The Singer Not the Song

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The Singer Not the Song
The Singer Not the Song FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Produced by Roy Ward Baker
Screenplay by Nigel Balchin
Based on The Singer Not the Song
by Audrey Erskine-Lindop
Starring Dirk Bogarde
John Mills
Mylène Demongeot
Music by Philip Green
Cinematography Otto Heller
Edited by Roger Cherrill
Distributed by Rank Film Distributors (UK)
Warner Bros. (US)
Release date
  • 5 January 1961 (1961-01-05) (UK)
  • 13 October 1961 (1961-10-13) (AUS)
  • 2 May 1962 (1962-05-02) (US)
Running time
132 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Singer Not the Song is a 1961 British drama film based on the 1953 novel by Audrey Erskine-Lindop that was directed by Roy Ward Baker and filmed in Spain.


A priest, Father Michael Keogh (John Mills), is sent by Rome to Quantana, a remote Mexican town which is under the control of a ruthless bandit, Anacleto Komachi (Dirk Bogarde). Anacleto is educated and intelligent, and is "down" on the Church, but he finds in Keogh a man he strangely admires and with whom he can have intelligent conversation. However, he does not allow this to distract him from his goal: to expunge the priest from his fiefdom at any cost.


The film is, first and foremost, a story of good versus evil, with the priest in the role of a redeemer who comes to save the villagers, and the bandito as the devil incarnate intent on owning their souls. Each seeks to drive the other out.

The character of Anacleto is intriguing in that he shows the willingness to become a better person, yet underlying he sees the corruption and hypocrisy in the Church and on those grounds, rather than on evil ones, he cannot bring himself to embrace it. Meanwhile the Church has, since the film was made, revealed to an even more disturbing degree the scandals and outrages over which it has presided and which have occurred within it, rendering more subtle and intriguing the contrast between the two men, whose mutual struggle to drive each other out ends as we might expect—neither wins.

Main cast[edit]


Leo Genn bought the rights to the novel in 1954 to allow him to play the bandit.[1]

Roy Ward Baker was forced to direct the film under his contract with Rank. He tried to get out of it by suggesting Luis Buñuel as director but was unsuccessful.[2]

Richard Burton was going to star in the film at one stage.[3]

When the Rank Organisation insisted that John Mills play the priest, Dirk Bogarde became so incensed that he told director Roy Ward Baker, "I promise you, if Johnny plays the priest I will make life unbearable for everyone concerned". The film failed at the box office, but has since developed a cult following due to its camp homosexual context and over the top performance by the black clad leather pants worn by Bogarde.[4]

Even though the story takes place in Mexico, the film was actually made in Alhaurín de la Torre, in Andalusia, Spain.


  1. ^ Leo Genn Purchases Old Mexico Story; Rex Reason's Name Restored Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 4 Sep 1954: 11.
  2. ^ Frank Miller. 'The Singer not the Song', Turner Classic Movies accessed 8 August 2012
  3. ^ "Burton Will Star in French Movie: Teamed With Mile. Moreau in 'Moderate Cantabile' -- Busy on Screen, Stage, TV". New York Times. 20 January 1960. p. 25. 
  4. ^ Roy Ward Baker Obituary at Daily Telegraph

External links[edit]