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The Cool Mikado is a British musical film made in 1962, directed by Michael Winner, (who makes a short appearance as an airline passenger a la Hitchcock near the start of the film) and produced by Harold Baim, with music arranged by Martin Slavin and John Barry. It starred Frankie Howerd as Ko-Ko, Lionel Blair and Stubby Kaye. The script was by Michael Winner, from an adaptation by Maurice Browning.

Based on the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Mikado, the plot is reset into contemporary Japanmarker as a comic gangster story. The dialogue is largely rewritten, and several of the well known musical items are omitted. The music that remains is re-orchestrated into styles popular in the early 1960s, including the twist, and the Cha-Cha-Cha. Filmed entirely on a sound stage, stock footage was used to provide Japanese atmosphere between scenes. This footage looks like one of the many travelogues for which producer Baim is best known but according to Winner's autobiography this footage was specially shot. Winner credits the film's problems to the fact it was underfunded. No attempt appears to have been made to disguise the stage-bound filming. The colourful sparsely-dressed sets, not always tending towards realism, give the film a surreal quality.

This film was Frankie Howerd's first musical, and it led to his starring in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum on stage and in several conventional Gilbert and Sullivan productions, including Sir Joseph Porter in H.M.S. Pinafore and the Learned Judge in Trial by Jury. However, Howerd said that "not only was it the worst film ever made, but was the one production in show-business that I'm positively ashamed to have appeared in".


The following music and styles appear in the film. Except for the ‘Mikado’s Song’, containing some topical lines, lyrics are unchanged. Although heavily re-orchestrated, the melodies were left essentially intact.

  • "The Sun and I" – instrumental twist used for the opening credits
  • "We are Gentlemen of Japan" – male chorus in a ‘Tijuana brass’ type setting
  • "Bellow of the Blast" – featured instrumental played in the style of a ‘strip’ tune
  • "Three Little Maids" – female trio, set as a Cha-Cha-Cha followed by a featured dance
  • "Overture extract" – a twist and used as incidental music
  • "The Sun and I" – female solo
  • "A Wandering Minstrel" – male solo in a crooner style
  • "Lord High Executioner" – chorus with a ‘Tijuana brass’ backing
  • "Finale Act 1" – extract set in a jazzy style and used as a short dance routine
  • "The Sun and I" – instrumental twist used as incidental music
  • "Here’s a Howdy do" – duet sung as a Cha-Cha-Cha
  • "A Wandering Minstrel" – instrumental small jazz combo arrangement used as incidental music
  • "This I’ll Never Do" – duet
  • Overture extract" – instrumental quickstep
  • "Tit Willow" – instrumental twist, a featured dance routine
  • Overture extract" – instrumental in a jazz style
  • "The Mikado’s Song" – male solo, some updated lyrics
  • "Bellow of the Blast" – instrumental jitterbug used as incidental music
  • "Flowers that bloom in the Spring" – various solos, set as a jitterbug and a featured dance performed in a snow storm
  • "We are Gentlemen of Japan" – played on bagpipes
  • "He’s Gone and Married Yum Yum" – chorus in a jazzy style.


Hank, the son of American judge Herbert Mikado, refuses to marry Katie Shaw, whom his father wishes him to marry, and so joins the army. He is stationed in Japan where he falls in love with a Tokyo art student, Yum-Yum. However, her finace, Ko-Ko, an American gangster operating in Japan, is determined to keep Hank and Yum-Yum apart. Hank's father had also sentenced Ko-Ko's brother to prison.



  1. McCann, Graham. Frankie Howerd: Stand-Up Comic, p. 189, Fourth Estate Ltd (2004) ISBN 1841153109

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