7.4/10
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65 user 11 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.

Director:

Ronald Neame

Writers:

Ewen Montagu (book) (as The Hon. Ewen Montagu C.B.E. D.L. Q.C.), Nigel Balchin (screenplay)
Reviews
Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Clifton Webb ... Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu
Gloria Grahame ... Lucy Sherwood
Robert Flemyng ... Lt. George Acres
Josephine Griffin ... Pam
Stephen Boyd ... Patrick O'Reilly
Laurence Naismith ... Adm. Cross
Geoffrey Keen ... Gen. Nye
Moultrie Kelsall ... The Father
Cyril Cusack ... Taxi Driver
André Morell ... Sir Bernard Spilsbury
Michael Hordern ... Gen. Cockburn
Allan Cuthbertson ... Vice-Admiral
Joan Hickson ... Landlady
Terence Longdon ... Larry (as Terence Longden)
Gibb McLaughlin ... Club Porter
Learn more

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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:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When the events in this movie took place in 1943, Sir Bernard Spilsbury was in his 60s. André Morell, who played him in this movie, was in his late 40s. See more »

Goofs

While O'Reilly is waiting in his room to see if he'll be arrested, the light level outside varies continually over the hour of movie time. It starts in the evening. When O'Reilly looks out and sees the drunk it's already quite dark. But when the special branch officers arrive and hide outside, it's quite bright. See more »

Quotes

[the military needs a dead body for counterintelligence]
Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu: I can assure you that this is an opportunity for your son to do a great thing for England.
The Father: My son, sir, was a Scotsman. Very proud of it.
Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu: I beg your pardon.
The Father: Never mind. We're used to that. You English always talk about England when you mean Britain.
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 »

Connections

Featured in Operation Mincemeat (2010) 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
See more »

User Reviews

 
A true-story war film that finds its mark
15 October 2005 | by BlueGuildSee all my reviews

As the North African campaign of WWII drew to a close it became obvious that the Allies next move would be to invade Sicily. A deception was therefore needed to try to lure away some of the German defences. Inter-services "XX Committee" (XX for double-cross) members Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu, and Squadron Leader Sir Archibald Cholmondley hatched the then unheard of plan of planting a body in the sea off Spain where prevailing currents would surely carry it inshore to the Huelva region, known to be the territory of one of the Nazis' best Spanish agents. The body, dressed as a major in the Royal Marines and apparently killed in a plane crash, would be carrying supposedly top secret documents aimed at convincing any reader that the invasion target was not Sicily at all, but Greece. Montagu himself plays a cameo role in the film as an Air Marshall.

The leading role of Montagu is played by Clifton Webb, utterly credible as a British naval officer, while Robert Flemyng, who had himself served conspicuously in WWII and who was awarded the Military Cross and Order of The British Empire, takes on the role of his junior assistant, a composite role based partly on Cholmondley's real-life character and partly on Montagu's real-life assistant.Together they must procure a body that will pass a medical examination to determine the cause of death and they must also create a personality and a past life and history for this man.

This is a true-story that avoids battle scenes and big bangs. There are no special effects. It describes a war of stealth and cunning and the cat and mouse game of espionage. It is an atmospheric suspense thriller with Stephen Boyd very effective as the determined Axis agent, Patrick O'Reilly, sent in from Ireland to verify the existence and past life of this man who never was. While the soundtrack is one of Alan Rawsthorne's (The Cruel Sea) better scores, it is nevertheless immediately recognizable as being one of his haunting compositions, unfortunately sounding so much like all his others. It is ably directed by the great and sometimes under-rated Ronald Neame. It is beautifully filmed, as are all of former-cameraman Neame's pictures. The voice of Churchill is provided by the young Peter Sellers who, at that time in 1956, was establishing his versatility and making a name for himself in the BBC radio comedy, "The Goon Show".

20th Century Fox's DVD video and sound quality are excellent, as would be expected in the studio release of one of their own productions.

A worthy and entertaining addition to any WWII film collection and if it gives you an appetite for a more in-depth recounting of the true story, Ewan Montagu's 1953 book is still available in both the hardback and paperback editions.


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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | German | Spanish | Latin

Release Date:

9 May 1956 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Mann, den es nie gab See more »

Filming Locations:

London, England, UK See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Sumar Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

4-Track Stereo (magnetic prints)| Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See full technical specs »

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