Actors who play conductors: all-time best and worst

Actors who play conductors: all-time best and worst


norman lebrecht

July 27, 2022

Cate Blanchett’s forthcoming film as a conductor has triggered memories of multiple past attempts.

Here’s ten, for starters:

Michael Caine in Youth (2015)

Christanne de Bruijn as De Dirigent (2018)

Sir John Gielgud in Andrzej Wajda’s The Orchestra Conductor (1980)

Richard Dreyfus in Mr Holland’s Opus (1995)

Jacques Perrin in Les Choristes (2004)

Aleksei Guskov in Le Concert (2009)

Gael García Bernal in Mozart in the Jungle (2014)

Stellan Skarsgård as Wilhelm Furtwängler in Taking Sides (2001)

C. Thomas Howell as Young Toscanini (1988)

Cary Grant in People Will Talke (1951)…

So who have we forgotten?

And who’s the all-time worst?


  • Gerald says:

    Rex Harrison in Unfaithfully Yours

  • Sam says:

    Dudley Moore in Unfaithfully Yours (1984)

  • Nicolas says:

    Yul Brynner in “Once More, with Feeling!”, a 1960 movie by Stanley Donen.
    Jean-Claude Brialy in “Les innocents”, 1987 movie by André Téchiné. Brialy won the César for the best supporting role for that performance.

  • Sj says:

    Robert Powell as Mahler

  • michael sharp says:

    Charles Laughton in “Tales of Manhattan” 1942, a film made up of episodes about a tail-coat that gets passed around to various characters and how it affects their lives. Laughton wears it while conducting and each time his baton waving becomes more vigorous, the coat start to split at the seams. (Other wearers include Charles Boyer, Henry Fonda, Edward G. Robinson and Paul Robeson.)

    Rex Harrison in Preston Sturgess’s 1948 comedy “Unfaithfully Yours” plays a jealous orchestra conductor.

    Remade in 1984 with Dudley Moore as the conductor.

    • Armchair Bard says:

      That portmanteau film with Laughton sounds a blast, Michael. And as I’ve just had a windfallette, I’ve thrown caution in an unusual direction for me & ordered the DVD. Thanks for the tip!

    • PaulD says:

      Nobody should attempt to even pitch remaking a Preston Sturgess film.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Charlton Heston in ‘Counterpoint’ (late 1960’s). I saw the movie about 40 years ago, but there were aspects that left a lasting impression on how Hollywood looks at classical music. It starts with Beethoven’s 5th, of course, WW II is coming to an end, the orchestra is captured by the Nazis, and as the Nazis kill musician after musician Mr Heston conducts work after work that demands larger and larger orchestras in order to satisfy a music-interested general. In the end, as the orchestra is decimated he conducts something by Wagner (it could be the ouverture of ‘Tannhäuser’).

  • graham clarke says:

    Rossano Brazzi in Dougla Sirk’s 1957 melodrama “Interlude”.

    Oskar Werner plays the conductor in the 1968 remake.

    Kenneth Williams falls off the podium while conducting and orchestra in “Raising the Wind” – 1961 (01:10)

    • B.McPolin says:

      It’s a quite a while since I saw the film Interlude but I thought Oskar Werner made a decent attempt at conducting.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Few might remember the short-lived (in spite of an all star cast) television comedy series Friends and Lovers about life in the Boston Symphony. Craig Richard Nelson (no relation) played the insufferable conductor Mason Woodruff.

    It’s cheating I suppose to mention Stokowski playing himself in 100 Men and Girl.

    I suppose one can argue Danny Kaye was “acting” during his various conducting stints.

  • Christophe Huss says:

    Louis de Funès – La Grande Vadrouille (Hungarian March – La Damnation de Faust – Opéra de Paris)

    • Nicolas says:

      Having played professionally in orchestras, mainly in Ottawa (Canada) I can tell: De Funès baton’s technique is surprisingly good compare to many conductors !

  • Simon says:

    Diane Kruger and Ed Wood sharing the task of conducting the 9th symphony in “Copying Beethoven”.

