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