Home A short biography Available sheet music Roses of Picardy: the real story
About us Days in the life of Haydn Wood The recorded works The lyrics of Roses of Picardy
Contact us Haydn Wood and Slaithwaite Live performances Roses of Picardy printed music
  Haydn Wood and the Isle of Man   The performers of Roses of Picardy
The Haydn Wood Music Shop Haydn Wood, symphonist   A discography of Roses of Picardy
Our CD A Breezy Ballad Haydn Wood and films   Les enregistrements de Roses de Picardie
Our lectures Haydn Wood 2009   Roses of Picardy in films
      Roses of Picardy: a research in progress

 

 

 

Roses of Picardy in films

Films in which Roses of Picardy is performed or listened to by the characters,
or is used as background music.

 

More Haydn Wood's compositions in films

 


 


Non English-language films are listed under their English title, with the original language title following in brackets. Where a film has never been released with an English title, it is listed under its original title with an English translation in square brackets.
The date given is the production date, not the release date.

A chronoligical discrepancy related to Roses of Picardy in a film is mentioned as a curiosity. Such a mention is not judgmental.

Links to video-sharing websites: the film you expect to watch may have been blocked in your country.

 


Roses of Picardy
directed by Maurice Elvey (UK, 1927)

A young British officer pays a visit to the village in Belgium where he was billeted in the Great War. He remembers Madeleine who, like a mother to a child, gave him the comfort he craved when he went to pieces after a bloody night attack.

This silent film was accompanied by music on records or by instrumentalists playing live. Roses of Picardy was on the playlist. In some cases, a singer would take part in the show.

 


Camera Interviews:
Mr F. E. Weatherly, KC,
the Famous Song Writer
Pathé Pictorial (UK, 1928)
documentary

F. E. Weatherly was an English barrister who wrote the lyrics of many songs, including Roses of Picardy.

In this silent short, he is seen in his garden amidst blooming roses.

The front page of Roses of Picardy sheet music is superimposed on a close-up of a rose.

The documentary can be watched on the British Pathé channel on YouTube

 


Strong and Willing
Vitaphone (USA, 1930)

The american vaudevillian Trixie Friganza sings Strong and Willing, a caricature of Roses of Picardy written by Neville Fleeson.

It tells how Rosie O'Kerry, from a one horse town, went to the big city and was immediately engaged in a music hall company. The manager did not realize the only song she could sing was Roses of Picardy. Never mind! She will fit the song into the show's weekly theme.

She sang Roses of Picardy as a two-part song all by herself, and carried on in a fox trot style. Next week it was a Spanish fandango. Another week, it was a New Orleans jazz version.

Trixie Friganza sings and dances in this five-minute-long quick-change act. She does not tell how many weeks Rosie's engagement lasted!

This reel can be watched on YouTube.

 


Rudy Starita and His New 'Octarimba'
in Melodies of Long Ago

Pathé Pictorial (UK, 1936)

Rudy Starita plays Roses of Picardy on the octa-rimba, accompanied by a guitarist and an accordionist. They carry on with Love's Old Sweet Song composed by J. L. Molloy.

This reel can be watched on the British Pathé channel on YouTube

 


Forever and a Day
directed by Edmund Goulding, and others (USA, 1942)

a portmanteau film

This film was made with the entire British colony in the Hollywood studios as a war effort to raise money for charities. Producteurs, writers, directors, actors and main technicians volunteered. Haydn Wood agreed that no fee would be paid for including Roses of Picardy in the film.

The film tells in as many episodes, the changing fortunes of one mansion in London from 1804 when it was built, through 1941 when it was destroyed by the Blitz. The episode directed by Edmund Goulding starts in 1917; the mansion is by then a boarding house. On 11 novembre 1918, the patrons—civilians or military, manager and staff, and friends, have a party to celebrate the armistice. They waltz and sing while a sailor plays Roses of Picardy at the piano.

 


Variety Jubilee
directed by Maclean Rogers (UK, 1943)

The son of the Queen's Theatre manager visits his parents to introduce his fiancée to them (he is a soldier on leave). The show is about to begin; one can hear from the lobby the orchestra playing Roses of Picardy.

The sequence begins with a close-up of a sign announcing that today 20 May 1915, soldiers pay half price—and yet in actuality, Roses of Picardy was not published in England until January 1917.

 


This Happy Breed
directed by David Lean (UK, 1944)

London, 1919: Frank Gibbons is demobilized after four years in the war. He has got a job in a travel agency which proposes package tours to the main battlefields of the Great War.