    Rowan Atkinson in “Mr Bean’s Christmas”

  • Omikron says:

    Louis de Funes in La grande vadrouille (1966)

  • MMcGrath says:

    Fascinating! Thank you for the question. I cannot remember a good conductor, to be honest. All were painful:)

  • marie says:

    Louis de Funès in La grande vadrouille (La damnation de Faust, Berlioz).

  • Julian says:

    Mario Adorf in The Holcroft Covenant.

  • MMcGrath says:

    Surprise. The hugely talented and musical Simon Helberg in “Annette” does an excellent job of “conducting.”

  • Steven says:

    Malcolm McDowell in Mozart in the Jungle (2014). Another interesting post would be about fake playing.

  • Geby says:

    De Funès, la Grande Vadrouille.

  • Julien says:

    Louis de Funès in La Grande Vadrouille (1966). He is conducting the real Paris Opera Orchestra in Berlioz’s Damnation de Faust.
    The action is during the second World War.

  • Bill Blake says:

    Clifton Webb as John Philip Sousa in Stars and Stripes Forever

  • Sisko24 says:

    Charlton Heston in “Counterpoint” from 1968.

  • Jon says:

    In the old British comedy, Raising the Wind, James Robertson Justice plays the Head of a music college doing a hilarious imitation of Thomas Beecham.

    He, Kenneth Williams and Leslie Phillips are all called on to conduct the College orchestra to great comedic effect. Leslie Thomas’s conducting of Scheherezade is surprisingly good; his beat is absolutely spot on.

  • Greg Hlatky says:

    What! No Danny Kaye?

  • Mr WPH says:

    Kenneth Williams conducting the William Tell overture in Raising the Wind.

  • Craig in LA says:

    Not sure he was the absolute worst on-screen conductor, but John Cassavetes plays a temperamental conductor who kills his mistress in a Columbo episode called “Etude in Black”, which includes some great scenes shot at the Hollywood Bowl and the first appearance of Columbo’s basset hound “Dog”.

  • J Barcelo says:

    Charlton Heston in Counterpoint

  • Eric says:

    Allan corduner as Sullivan in Topsy turvey.

  • Larry L. Lash says:

    One of the best: Niels Arestrup as Zoltan Szanto, a Hungarian conductor trying to collaborate on a new Regietheater “Tannhäuser” in Paris with an international cast, in István Szabó’s scathingly brilliant “Meeting Venus” (1991). When Swedish diva Karin Anderson (Glenn Close) makes her grand entrance disrupting a rehearsal, she demands to sing “Dich, teure Halle” and out comes the voice of Kiri Te Kanawa, a perfect match! This film is about the absurdity of opera politics and the ultimate triumph of art over bullshit.

  • Alastair Orr says:

    Pete Postlethwaite in Brassed Off. Made a damn fine job of it too. Fantastic actor.

  • Adam Stern says:

    Repeating myself from a post to the first Slipped Disc feature on Ms. Blanchett, but: The worst I’ve seen was John Cassavetes in his guest appearance on “Columbo” back in the 1970s (“Etude in Black”). Marvelous actor; laughable conductor.

  • KANANPOIKA says:

    Jim Carter was quite impressive in “Brassed Off!” (1996)

  • Ross Amico says:


    Malcolm McDowell, also “Mozart in the Jungle” (2014-18)

    Alexander Godunov, “The Money Pit” (1986)

    Claude Rains, “Deception” (1946)

    Robert Taylor, “Song of Russia” (1944)

    Sam Wanamaker, “The Competition” (1980)

    Richard Burton, “Wagner’ (1983)

    Bugs Bunny, “Long-Haired Hare” (1949)

    BONUS: Larry David conducts Wagner in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (2001):

  • Andras says:

    Sam Wanamaker in “The Competition”, channeling Leonard Bernstein, conducting Amy Irving in the Proko 3.

