Tunes of Glory contains what Alec Guinness once called his particular favorite performance, and it's not hard to see why. Guinness is nothing less than stunning in the role, a tour de force which allows him to peel back the many layers of his character and lay it bare. Although the part could easily be played in an overly ostentatious manner, Guinness is careful to hold back when necessary, playing to the hilt only when it suits the character's needs and motivations rather than when it is most advantageous for the actor. He is not afraid to let the audience see the character's warts, such as his ego-gratifying need to impugn the masculinity of other characters. Yet it is the realness, the three dimensionality of the portrayal, that makes the audience care so deeply for the character. John Mills is also superb, although in a quite difficult part that precludes a great deal of audience sympathy. His subtle, introspective performance meshes quite well with Guinness's more galvanizing work. Director Ronald Neame turns in an unmannered, smooth job; if there's little of distinction to his work, it still provides the requisite showcase for his two stars, along with a sterling supporting cast. James Kennaway's screenplay is efficient and flavorful, but also manipulative; the issues it purports to address are presented too baldly for it to have the desired impact. As a result, Tunes is best appreciated not for what it says but for the way the actors say it. Guinness and Neame had earlier worked together, also to very good effect, on The Horse's Mouth.
by Craig Butler review