58 user 9 critic

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.



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


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


A dead man goes to war! See more »


War | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| | |

Release Date:

9 May 1956 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Der Mann, den es nie gab  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

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


Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Clifton Webb, who usually wore a mustache in his films and in real life, had a full beard in this film because Royal Navy regulations forbade its officers and men from wearing only a mustache. To comport with the Navy's rules, Webb's choice was to be either entirely clean-shaven or to have a beard. The real Ewen Montagu, the character Webb portrays in the movie (and who is seen in a cameo as an Air Marshal in the meeting of the Chiefs of Staff), was in fact clean-shaven. See more »


As the canister holding the corpse of "Major Martin" is winched out of the HMS Seraph, the last line of lettering on the side is seen to be mostly worn away and nearly illegible. In the very next scene as the canister is lifted onto the submarine's deck, the lettering is suddenly completely legible once more - "SPECIAL F.O.S. SHIPMENT". See more »


Adm. Cross: [Montagu has just informed him of the secret plan to use a freshly dead body as if it were a live person to fool the Nazis] It's the most outrageous, disgusting, preposterous, not to say barbaric idea I've ever heard, but work out full details and get back to me in the morning!
Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu: Thank you, sir!
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 »


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


Bless 'em All
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

To win by brain,imagination and coincidence
8 August 2004 | by (New York,NY) – See all my reviews

It was 46 years ago that I have seen this movie and I still can close my eyes and see many of its pictures. The scene where the body of a dead Londoner who died of phenomena, so his corps was suit to be presented as a drowned pilot, submerging from a submarine on a beach in Spain. The scene of the German spy hand on the Morse-code key who is as straggling in making the right decision. The scene in which the car suddenly stopped in the middle of London's traffic for a brain storming session where Clifton Webb who is playing Commander Ewen Montague is in his best. >From the many movies about events at WWII it is one that stacked long in mind as it dealt in the quality of the gray matter of the counterintelligence and not about the brutality of the war. It is a masterpiece when the director, Ronald Neame, was able to inflict the emotionally pain of war in that one scene where coincidently the German spy get a real verification about the staged event. Recommended even 46 years later.

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