  • Andrew Condon says:

    Kenneth Williams in “Raising the Wind” (1961)

  • Chris says:

    Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham in “Amadeus”

  • Animated says:

    Bugs Bunny as Stokowsky…just awful.

  • John says:

    Oscar Werner in Interlude

  • Robert Holmén says:

    In “The Competition” (1980) starring Richard Dreyfuss and Amy Irving as piano competition entrants, I believe it was Sam Wanamaker who portrayed the conductor at the event.

  • Yizhar Degani says:

    D. Moore in Foul Play ( 1978)

  • Paul says:

    Declaring the worst is unsafe, if my choice is Gael García Bernal (because somehow he won the affection of critics and even classical music purists — a big mystery to me).

    But the safe pick is also from the worst movie ever created about classical music altogether: “Grand Piano” (2013). It didn’t get demolished by mainstream critics — evidence of cultural illiteracy, really — but the conductor character of Norman played by Don McManus was cringey to watch in every respect.

  • Christopher Stager says:

    Alexander Godunov in The Money Pit. He makes a funny crack about how his Haydn is better than Szell’s.

    The other interesting question is which conductors have also taken acting roles.

  • Marouan says:

    Louis de Funès in “La folie des grandeurs”

  • Ed says:

    Balduin Baas (Prova d´orchestra, 1978, Federico Fellini).

  • Hermann Lederer says:

    Oskar Werner in Interlude (1968)

  • Fabio Luisi says:

    Louis de Funes in “la grande vadrouille”

  • MR says:

    John Cassavetes as the murderous symphonic conductor who committed his atrocity while engaged at the Hollywood Bowl, eventually snared by Peter Falk as Detective Lt. Columbo of the LAPD. Leonard Bernstein must have been tickled by John’s portrayal given some visual and stylistic similarities. I had the pleasure of meeting Peter Falk several times, and he disclosed that his favorite radio station was classical KUSC FM.

  • Bostin'Symph says:

    Allan Corduner, doing a good job if memory serves me well, as Arthur Sullivan in Mike Leigh’s Topsy Turvy

    • Patti says:

      From his Wikipedia page:

      “Interest in arts and music was always encouraged at home, and Corduner’s early ambition was to become either an orchestra conductor or a concert pianist. He attended University College School in Hampstead, London. Although Corduner developed into a skilled jazz and classical pianist, musical aspirations had taken second place by the time he went to study at Bristol University and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.”

  • MR says:

    What I neglected to add is how this is the most engaging conductor portrayal I’ve even seen, titled “Etude In Black.”

  • John Warshawsky says:

    Gregory Morton, who played Maestro Borov in “Bye Bye Birdie”! 🙂 Haha.

  • BigSir says:

    Marie Sophie Ferdane in Philharmonia

  • Roland says:

    All time best: Loriot

  • perturbo says:

    It will be interesting to see how Bradley Cooper “conducts” as Leonard Bernstein in the upcoming biopic.

  • orlando says:

    Niels Arestrup in Meeting Venus

  • EMR says:

    Maureen O’Hara in “Do You Love Me?” 1946 Fox release with Dick Haymes and Harry James. It’s been a long time, but I think she has a scene conducting a student band – badly, I’m afraid.

  • Yodi says:

    Bradley Cooper in Maestro, dancing and thrusting on the podium with his prosthetic nose, the very reincarnation of Lenny.

  • Duncan says:

    Kenneth Williams in Carry on Teacher – definitely the funniest!

  • Rafael Enrique Irizarry says:

    Mr. Dreyfuss also incarnated a conductor, albeit briefly, in “The Competition”, a late-seventies-early -eighties fantasy that did not provoke impure or untowards emotions and can be watched by the whole family, in contrast with, say, something like the onanistic “Black Swan”“The Competition” seems to have been an attempt to remake “Love Story” in the somewhat rarified milieú of classical music competitions. It seems to be all but forgotten now despite the fact that Mr. Dreyfuss appears to hit all the right keys in the opening flourishes of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto.