David Lean shows the agency's window with flags and a picture of soldiers patrolling a devastated field.

An orchestral arrangement of the chorus of Roses of Picardy is background music to this shot.

 


I Live in Grosvenor Square (aka A Yank in London)
directed by Herbert Wilcox (UK, 1945)

The Duke of Exmoor has given his residence in London for use by American GIs. His housekeeper doesn't like foreigners, so she says, but she secretly sews their uniforms' buttons back on and mends their socks. As she does, she listens to a music box which plays Roses of Picardy.

 


Devil in the Flesh (Le Diable au corps)
directed by Claude Autant-Lara (France, 1946)

François and Marthe meet again in a pub in Paris. She suddenly lets him believe that she is engaged; at this point, a service man at a piano starts playing Roses of Picardy in a rather joyful manner.

Later at a restaurant, François alludes to the promised Nivelle Offensive. This places the scene by early April 1917, which was actually too soon for Roses of Picardy to be well known in France.

 


The Courtneys of Curzon Street (aka Kathy's Love Affair)
directed by Herbert Wilcox (UK, 1947)

England, 1900: despite his mother's opposition, the lieutenant Edward Courtney marries Kate, their chambermaid. A few months later, Kate moves away from him so as not to hamper his military career. She has always been a lovely singer and succeeds in getting an engagement in a theatre, and later becomes a star.

During the Great War in Arras, France, Edward goes to an entertainment for the troops where he unexpectedly sees Kate singing Roses of Picardy, accompanied by a small orchesta. The soldiers join in the chorus the second time around. Edward goes backstage to find Kate, and they promise to never part again.

Anna Neagle is Kate. She prerecorded Roses of Picardy with a bigger orchestra than the orchestra seen in the film.

 


It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
directed by Bill Melendez (USA, 1966)

television movie

Snoopy wearing his World War I flying ace costume is entertained by Schroeder who plays famous wartime tunes at the piano. He bursts into tears when he hears Roses of Picardy.

 


Oh! What a Lovely War
directed by Richard Attenborough (UK, 1968)

At an Army Ball in December 1915, soon after Douglas Haig has been appointed as the new Commander in Chief of the British expeditionary force, guests can be seen waltzing to the music of Roses of Picardy.

There is a chronological discrepancy here: Roses of Picardy was actually written in 1916, and the waltz arrangement published in 1919.

 


Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies
(aka Monte Carlo or Bust!)

directed by Ken Annakin (Italy, France, UK, 1968)

This is a farcical film about the Monte Carlo rally in the 1920s. The competitors from various places in Europe drive to Chambéry, the common destination where they are billeted at the same hotel. Each of them breaks out into singing bits of the chorus of Roses of Picardy while they are in the toilets.

 


Solveigin laulu [Solveig's Song]
directed by Reima Kekäläinen (Finland, 1973)
television series, episode 3

During the 1930s and 1940s in Helsinki, Solveig had a difficult childhood and adolescence, what with a bad mother and a loving but ailing father.

Later in the 1950s, she is walking in the snow with her boyfriend; this is the day of her first kiss. Roses of Picardy is the background music to this moment of happiness.

References are not known for this recording of the chorus of Roses of Picardy for saxophone with orchestra.

 


Upstairs Downstairs: Peace out of Pain
directed by Christopher Hodson (UK, 1974)
television series: season 4, episode 13

London, November 1918, a few days before the armistice: Hazel Bellamy is in bed with a high fever. One can hear Roses of Picardy played on a gramophone by her husband in his room next door. The doctor wishes that Hazel rests in a quieter ambience.

References are not known for this recording of the chorus of Roses of Picardy sung by a tenor with piano accompaniment.

The episode can be watched on YouTube.

 


Aces High
directed by Jack Gold (UK, 1975)

October 1917: a Royal Flying Corps squadron is based near Amiens in Picardy. At the mess hall, the captain enjoys playing the chorus of Roses of Picardy at the piano.

Superior officers and lower ranks have dinner together. A few pilots hum Roses of Picardy to hide their concern about a missing comrade-in-arms. When his death is confirmed, they carry on humming as if nothing had happened.

A couple of days later, their leader takes some of his men on a binge to a nightclub in Amiens. A singer gives Roses of Picardy, accompanied by a pianist.

She sings the chorus of the French version which actually was published in 1918.

 


MASH: Old Soldiers
directed by Charles S. Durbin (USA, 1979)

television series: season 8, episode 18

The Korean war in 1950: refugee orphans are looked after at an American field hospital. Colonel Potter withdraws into his office to remember his four comrades-in-arms of the Great War; the last of them has just died in hospital in Tokyo. Potter plays a record of Roses of Picardy together with a Korean kid who has stepped into the office when he heard the music through the door.

