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The Man Who Never Was (1956)

Approved | | War, Drama | 9 May 1956 (France)
True story of a British attempt to trick the enemy into weakening Sicily's defenses before the 1943 attack, using a dead man with faked papers.

Director:

Writers:

(book) (as The Hon. Ewen Montagu C.B.E. D.L. Q.C.), (screenplay)
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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu
...
Lucy Sherwood
Robert Flemyng ...
Lt. George Acres
Josephine Griffin ...
Pam
...
Patrick O'Reilly
Laurence Naismith ...
Adm. Cross
Geoffrey Keen ...
Gen. Nye
Moultrie Kelsall ...
The Father
...
Taxi Driver
...
...
Gen. Coburn
...
Vice-Admiral
Joan Hickson ...
Landlady
Terence Longdon ...
Larry (as Terence Longden)
Gibb McLaughlin ...
Club Porter
Edit

Storyline

British Intelligence during World War II is trying to get the German High Command to shift its forces away from Italy prior to the invasion. To create the illusion that England is in fact planning to invade Greece, they plan to procure a dead body, plant secret papers on it, and arrange for the Spanish authorities to find it and send the papers on to the Germans. That's the plan, anyway. First they have to find a body that will look drowned, then create an identity for it that will pass German scrutiny. Based on a true story. Written by John Vogel <jlvogel@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The most fiendish plot ever conceived! The most amazing "human being" ever created! The most diabolical phantom-- See more »

Genres:

War | Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| | |

Release Date:

9 May 1956 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Der Mann, den es nie gab  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System) (magnetic prints)| (optical prints)

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Stephen Boyd was cast at short notice as the German spy after the original choice, Kieron Moore, dropped out. See more »

Goofs

The scene is where William Martin's father is saying good-bye to his body in the hospital and talking with Ewen Montagu. As the father leaves the room, the shadow of the mike is well in shot on the wall behind him. See more »

Quotes

Lieutenant George Acres: You know, Monty, what we really want is something absolutely simple, the simpler the better.
Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu: Good boy, George, you're absolutely right.
Lieutenant George Acres: Well, how about this: suppose we issue Greek dictionaries to all the troops. Why should we do that unless we intend to invade Greece? That would fool them.
Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu: I should make it Eskimo dictionaries. That would really fool them.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Military security and respect for a solemn promise have made it necessary to disguise the identity of some of the characters in this film; but in all other essentials this is the true story of "Major William Martin" See more »

Connections

Featured in Al Murray's Great British War Movies (2014) See more »

Soundtracks

Bless 'em All
(uncredited)
Written by Fred Godfrey (1917)
Revised lyrics by Jimmy Hughes and Frank Lake (1940)
Additional lyrics by Al Stillman (1941)
Sung by the patrons of pub
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A true-story war film that finds its mark
15 October 2005 | by (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

As the North African campaign of WWII drew to a close it became obvious that the Allies next move would be to invade Sicily. A deception was therefore needed to try to lure away some of the German defences. Inter-services "XX Committee" (XX for double-cross) members Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu, and Squadron Leader Sir Archibald Cholmondley hatched the then unheard of plan of planting a body in the sea off Spain where prevailing currents would surely carry it inshore to the Huelva region, known to be the territory of one of the Nazis' best Spanish agents. The body, dressed as a major in the Royal Marines and apparently killed in a plane crash, would be carrying supposedly top secret documents aimed at convincing any reader that the invasion target was not Sicily at all, but Greece. Montagu himself plays a cameo role in the film as an Air Marshall.

The leading role of Montagu is played by Clifton Webb, utterly credible as a British naval officer, while Robert Flemyng, who had himself served conspicuously in WWII and who was awarded the Military Cross and Order of The British Empire, takes on the role of his junior assistant, a composite role based partly on Cholmondley's real-life character and partly on Montagu's real-life assistant.Together they must procure a body that will pass a medical examination to determine the cause of death and they must also create a personality and a past life and history for this man.

This is a true-story that avoids battle scenes and big bangs. There are no special effects. It describes a war of stealth and cunning and the cat and mouse game of espionage. It is an atmospheric suspense thriller with Stephen Boyd very effective as the determined Axis agent, Patrick O'Reilly, sent in from Ireland to verify the existence and past life of this man who never was. While the soundtrack is one of Alan Rawsthorne's (The Cruel Sea) better scores, it is nevertheless immediately recognizable as being one of his haunting compositions, unfortunately sounding so much like all his others. It is ably directed by the great and sometimes under-rated Ronald Neame. It is beautifully filmed, as are all of former-cameraman Neame's pictures. The voice of Churchill is provided by the young Peter Sellers who, at that time in 1956, was establishing his versatility and making a name for himself in the BBC radio comedy, "The Goon Show".

20th Century Fox's DVD video and sound quality are excellent, as would be expected in the studio release of one of their own productions.

A worthy and entertaining addition to any WWII film collection and if it gives you an appetite for a more in-depth recounting of the true story, Ewan Montagu's 1953 book is still available in both the hardback and paperback editions.


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