    • Adam Stern says:

      FWIW, I worked on this film, and can faithfully report that all three onscreen conductors — Richard Dreyfuss, Sam Wanamaker, and Leo Arnaud (seen in the film’s opening minutes) were all very nice gentlemen.

      • Rafael Enrique Irizarry says:

        I bow before you, sir, and thank you for your efforts. Whatever sort of musician I am now was in no small amount inspired/influenced by that film. I was barely a teenager when I saw it in 1980 and by that time STAR WARS had already left its indelible mark in my thinking about music. Fictional or not, there were important lessons imbued in that script. I have not forgotten.

  • Sean says:

    Alan Badel as Wagner in Magic Fire: Boris Terral as Lully in Le Roi Danse (complete with foot puncturing!)

  • Ken Sterling says:

    Richard Chamberlain in The Music Lovers.

  • Tony Catterick says:

    The marvellous English comedic genius, the much missed genius Kenneth Williams. He played the ‘maestro’ in the classic ‘Raising the Wind’ in 1961. He was brilliant at being awful and arrogant. The orchestra was the renowned film session ensemble, The Sinfonia of London. They were brilliant in keeping going as KW lost control and the performance ended in a dreadful mess. It always makes me laugh as every professional orchestral player has met this type somewhere in their career. I know I did!!!

  • Nigel Simeone says:

    Timothy West as Beecham in an LWT broadcast, now on YouTube. Well worth a watch as he’s conducting a live orchestra.

  • Alan Glick says:

    Robert Alda as George Gershwin in “Rhapsody in Blue.” Just caught this on TV a couple of days ago and I could not stop laughing at the conducting scene.

  • Trophy says:

    The late, great, Pete Postlethwaite in Brassed Off!

  • Jeffrey Powell says:

    Dudley Moore, who’s was a phenomenal classical pianist, WAS a conductor as well as a world-class comedian. The movie that I remember him playing a conductor was “Foul Play,” (1978), with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase.

  • Leonard Slatkin says:

    Charleston Heston in “Counterpoint”, playing the conductor of a USO orchestra that has been captured by the Nazi’s.

    Claude Rains in “Deception,” one of the best films using classical music as a backdrop to the story.

    And the best has to be Bugs Bunny, with a couple of conducting credits in his cv.

    • Dan Kujala says:

      Slightly off topic Maestro Slatkin, but many may not be aware that your mom, Eleanor Aller, was the cellist in the soundrack of “Deception.” Haydn D major in the beginning, and what eventually evolved into the Korngold concerto in which she gave the premier performance.

      I believe your mom also was involved in coaching Paul Henried for his part as the cellist in the film – he was very convincing, although I always chuckle seeing him pulling his cello out of a bag.

      Lot’s of great family history – best wishes.

  • Felix says:

    Giuseppe Becce, Dirk Bogarde, Alan Badel, Richard Burton – and more, as RichardWagner.

  • Greg says:

    Pete Postelthwaite in Brassed Off.

  • Bill says:

    John Cassavetes plays a conductor in the Columbo episode “Etude in Black”
    Absolutely the worst job of an actor pretending to conduct in the history of entertainment. He looks like a demented stork on the podium; he isn’t remotely conducting the beat; it’s impossible to suspend disbelief he’s so bad. You’d think an actor of that caliber would have taken a lesson or two from a conductor so he’d have some idea how to make it look plausible.

  • Felix says:

    Correction, Dirk Bogarde played and conducted as Franz Liszt and Lyndon Brook played Wagner in ‘Song Without End’.

  • Vienna calling says:

    Oskar Werner in Interlude, the Carlos Kleiber of actors

  • Ms Angela A Giblin says:

    Bob Hawke conducting Messiah

  • Frank D says:

    Bernard Herrmann in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
    Does this count? He WAS the conductor (and composer).

    • PaulD says:

      It’s a cameo, but it counts.

