Open main menu

The Long and the Short and the Tall (play)

The Long and the Short and the Tall is a play written by British playwright Willis Hall. Set in the Second World War, the play premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in January 1959; it was directed by Lindsay Anderson and starred Peter O'Toole and Robert Shaw. It was Anderson's first major production for the Royal Court, transferring to London's West End in April 1959.[1]

The Long and the Short and the Tall
The long and the short and the tall Cast.jpeg
Written byWillis Hall
  • Sergeant R. 'Mitch' Mitchem
  • Corporal Edward 'Johnno' Johnstone
  • Lance-Corporal A. J. Macleish
  • Private C. 'Bammo' Bamforth
  • Private T. E. 'Taff' Evans
  • Private P. 'Smudger' Smith
  • Private Samuel 'Sammy' Whitaker
MuteJapanese Soldier
Date premiered7 January 1959 (1959-01-07)
Place premieredRoyal Court Theatre, London
SubjectJapanese Invasion of British Malaya during World War II.
SettingJanuary 1942
An abandoned tin mine in the Malayan jungle

The play's name comes from the lyrics of the 1917 song "Bless 'Em All".

A film adaptation was released in 1961. Directed by Leslie Norman, it stars Laurence Harvey, Richard Harris, Richard Todd and David McCallum. A TV drama followed in 1979 which starred Michael Kitchen, Mark McManus and Richard Morant.


The play is set in British Malaya in 1942, during the Battle of Malaya. The characters are a patrol of British Army soldiers; the play's events take place in an abandoned hut in the middle of the Malayan jungle. Tension rises as the patrol's radio malfunctions and a Japanese soldier stumbles upon them.

Characters / castEdit

Albert Finney was originally cast as the North Country Private Bamforth But due to appendicitis he was replaced by the then unknown O'Toole, who turned the character into a Cockney. O'Toole's understudy who never appeared was Michael Caine[2]. Caine later played O'Toole's role on a Scottish tour of the play with Frank Finlay as Sergeant Mitchem and Terence Stamp as Whitaker[3].

Television AdaptationEdit

The play was filmed for British TV in 1959 with the play's original cast.<ref>TV Adaptation at IMDb


  1. ^ Roberts, Philip (1999). The Royal Court Theatre and the Modern Stage. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 68–75. ISBN 0-521-47438-8.
  2. ^
  3. ^ pp. 146-147 Caine, Michael What's It All About? Random House, 31 Mar. 2012