This recording of Roses of Picardy was probably recorded especially for the episode. It is a duet for violin and accordion with added clicks typical of a 78 rpm record.

 


One Deadly Summer (L'Été meurtrier)
directed by Jean Becker (France, 1982)

Éliane was born after her mother was raped by three men, one of them being a street musician who would go from city to city pulling a player piano.

He is dead now but under a drive for vengeance, Éliane flirts with his son and soon asks him about the player piano. 'Hey, how did you hear about it? … It's a pity it can play one tune only!'

They make love that night at his place, and the next morning she searches and finds the piano abandoned in a barn. She dusts it off and unveils the monogram M, the initial of the man who could have been her father.

Another day, haunted by the rape, Éliane spins herself around and around until she faints beside the piano.

Later in the film, a flashback develops at length as to how the rape happened.

Jean Becker and the composer Georges Delerue chose Roses of Picardy as the only tune which the piano can play. Actually, the piano is never activated in the film. Roses of Picardy is only heard as a haunting recollection at each instance described above.

 


A Passage to India
directed by David Lean (UK, 1984)

India, the 1920s: the English Administrator of Chandrapore (an imaginary town) has condescended to give a reception for the local Indian elite in the Club's garden. This is an unprecedented event which he hopes will not be repeated, so that the Club will remain strictly forbidden to Indian people. During the reception, a military band plays Roses of Picardy.

 


He Died with His Eyes Open (On ne meurt que deux fois)
directed by Jacques Deray (France, 1985)

The detective Staniland investigates the murder of a well-known pianist, Charly Berliner. He hears from a barman about how Charly, when he couldn't bear an unhappy love affair, would go to the bar late at night and sit at the piano: 'You wouldn't believe it, an artiste, he was on familiar terms with Beethoven … he would play the Roses of Picardy, old crap of the '20s!' The detective and the barman have fun with humming together the chorus of Roses of Picardy.

 


A Month in the Country
directed by Pat O'Connor (UK, 1986)

Summer in the early 1920s: Tom Birkin, a young man emotionally suffering from his participation in the Great War, has arrived by train from London to a remote Yorkshire village for a month's job, restoring a mural in the local church. The stationmaster's children, to keep him company, bring a gramophone they install upon the baptismal font. The first record they put on for him is Roses of Picardy. While it is playing, the children have almost an argument with Tom about the lilies in a religious painting they have at home; Tom muses, "Why just lilies? Why not roses, or lilies and roses, or just roses, or roses and daisies?" He will not allow them to climb up the ladder and look at his work in progress.

One morning he thinks he hears the children entering the church and he immediately tells them that he doesn't want Roses of Picardy today. When he turns around, he sees the vicar's charming wife who dares join him on the scaffolding to look at the mural; she wears a hat with one of the old roses she grows in the vicarage's garden.

The chorus of Roses of Picardy, arranged for violin and piano, followed by a few bars for string orchestra, is heard in the film once only. Yet rose symbolism pervades through several scenes.

 


The Whales of August
directed by Lindsay Anderson (USA, 1986)

Sarah tenderly looks at a picture of her late husband (in uniform) and talks to him with a glass of wine in her hand, a red rose and a white rose beside her: '46 years, Philip, 46 red roses, 46 white, white for truth, red for passion.' Then she puts the gramophone on and listens to Roses of Picardy, with the red rose in her hand.

Lindsay Anderson chose a recording by the tenor John McCormack with an orchestra conducted by Josef Pasternack (Camden, New Jersey, USA, 1919).

 


Cause célèbre
directed by John Gorrie (UK, 1987)
television movie

England, 1934: Alma, an ex-pianist and composer, talks to George, her young servant. Learning that he was born in November 1916, she confides to him that she married her first husband in 1916. He was 19 when he left for the French front, and she never saw him again. Seated at her piano, she nostalgically tinkles the keys and hums the chorus of Roses of Picardy, and bursts into tears.

The beginning of Cause célèbre, including the scene described above, can be watched on YouTube.

 


Another Woman
directed by Woody Allen (USA, 1988)

Marion is a New York philosophy professor on sabbatical leave who is facing a mid-life crisis. She pays a visit to her brother Paul with whom she long had a difficult relationship.

In the corridor leading to Paul's office, one can hear Roses of Picardy played in a nearby room. While they talk, Paul goes and shuts his office door, putting an end to this musical presence.

