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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:
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Pam
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Gen. Nye
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...
Taxi Driver
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Sir Bernard Spilsbury
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Vice-Admiral
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Landlady
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Larry (as Terence Longden)
Gibb McLaughlin ...
Club Porter
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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  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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

Color:

(Eastmancolor)|

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In the film, Montague selects a man who had died of pneumonia, because the corpse would need to present with similarly damaged lungs if it had really drowned. There is also a very emotional scene where the man's father is persuaded to allow his son to be used for the deception. In fact, a Welsh vagrant, both of whose parents were dead, was used, and his death was due to his committing suicide by ingesting rat poison. It was judged to make it almost impossible to tell that this, rather than drowning, was the real cause of death. The identity of "the man who never was" was a closely guarded secret until 1998, when it was discovered that he was called Glyndwr Michael. His grave in Spain now uniquely carries both his fictional and real names. See more »

Goofs

The British submarine that releases the corpse of "Major Martin" is completely dry immediately after it surfaces from the ocean depths. See more »

Quotes

Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu: Now, about dates. There's got to be something on him that will show when he left. I think I can fix to get a receipted bill from the Naval and Military Club -- he stayed there on his last night.
Lieutenant George Acres: And he went to the theatre. Final celebration. He has the stubs of the tickets in his pocket.
Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu: Item: two theatre tickets.
Lieutenant George Acres: Make it four, and for something worth seeing.
Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu: And what's going on in that bright little mind?
Lieutenant George Acres: Well, we've got to buy the tickets anyway, and Willie can't use them -- we might as well!...
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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

Referenced in Back to the Beach (1987) 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
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User Reviews

 
excellent World War II drama
23 April 2006 | by See all my reviews

"The Man Who Never Was" is a wonderfully suspenseful, well-done World War II drama starring Clifton Webb, Gloria Grahame, and Stephen Boyd. Superbly directed by Ronald Neame, the film is based on a true story - the planting of a dead body washed onto the Greek shore, which carries papers which will redirect the Axis away from an invasion of Italy planned by the Allies. In order to carry out this hoax, the Allies need the body of a man who died of pneumonia, which will mimic a drowning and fool the Nazis. The scene where such a man is located and Clifton Webb talks to the father is one of the most touching of the film, as is the poignant ending.

For all the accolades about his acting, it still seems that Clifton Webb is under-appreciated today - he goes from a vicious, fey gossip in "The Razor's Edge" to a difficult husband in "Titanic" to a strong, decisive, distinguished member of British Intelligence in this movie flawlessly. He is perfect as Montague. Stephen Boyd is excellent as an Irishman working undercover for the Nazis who appears in London to verify the existence of the dead soldier, who is given a fake identity. Gloria Grahame plays a woman who unexpectedly falls in love and winds up as part of the plot. She turns in a heartbreaking performance. The rest of the cast is uniformly good.

The movie's excitement comes not from action but from the tension of the situation. It's filmed in beautiful color. An excellent movie.


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