Conduct Unbecoming (1975 film)

Conduct Unbecoming is a 1975 British drama film, an adaptation of the Barry England play Conduct Unbecoming, first staged in 1969. It was directed by Michael Anderson and starred an ensemble cast of actors including Michael York, Susannah York, Richard Attenborough and Trevor Howard.

Conduct Unbecoming
Conduct Unbecoming VideoCover.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Anderson
Written byRobert Enders
Based onplay Conduct Unbecoming by Barry England
StarringMichael York
Richard Attenborough
Trevor Howard
Music byStanley Myers
CinematographyRobert Huke
Edited byJohn Glen
Distributed byBritish Lion (UK)
Allied Artists (US)
Release date
  • 5 October 1975 (1975-10-05)
Running time
147 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Around 1880, two young British officers arrive to join a regiment in India. One, Lieutenant Drake (Michael York), from a middle-class background, is extremely eager to fit in while the other, Lieutenant Millington (James Faulkner), the son of a general, is keen to get out as soon as possible and deliberately antagonizes his fellow officers. The two newcomers learn the traditions of the regiment, one of which is a mess game in which they chase a wooden pig on wheels, attempting to pierce its anus with their swords.

Mrs Scarlett (Susannah York), the flirtatious and attractive widow of a captain who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, is a constant presence in the regiment. One night at a mess dance, Millington gets drunk and tries to seduce Mrs Scarlett in the garden. She repels him, but moments later runs back into the mess wounded and in shock, claiming the culprit was Millington. An informal court martial -more a mock trial than anything else- is organized with Drake ordered to be Millington's defending officer. Although Drake is pressured by his superior officer to plead guilty for Millington and close the case quickly, he begins to challenge the orders in order to give the defendant a fair trial. Drake learns from an Indian servant that another widow suffered a similar attack with a sword six months earlier, before he and Millington joined. After irrefutable evidence, Mrs Scarlett finally admits it was not Millington who attacked her but will not say who the culprit is. Millington, now indisputably proved innocent, is welcomed back by his brother officers; but Drake, disgusted by the truth he's uncovered, resigns. One officer knows who the culprit is and, hiding Drake in the shadows so he may witness what is to take place, confronts the guilty man privately in the final scene.



Barry England's play premiered in 1969 and had a short run on Broadway the following year.[1]

The film was greenlit by Michael Deeley who had recently become managing director of British Lion Films, and was part financed through a US tax deal. Deeley said there had been a number of screenplays written, including one by Terence Rattigan which Deeley says cost £250,000. He said all of them "failed to crack the adaptation" but there was "a very simple solution, which was to go back to the stage play and strip out as much extraneous dialogue as possible. Robert Enders delivered a perfect screenplay by these means."[2]

Deeley hired Michael Anderson to direct, in part because he was efficient, and the film was shot at Shepperton Studios over four weeks starting mid November 1974. This meant the filmmakers have five weeks before the studio shut down over Christmas. Deeley says "the picture ran like clockwork".[3]


Deeley says the film was "well made, at the right price and completely fulfilling British Lion's objective - to make money".[4]


  1. ^ News of the Rialto: 'Conduct Unbecoming' Is Coming On the Rialto: 'Conduct Unbecoming' Is Coming By LEWIS FUNKE. New York Times 31 May 1970: 61.
  2. ^ Deeley p 107
  3. ^ Deeley p 108
  4. ^ Deeley p 108


  • Deeley, Michael (2009). Blade runners, deer hunters and blowing the bloody doors off : my life in cult movies. Pegasus Books.

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