    • Kevin Scott says:

      I wouldn’t call it a bad performance, since it is only one of three films we have of Herrmann conducting (the other two being a session of recording his score for Truffaut’s “The Bride Wore Black” in 1967 and a BBC program where he conducted Carl Ruggles’ Angels for six trumpets in 1971 (Herrmann is more elbows here in this session!), but his technique was described by some as a bit cumbersome, though one can hear some excellent performances he gave with the CBS Symphony in the few audio transcripts that have found their way onto YouTube. His later recordings for Decca are very mixed (Excellent Satie and Milhaud, whereas Ives 2 and Holst’s The Planets still controversial for his employment of slow tempi that many feel bog down his interpretation).

      It should be noted that there are some moments in TMWKTM where the London Symphony is “faking” some sections, especially the timpanist who never hits the drums! And finally, you can spot Barry Tuckwell, Gervaise DePeyer and possibly Neville Marriner as some of the musicians in the orchestra.


    Claude Rains is a conductor and composer in “Deception”, a gem of a film from 1946 that also features Bette Davis as his pianist/lover and Paul Henreid as her true love thought last in the war. The script is sharply written with eloquence and elegance boasting many memorable lines. The film is also notable for its score written by Erich Korngold who later mined it for his Cello Concerto.

    • Kevin Scott says:

      One fabulous film indeed, John, though I have to say that Claude Rains really captures more of the manic side of a conductor, all swagger and no finesse. Bringing the orchestra in without a preparatory beat? Wow!

      But the score by Korngold is incandescent, and his cello concerto is masterful (and my personal favorite of all cello concertos).

  • Jennifer Dyster says:

    Richard Dreyfus in Mr Holland’s opus …I admit I haven’t seen many of these but he looked very inept!
    Mr Bean didn’t make this list but he was damn good!

  • PaulD says:

    Marius Goring in Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes.

  • TFParker-NYC says:

    As conducting takes years of study and training, it is impossible to make an actor competent in a few months of “coaching.@

    • FrauGeigerin says:

      Indeed. Unfortunately many musicians don’t see it that way, and believe that in order to be a conductor they need just knowing music, having energy/passion, and owning a baton.

  • JB says:

    Louis de Funès in La Grande Vadrouille.

  • Randall says:

    The worst…John Cassavetes in the 1970s Columbo episode “Etude in Black.”

  • chris says:

    Moses , I mean Charlton Heston , played
    a conductor in the movie ‘ Counterpoint ‘

  • Nicholas says:

    Bugs Bunny in Leopold! “Long-Haired Hare”(1949)

  • Nick2 says:

    Niels Arestrup trying to conduct Wagner in the 1991 “Meeting Venus” with Glenn Close desperately and unsuccessfully trying to mime to Kiri Te Kanawa’s voice.

    Tom Hulce’s seeming flag waving conducting attemps in Milos Forman’s “Amadeus” – otherwise a great movie.

    Enrico Lo Verso as Farinelli’s composer/conductor brother Riccardo Broschi in the movie of the same name.

  • Diabolus non papa says:

    How about Tom Hulse as Mozart in Amadeus? Or, Murray Abraham as Salieri?

  • Oliver says:

    Louis de Funès in “La grande vadrouille” (1966)

  • LIVN walkure says:

    Not exactly a conductor moment BUT worthy of this category…. Rudolph Nureyev as a concert violinist in the movie Exposed (1983). Horrifying. The whole orchestra was faking.

  • JM Siqueiros says:

    Bugs bunny as Leopold Stokowski 😉

  • Sol L Siegel says:

    Charlton Heston in “Counterpoint” (1967), as the conductor of a USO orchestra that falls into the hands of your basic music-loving German general (Maximilian Schell, of course) during the Battle of the Bulge. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen it, but as I recall, he did a pretty good job.

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    How can we leave out Gael García Bernal as Maestro Rodrigo in ‘Mozart in the Jungle.’?

    As I wrote previously, most of conducting is just acting, not on and off stage. Listen to Les Dissonances orchestre and discover how exhilarating an orchestra performance can be sans maestro; indeed, it takes world class musicians and maybe some extra rehearsal time, but once you hear Le Sacre raw it’s hard to go back to the factory product.

