The Singer Not the Song
The Singer Not the Song FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed byRoy Ward Baker
Screenplay byNigel Balchin
Based onThe Singer Not the Song
by Audrey Erskine Lindop
Produced byRoy Ward Baker
StarringDirk Bogarde
John Mills
Mylène Demongeot
CinematographyOtto Heller
Edited byRoger Cherrill
Music byPhilip Green
Distributed byRank Film Distributors
Release dates
  • 5 January 1961 (1961-01-05) (UK)
  • 13 October 1961 (1961-10-13) (AUS)
  • 2 May 1962 (1962-05-02) (US)
Running time
132 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Singer Not the Song is a 1961 British drama film based on the 1953 novel of the same title by Audrey Erskine Lindop that was directed by Roy Ward Baker and filmed in Spain. It stars Dirk Bogarde, John Mills, and Mylène Demongeot.


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.

Main cast


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

Roy Ward Baker was required 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 Bogarde in black leather trousers.[4]

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

Mylène Demongeot declared in a 2016 filmed interview in Paris:[5]

"I was then shooting Upstairs and Downstairs at Shepperton Studios, the producers came by to offer me the part. I accepted immediately. I was later told that Charlton Heston had agreed upon doing it, his name was even in my contract. But when we arrived back in London to shoot, we've been told "Mr Heston no longer wants to do the film because the film shocks him", it might have been for other reasons... I was told Montgomery Clift would eventually do it, then that Marlon Brando was in talks to do it, I was therefore excited. But I saw coming up a charming little man, probably 1.60 m high man, kind, in his fifties with lovely blue eyes. But I said, is he really the man my character is supposed to be crazy about? The man whom Dirk Bogarde should be crazy [French: folle pour, tongue-in-cheek term to imply 'go gay for'] about? Uh sorry ... [Laughs]. I was about to quit but my agent told me "you'll do it anyways", so I grumbled the whole time. I struggled to project in emotional scenes with him the fact that I adored him. It proves that I am a good actress [Laughs]. He was a very good actor but I understand me, I was 23 at the time and he was an old man to me. The film remains as one of the first homosexual stories seen on screen."


  1. ^ Schallert, Edwin (4 September 1954). "Leo Genn Purchases Old Mexico Story; Rex Reason's Name Restored". Los Angeles Times. p. 11.
  2. ^ Frank Miller. "The Singer not the Song". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 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". Daily Telegraph.
  5. ^ "Rencontre avec mylène demongeot". Mac Mahon Filmed Conferences Paris. 1 May 2016. Archived from the original on 15 December 2021. Retrieved 24 October 2021.