Woody Allen chose Frankie Carle's piano rendition of Roses of Picardy (New York, 1947).

For a previous film, Radio Days (1986), Allen wrote a scene about an amateur radio channel: the Coopers broadcast from their garage; the mother introduces the programme, and plays the piano accompaniment for her daughter who sings Roses of Picardy; the father is in charge of all technicities. The scene was shot but it was not included in the final version of the film.

 


The House of Eliott
directed by Graeme Harper (UK, 1992)

television series: season 2, episode 2

The House of Eliott is a London high society fashion house in the 1920s. Beatrice Eliott invites Alice Burgoyne to tea with the idea of hiring her, because she believes her to be an experienced saleswoman with an established list of clientele. While they discuss the matter in the elegant tearoom, a violin and piano duo plays Roses of Picardy.

Actually one doesn't see the two musicians. This performance of Roses of Picardy was probably recorded especially for the episode.

The episode can be watched on YouTube.

 


Johnny and the Dead
directed by Gerald Fox (UK, 1994)

television series: episode 3

England, the 1990s: the Blackbury cemetery is sold to property developers. The dead appear to Johnny, a boy who likes strolling around there; they ask him to help them save their cemetery.

Two of the dead, Fletcher and Einstein, decide to go to their favorite pub after so many years. They find that the place hasn't changed much, but to them the jukebox is making terrible music. Fletcher presses a button and instantly Roses of Picardy takes over. Einstein starts humming the chorus. This tune of another age spreads confusion and, although a middle-aged lady sings along, all customers and staff run out when the pinball machine and the jukebox both short-circuit. The dead are left alone in the dark and have a beer, much to their delight.

Roses of Picardy is performed by Freddy Gardner on the saxophone with Peter Yorke and His Concert Orchestra (London, UK, 1948).

 


Black Holes (I buchi neri)
directed by Pappi Corsicato (Italy, 1995)

Adamo and Angela are two tormented souls in search of tenderness and love. He is a homosexual whose job is driving a truck to take rotten bananas to the dump. She is a prostitute. 

One he dreams that they are making love at the bottom of the Gulf of Naples. Suddenly, dozens of bananas floating in the water sink over him while she surfaces.

This dream sequence is accompanied by Roses of Picardy performed by Eddie Calvert on the trumpet, with Norrie Paramor and His Orchestra (London, UK, 31 January 1955).

Black Holes can be watched on Vimeo.

 


Léargas: Ná Lig Sinn i nDearmad ...
[Léargas: Lest We Be Forgotten ...]
directed by Pat Butler (Ireland, 2003)

television documentary

This documentary remembers the some fifty-five thousand Irish nationalists who fell fighting with the British Army in the Great War.

The Irish writer Pól Ó Muiri is in Albert (Somme, France) on his way to the battlefield where his own relation, James Murray, died in 1916.

This sequence in Albert (from the railway station to the basilica) is accompanied by the chorus of Roses of Picardy performed by the tenor John McCormack with an orchestra conducted by Josef Pasternack (Camden, New Jersey, USA, 1919).

This documentary can be watched on YouTube.

 


Ladies in Lavender
directed by Charles Dance (UK, 2003)

The coast of Cornwall in 1936: two elderly spinster sisters, Ursula and Janet, take into their home and soon into their hearts, a young Polish shipwreck survivor, Andrea. Ursula has a dream: she as a young girl is rolling in a sunny field in a loving embrace with Andrea; but soon in her dream, Andrea is looking tenderly at their neighbour, a young lady the sisters are a little jealous of.

The chorus of Roses of Picardy is background music throughout Ursula's dream and continues into the next sequence, just long enough to show a photograph of a soldier on Janet's bedside table. Janet, a volunteer nurse in the Great War, became very close to this soldier whose wounds she tended, and who later died fighting.

Roses of Picardy is sung by the tenor John McCormack, with Edwin Schneider at the piano (New York, 1928). Dream-like reverberation and echo were added to the original recording.

 


Downton Abbey
directed by James Strong (UK, 2011)

television series: season 2, episode 8

Yorkshire, 1919: cousins of Lavinia has given her a gramophone. She tries it out with Lady Mary who puts on a record of Roses of Picardy. The dowager Countess of Grantham does not welcome this new technology in Downton Abbey Castle.

Roses of Picardy is sung by a tenor, with piano accompaniment. One hears the song, as it quickly fades into the background, starting from the piano introduction through the second line of the first verse.