    • Rafael Enrique Irizarry says:

      Dear Sir: I imagine you have a fairly good idea of the devastating accuracy of your remark about conducting and acting. If memory serves, some “conducting” programs in American academia are requiring either or both “dance” and “acting” courses. Go figure. Regarding that BRILLIANT Le Sacre performance by Les Dissonances: The Concertmaster is clearly presiding, enjoying to the utmost, and even dancing bits of the Danse Sacrale. That said, it is a well-known truism that most orchestras cannot really look at the conductor throughout most of that piece. [It is busy in the stands, and I write from direct experience.] But there is also a “those whom the gods may destroy” aspect: the orchestra can hardly look, but if the conductor mistakes his beats, pandemonium will ensue with cataclysmic consequences. My colleagues here say: “the stick doesn’t make a sound, but it can ______ (insert four-letter pornographic obscenity) things up.”

  • Tichy says:

    Ed Harris in Copying Beethoven…dreadful 🙂

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Indeed. And the screen showed a period-instrument orchestra, while the soundtrack was of a modern-instrument band…

  • Stephen says:

    And who’s the best?

  • Martin says:

    Gérard Philipe in Les Belles de Nuit.

  • Ben G. says:

    Louis de Funès in “La Grande Vadrouille”- (Don’t look now…. we’re being shot at”..)

    Probably the shortest and funniest out of all of them, IMHO.

  • GGV says:

    Alexander Godunov in ‘The Money Pit’ (1996). Shelley Long plays a viola player.

    Niels Arestrup in ‘Meeting Venus’ (1991). Glenn Close is Elizabeth in a production of Tannhäuser.

    Tom Hulce in ‘Amadeus’ (1984).

  • Patrick Baton says:

    Perrin is the director of “Les choristes”. The actor (choir)conductor is actually Gérard Jugnot.

  • Philip says:

    Charlton Heston in Counterpoint.

    With so many others mentioning Dudley Moore, he has a very funny turn as a conductor in Foul Play.

  • Michael Turner says:

    JK Simmons as the bastard/conductor in “Whiplash”.

  • IP says:

    Danny Kaye of course. Here it is only a parody but they say he could fool professionals. And hpw can one not love the conductor in “Allegro non troppo”?

  • Mister Bee says:

    Dirk Bogarde as Aschenbach in Death in Venice – a mercifully brief chord!

  • Jarred says:

    I think you have forgotten Bugs Bunny ! Just the best !

  • Grubsbah says:

    J.K. Simmons – Whiplash.

  • Gustavo says:

    Otto Waalkes as Herbert von Karamalz:

    Clearly the all-time worst.

  • Michael Turner says:

    Tom and Jerry! Tom as the maestro of course…

  • Scott says:

    Rex Harrison in ‘Unfaithfully Yours’

  • Susan Bradley says:

    good conducting: David McCallum (the Man from UNCLE, swooooon!) conducting in Mother Love.

  • Philip says:

    Jeremy Spenser in ‘Prelude to Fame’ (1950). Fantastic conducting. Also, Tom in the Tom and Jerry cartoon conducting the Fledermaus Overture.

  • Jim Mastracco says:

    Dudley Moore came to mind in Foul Play, but I recall Dreyfus not from Holland’s Opus, but for this brief scene from The Competition, which I suspect doesn’t qualify for its length.

    IMDB says the conductor was played by Sam Wanamker. UI think a really good movie. Wanamaker was so convincing to the musicians in the orchestra, he was made an honorary member of the AF of M.

  • Thomas M. says:

    Most of the attempts turning actors into conductors simply didn’t work, because few actors (or filmmakers) went to the trouble of getting instructions from professional conductors during or before shooting their scenes – assuming, probably correctly, that audiences wouldn’t know or care.

    There have been a few instances of real conductors in movie scenes (like Bernard Herrmann in The Man Who Knew Too Much, Miklós Rózsa in The Private Lives of Sherlock Holmes, or Lalo Schifrin in Red Dragon), but none of them actually act in scenes durng those movies.

