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Major Barbara (1941)

 -  Comedy  -  2 August 1941 (UK)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 772 users  
Reviews: 16 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.

Directors:

, (uncredited) , 1 more credit »

Writers:

(original play), (scenario and dialogue), 4 more credits »
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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

2 August 1941 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Axiomatikos Barbara  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Shaw wanted Mrs. Patrick Campbell for the role of Lady Britomart, but the veteran actress turned the role down because it would have meant she had to leave her beloved dog Moonbeam behind her in France. See more »

Goofs

(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 »

Quotes

Andrew Underschaft: When you vote, you only change the names of the cabinet. When you shoot, you pull down governments, inaugurate new epochs, abolish old orders, and set up new.
See more »

Connections

Version of Major Barbara (1966) See more »

Soundtracks

Onward, Christian Soldiers
(uncredited)
Music by Arthur Sullivan (1871)
Words by Sabine Baring-Gould (1864)
Arranged by William Walton
See more »

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User Reviews

If your old religion doesn't fit the facts then scrap it and find one that does
24 August 2009 | by (Tappan, New York) – See all my reviews

One of my all-time favorite films, "Major Barbara" is a cinematic Shavian gem that stands alongside the original "Pygmalion", "Caesar and Cleopatra" and "The Devil's Disciple". Many viewers regard this as a rather verbose comedy-drama but then, as with Plato, dialogue was always what Shaw was all about. And what dialogue! There are more fireworks in ten minutes of "Major Barbara" then can be found in entire movies made nowadays, and without a single explosion or car chase! But then, like all Shaw dramas, this is a story about ideas, not about action.

Although Major Barbara (Windy Hiller) is the title character, the real center of the story is her father, munitions tycoon Andrew Undershaft, played brilliantly by a fairly young, and uncharacteristically lean, Robert Morely. It is he who really moves the progress of the story, just as he has controlled the courses of the lives of his family in absentia for the past twenty years without their even being aware of it. As Barbara smugly repudiates his attempts to contribute his tainted money to save her Salvation Army mission, he ironically reminds her fiancée (and the audience) that she has actually accepted a great deal of it already. In fact, she has been living off his tainted money all her life. Tricked out with a Mephistophelean beard (he is constantly referred to as the "Prince of Darkness, and even his name seems redolent of Hell), Undershaft tempts his daughter and prospective son-in-law to abrogate their life in the Salvation Army for his life in the munitions business.

Undershaft proposes to spend a day in Barbara's Salvation Army mission if she'll agree to spend a day at his munitions works. She agrees because, in her religious zeal, she's convinced she can convert her father. The worldly Undershaft, on the other hand, is equally sure that he can wean his daughter away from a life he perceives as a waste of her time and talent for one where he feels she can really make a difference.

Whether viewers perceive Shaw's story as cynical or realistic depends upon their point of view. Clearly Shaw took the latter view, at least at the time he wrote "Major Barbara". However, perhaps the most remarkable thing about "Major Barbara" is that a film like this should have been produced in Britain at all during the very darkest days of World War II. It is almost impossible to imagine a film such as this being produced in Hollywood at all, let alone during wartime!


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