6.9/10
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24 user 11 critic

Major Barbara (1941)

Approved | | Comedy | 2 August 1941 (UK)
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:

Gabriel Pascal, Harold French (uncredited) | 1 more credit »

Writers:

George Bernard Shaw (original play), George Bernard Shaw (scenario and dialogue) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Wendy Hiller ... Major Barbara Undershaft
Rex Harrison ... Adolphus Cusins
Robert Morley ... Andrew Undershaft
Robert Newton ... Bill Walker
Sybil Thorndike ... The General
Emlyn Williams ... Snobby Price
Marie Lohr ... Lady Britomart
Penelope Dudley-Ward ... Sarah Undershaft
Walter Hudd ... Stephen Undershaft
David Tree ... Charles Lomax
Deborah Kerr ... Jenny Hill
Donald Calthrop ... Peter Shirley
Marie Ault ... Rummy Mitchens
Cathleen Cordell ... Mog Habbijam
Torin Thatcher ... Todger Fairmile
Edit

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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 August 1941 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Майор Барбара See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Robert Morley was only four years older than screen daughter Wendy Hiller, and eleven years younger than Walter Hudd, who played his son. 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

Stephen Underschaft: I'm sorry sir that you force me to forget the respect due to you as my father. I'm an Englishman, I will not hear the government of my country insulted!
Andrew Underschaft: The government of your country! I am the government of your country! I and Lazarus. Do you suppose that you and half a dozen amateurs like you, sitting in a row in that foolish gavel shop, can govern a country like England? Be off with you my boy, and play with your historic parties, and leading articles, and burning questions, and the rest of ...
See more »

Alternate Versions

As originally released, this featured a spoken prologue featuring George Bernard Shaw himself, but it has been cut from all TV and VHS prints. See more »

Connections

Version of Major Barbara (1966) See more »

Soundtracks

There Is a Happy Land
(uncredited)
Hindustani air
Arranged by Leonard P. Breedlov (1850)
Words by Andrew Young (1838)
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 robertguttmanSee 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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