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The Scapegoat (1959)

Unrated  |   |  Crime, Mystery, Thriller  |  6 August 1959 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 1,083 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 3 critic

A French count schemes to kill his wife and implicate a mild-mannered English schoolteacher whom he resembles



(novel), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
John Barratt / Jacques De Gue
Nicole Maurey ...
Irene Worth ...
Pamela Brown ...
Annabel Bartlett ...
Geoffrey Keen ...
Noel Howlett ...
Dr. Aloin
Leslie French ...
Alan Webb ...
Maria Britneva ...
Eddie Byrne ...
Alexander Archdale ...
Customs Official


On a vacation in France from his nondescript job and life, John Barratt encounters a titled but impoverished French nobleman who looks exactly like him. The nobleman gets John drunk, and switches places with him to take a breather from his failing business and too-complicated life. John tries to convince everyone he is not who they think he is, but he begins to get more and more involved with the count's family, including an unhappy wife, domineering mother, lonely but talented young daughter, bitter spinster sister and the expected mistress. As John gets to know them he feels he can help them with their problems, but is also becoming used to his borrowed life, which has given him a purpose for the first time. Written by Ron Kerrigan <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


M-G-M presents his [Alec Guinness's] new hit! See more »


Unrated | See all certifications »





Release Date:

6 August 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Sündenbock  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


A rejected score consisting of classical selections plus original music by Douglas Gamley was recorded in England. See more »


When John and Jacques first enter the hotel room, a small prop on the side table jumps due to a bad edit. See more »


[first lines]
Customs Official: You have the intention of staying long in France, Mr. Barratt?
John Barratt: I don't know. That is to say that I didn't know there was any restriction apart from the question of money.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits are shown over various images of the book by Daphne DuMaurier. See more »


Remade as The Scapegoat (2012) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A Very English view of Death
20 October 2013 | by (London) – See all my reviews

Based on a Daphne du Maurier source-text, THE SCAPEGOAT is very much in the tradition established by Hamer's more famous earlier film KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (1949), also starring Guinness. In this film Guinness plays two roles; that of a mild-mannered university teacher whose identity is stolen by a rakish French aristocrat. The university teacher takes over the aristocrat's life, and proves rather good at it; so much so that he does not want to recover his old life when the aristocrat asks him to. The climax is a violent one. Hamer's film, although set in France, takes a particularly English approach to death; the performances are quietly understated, and the atmosphere of menace restrained. Bette Davis seems rather out of place in a cameo role as the aristocrat's mother; her grande dame performance, complete with rolling New England vowels, contrasts starkly with that of Guinness. The ending is a bit peremptory, betraying the fact that THE SCAPEGOAT was not without its production difficulties, especially when scriptwriter Gore Vidal had to deal with an increasingly alcoholic director. Nonetheless THE SCAPEGOAT is definitely worth a view, if only for Guinness' versatility as an actor.

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