  • Philip McKenzie says:

    David Ogden Stiers in “The Man With One Red Shoe”, Bradley Cooper in the upcoming Bernstein Biopic. Bugs Bunny.

  • Edoardo Saccenti says:

    Jan Niklas as Lorenzo Mariani in the Italian Verdi TV series by Renato Castellani (probably the best ever film dedicated to a composer) in 1982. Donald Pickup was Verdi and Carla Fracci was Giuseppina Strepponi

    Giancarlo Dettori as Toscanini in Sandro Bolchi TV Series n Puccini (1973)

  • Dan Kujala says:

    Mark Metcalf as “the maestro” in several Seinfeld episodes

  • Sisko24 says:

    Not certain if this would rank as worst or best, but….Balduin Bass in Fellini’s ‘Orchestra Rehearsal’.

  • Peter says:

    Second worst ever is Billy Connolly in the Columbo episode ‘Murder with too many notes’, but he is easily eclipsed by John Cassavetes in Columbo ‘Etude in Black’…this is so dreadful, I suspect he did no research at all before taking on the role.

  • Jennifer Hennelly says:

    Both Ed Harris and Diane Kruger in “Copying Beethoven”…love that film.

  • AK says:

    Dudley Moore in Foul Play (1978). Played the orchestra pit conductor in a production of The Mikado.

  • Andy says:

    Mark Metcalf was the best. The conductor of the Policeman’s Benevolent Association Orchestra on a Seinfeld episode. He tensed up whenever anyone called him Bob. Everyone had to call him Maestro, even women who dated him. He spoke loftily about his home in Tuscany. Revelatory of what most folks think about “classical music types”.

  • Barry says:

    It’s been a long time since I saw it, but as I recall, Cary Grant did a pretty good job in “People Will Talk.” I believe he conducted the Academic Festival Overture in a couple scenes.

  • Christophe Huss says:

    Because nobody mentionned Asian movies
    Takeshi Kaga as obnoxious narcissist conducting a piano competition in the Japanese film Listen to the Universe
    Not the worst…

  • music lover says:

    One of the better ones was the great John Cassavetes in the Columbo episode Etude In Black(1972)

  • Craig in LA says:

    Not exactly regular actors conducting, but Donald O’Connor looks very convincing taking over the baton toward the end of “Singin’ in the Rain”, and Fred Astaire dance/conducts the Artie Shaw band in the mostly forgettable “Second Chorus”.

  • Craig in LA says:

    A couple more good ones, then I need to stop. Mickey Mouse (!) from “Fantasia” and David Ogden Stiers from the last episode of “M*A*S*H”.

  • Yizhar Degani says:

    Peter Ustinov in the film Hot Millions.

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    Not sure if this meets the criteria but in the old American TV series Hogan’s Heroes, Otto Klemperer’s son Werner played the part of Col. Klink and in one episode Werner beat time to a recording of The Ride of the Valkyries. Werner probably picked up some pointers from his father.

  • Hal says:

    You’ve forgotten Claude Rains’ spot on Alexander Hollenius, who tormented Paul Henreid’s cello virtuoso Karel Novak in the Bette Davis film “Deception”. It featured what became the Korngold Cello Concerto.

  • Fred says:

    The worst, not acting-wise but conducting technique-wise, is John Cassavetes in a Columbo episode

  • Marion Greist says:

    Yul Brynner in Once More, with Feeling! (1960)

  • oberon481 says:

    Soon you’ll have Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein…

  • John Porter says:

    C. Thomas Howell in Young Toscanini.

  • Piano Lover says:

    The worse I saw is a “Columbo” series where the “conductor” keeps throwing his arms(right-left) from his shoulder in rage.
    Same series showed him play a pianist….I can’t stop laughing!

  • BobR says:

    Not from a movie but check out the spasmodic John Cassavetes in the Columbo episode. Truly terrible.