...
Donald Calthrop ...
Marie Ault ...
Cathleen Cordell ...
Mog Habbijam
Torin Thatcher ...
Todger Fairmile


A young and idealistic woman, who has adopted the Salvation Army and whose father is an armament industrialist, will save more souls directing her father's business. A comedy with social commentary.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

2 August 1941 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Axiomatikos Barbara  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Filming went on through the German Blitz. Producer Pascal had his own spotter on the roof who blew a horn when he spied German planes. According to Ronald Neame, nobody had told Wendy Hiller, so when he horn sounded during a rehearsal and everybody left, Hiller was bewildered. See more »


(at around 1h 35 mins) Just before she scolds her husband for addressing her as "Biddy", a boom mic shadow passes over the lace trim on the bosom of Lady Britomart's (Marie Lohr) gown. See more »


Andrew Underschaft: The fist Underschaft wrote: if God gave man the hand, let not man withhold the sword. The second wrote: all have the right to fight, none have the right to judge. The third wrote up: to man the heaven, to heaven the victory. The fourth had no literary turn, so he didn't write up anything, but he sold cannons to Napoleon under the nose of George III. The fifth wrote up: peace shall not prevail, save with a sword in her hand. But the sixth, my master, was best of all. He wrote up: nothing is ever...
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Version of ITV Play of the Week: Major Barbara (1966) See more »


How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds
Music by Alexander Reinagle (1836)
Words by John Newton (1779)
Arranged by William Walton
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User Reviews

What did the Real Salvation Army Think?
20 August 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Once I asked my Sunday School class (Disciples of Christ) about an article I read about mob money given to some churches. Some of my class said however the money was earned (if "earned" is the term for mob money) it could be used for good. Then I asked what would they think if the KKK gave the same amount, and wanted it known. More demurred, though some made the argument that money itself is neither good nor evil, and it was still a good irony to take money earned from evil and turn it to good works and helping people. By rejecting it one might be taking food from the mouths of those who are in need (ours is a sharing church, not a builder of Crystal Cathedrals).

Being the teacher and therefore moderator I took no part in the discussion; and it's just as well because I don't know what to think. Both sides made very good, but not altogether, persuasive arguments and I still have no opinion on the matter.

This is more or less the theme of Shaw's play, written in 1905 and filmed in 1941, at the height of the Blitz, with an excellent cast. Wendy Hiller is good as the woman who loves saving souls in the Salvation Army, but who has a crisis of faith when her father, a wealthy industrialist, offers the Salvation Army fifty thousand pounds and, over her objections, accepts it.

But when Barbara resigns her commission in the Salvation Army, is it pride, or her own problems with her father? Or is money really "tainted" just because it's earned from selling munitions? After all, munitions don't kill people, people kill people. (and, personally, as a capitalist I believe in earned money)

The fact that he is a munitions maker is immaterial. Shaw was a Socialist and despised capital, despite the fact that the twentieth century that stretched 95 years after the play was written proved capitalism knows how to create jobs and lift the living standards of the poor but Socialism only knows how to lower all standards to equal squalor.

The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent. Young professional Shavian Rex Harrison is good, and has a moment of brilliance when he's trying to pass through a trombone section of the Army. Robert Morley is a bit disappointing (I'm afraid I was expecting the arrogant Robert Morley, but he's just as good playing a pleasant-natured old munitions maker--in his thirties). The other major Robert in the cast, Newton, is his usual self, wonderfully hammy. Other familiar faces to American audiences will be Miles Malleson and Deborah Kerr, looking lovely in a very early role.

Also in the credits are rising David Lean, as "assistant to the director." Curiously, Ronald Neame replaced Freddie Young as cameraman, since young would go on to have amazing success working with David Lean on his later epics.

Like all Shaw's plays, it's talky. Not talky in the overly clever way of Wilde. More philosophically-talky,and eventually pedantry. And, as usual, Shaw stacks the deck in his own favor.

Just as does criticism of this movie as "pro-war" or "anti-war." No one is "pro-war," but more open-minded people realize its necessity (as did American Presidents Wilson, FDR, JFK, LBJ, WJC, and BO, all of whom waged it at one time or another).

Shaw is never very relevant to an American audience, since Americans never came from a caste-ridden society. And Shaw is a lot of talk, talk, talk. But if you can avoid Shaw's wicked sleight of hand, there are some good momens here, though lots of it is dull. And Shaw seems to have forgotten the Christian adage, "Money is the root of all evil," but is not evil in itself, nor are any THINGS, but from the hearts of men.

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