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Private's Progress (1956)

In WW2, a failed British officer is selected by his uncle, a Brigadier with the War Office, to participate in a secret operation to "recover" looted artworks from the Nazis.



(based on the story by), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Doctor at Medical
Henry B. Longhurst ...
Mr. Spottiswood (as Henry Longhurst)
Peter Jones ...
Arthur Egan
Miles Malleson ...
Sally Miles ...
David King-Wood ...
Pat (as Derrick de Marney)
Sgt. Sutton
Brian Oulton ...
M.O. at Gravestone Camp
Michael Trubshawe ...
Col. Fanshawe
Prudence Greenslade


Stanley Windrush has to interrupt his university education when he is called up towards the end of the war. He quickly proves himself not to be officer material. This leads him to meets up with wily Private Cox who knows exactly how all the scams work in the confused world of the British Army. And Stanley's brigadier War Office uncle seems to be up to something more than a bit shady too. Written by Jeremy Perkins <jwp@aber.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


You'll Roar at this Hilarious picture about a Gold-bricker who almost wrecked an army ! See more »


Comedy | War


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Release Date:

17 February 1956 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Private's Progress  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (re-issue) (1957)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Forty or so minutes into the film, Terry-Thomas' character goes to watch In Which We Serve, where he finds half the company. Richard Attenborough plays one of the privates watching. Attenborough also happened to star in the film In Which We Serve See more »


Maj. Hitchcock: As for you Windrush, you're an absolute rotter!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits: "The service caps issued for use in this film are intended to be worn by imaginary personnel only. Others who find themselves well-fitted should regard it as purely coincidental." See more »


References In Which We Serve (1942) See more »


South of the Border
Written by Michael Carr and Jimmy Kennedy
See more »

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User Reviews

A wonderful comedy that takes great pleasure is taking swipes at a wide range of facets of British society
31 May 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Before WWII the British workforce were made up of the military, agricultural workers, industrial workers and millions of civil servants to organise everything. With WWII the military grows in the UK to the largest it has ever been. As part of the draft, the upper class Stanley Windrush finds himself called out of his university education to join the war effort. After failing the officer's training, he finds himself down among the working classes.

Despite the fact that this film has a very loose plot until the final third, this is still a great little comedy that will appeal to those of us who are familiar with British society and all it's general groups. The plot sees an educated person fall into the ranks of the workingmen before being sent on a mission to steal a collection of priceless art from inside Germany. All of this is OK and the majority of the film is spent on Windrush's training but in reality I see the plot as just an effective framework for lots of sharp observations that, although rarely laugh-out-loud funny, are still very funny. Nobody gets away unscathed and the type of humour is obvious from a pre-credit sequence that mocks the number of civil servants and a title sequence that pointedly thanks nobody official for their help! The script has spot-on digs at the educated classes, the scheming and work-shy working classes, the foolish officer classes as well as the whole general culture of the UK. You would think that the film would have dated, but it's observations on British society are still pretty accurate (even if they are sweeping generalisations). For this reason I found it funny and the plot manages to pull off the dual trick of being enough to keep the film moving and giving it a narrative but also not intruding into the humour of the film.

The cast is surprisingly deep in good performances, spot on caricature and a load of famous faces doing just what they are famous for! Carmichael leads the cast really well and has an enjoyable role as a bit of a limp fellow (educated, you know!). He is supported by the likes of Attenborough as a bit of a dodger and a raft of good performances from the likes of Malleson, Jones, Maddern, Hartnell and Trubshawe. These are added to by the typically wonderful Terry-Thomas ('you're an absolute shower, the lot of you') and Le Mesurier doing their usual (but always appreciated) stuff. Also of note is a small, early role for one Christopher Lee as an English-speaking German aide towards the end of the film. All the cast do really well but it is a spot-on script that makes their work look so effortless.

Overall this is not a hilarious comedy in the modern style but more a consistent gentle wit that, sadly, may leave modern audiences wondering why it is so loved. However those of us aware of the society that the film is digging at will be more than amused by this film. Plot may well come second to humour and satirical digs but it is still strong enough to make the film work without taking anything away from the sharp script.

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