 


War Horse
directed by Steven Spielberg (USA, 2011)

Dartmoor, Devon, 1914: to pay the rent, Ted Narracott sells his son Albert's beloved horse Joey to Captain Nicholls of the British Army. Nicholls promises Albert that he will take good care of the horse and possibly bring it back to him after the war.

Captain Nicholls and Joey go off to train for battle, and Joey meets and becomes friends with another horse. While they are nuzzling, the song Roses of Picardy subtly begins ...

... played on a gramophone while Nicholls, still in England, draws a portrait of Joey to send to Albert.

Nicholls and Joey with their unit have been transferred to France. The song carries on for a short moment over a shot of the cavalry who is going to attack a German unit at Quiévrechain in 1914.

Since Roses of Picardy was not written until 1916, there is a chronological discrepancy here. Sung by the tenor John McCormack with an orchestra conducted by Josef Pasternack (Camden, New Jersey, USA, 1919), one hears the chorus only, repeated as a loop a couple of times.

 


Birdsong
directed by Philip Martin (UK, 2011)
television series: episode 1

A trench near Béthune, 1916 : Lieutenant Wraysford and Captain Weir get a break in a dugout. Wraysford plays solitaire and turns over the Queen of Spades while Weir has a shave before he half-heartedly opens a package sent by his mother.

A faintly audible gramophone is playing Roses of Picardy.

Roses of Picardy was not recorded until 1917, and Philip Martin chose a recording from 1919—by the tenor John McCormack with an orchestra conducted by Josef Pasternack (Camden, New Jersey, USA).

Note that another song was substitued for Roses of Picardy on the DVD of Birdsong.

 



Les Fils du vent [Sons of the Wind]
directed by Bruno Le Jean (France)
documentary

This feature-length documentary portrays gypsy jazz artistes who perpetuate the legacy of Django Reinhardt.

At Saint-Quay-Portrieux (Côtes-d'Armor, France), one of them, Tchavolo Schmitt, plays a uniquely contemplative rendition of Roses of Picardy while sitting on a deck overlooking the English Channel (year unknown; Les Fils du vent was shot over eight years and released in 2012).

 


Before the Winter Chill (Avant l'hiver)
directed by Philippe Claudel (France, Luxembourg, 2012)

Paul, a successful French neurosurgeon, has been married to Lucie for about thirty years. They are still very much in love, although their relationship has developed ongoing patterns of lack of communication. After a tense dinner, he puts a record on and they tenderly dance to Roses of Picardy, sung in English.

It is about then that they start getting anonymous bouquets of red roses, delivered to his office at the hospital, or at home.

The recording chosen by Philippe Claudel includes the chorus only of Roses of Picardy, by the Irish entertainer Sonny Knowles (circa 1972).

 


An Accidental Soldier
directed by Rachel Ward (Australia, 2013)
television movie

A town in France near to the front, March 1918: Australian soldiers are idly hanging around outdoors waiting to be called up to the front.
– Think we'll ever get there?
– I think there is no hurry to get myself shot.
– Yeah, we can't go back without seeing the show, can we? It wouldn't be right.

A gramophone installed on the street is playing Roses of Picardy.

Sung by the tenor Ernest Pike with an orchestra conducted by Arthur Wood (London, 12 May 1917), one hears the beginning of the chorus of Roses of Picardy which quickly fades into the background.

 


The Danish Girl
directed by Tom Hooper (UK, 2015)

Copenhagen, Denmark, 1926: Einar and Gerda Wegener, both emerging painters, are a happily married young couple.

While chatting at a party, they recount the day they first met:
– We went for coffee, and after, I kissed him. And it was the strangest thing. It was like kissing myself.

One can hear softly in the background an ensemble playing Roses of Picardy.

Roses of Picardy is performed by Certains L'Aiment Chaud, an all-female jazz orchestra (Soignolles-en-Brie, France, January 2002). One hears their introduction, which is the melody of the verses of Roses of Picardy.

 


(to be continued)

More Haydn Wood's compositions in films

 


Home A short biography Available sheet music Roses of Picardy: the real story
About us Days in the life of Haydn Wood The recorded works The lyrics of Roses of Picardy
Contact us Haydn Wood and Slaithwaite Live performances Roses of Picardy printed music
  Haydn Wood and the Isle of Man   The performers of Roses of Picardy
The Haydn Wood Music Shop Haydn Wood, symphonist   A discography of Roses of Picardy
Our CD A Breezy Ballad Haydn Wood and films   Les enregistrements de Roses de Picardie
Our lectures Haydn Wood 2009   Roses of Picardy in films
      Roses of Picardy: a research in progress

This page last modified 13 December 2016.

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