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Private's Progress (1956)

In World War II, 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.


John Boulting


Alan Hackney (based on the story by), Frank Harvey (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Ian Carmichael ... Pte. Stanley Windrush
Ronald Adam ... Doctor at Medical
Henry B. Longhurst Henry B. Longhurst ... Mr. Spottiswood (as Henry Longhurst)
Peter Jones ... Arthur Egan
Dennis Price ... Brig. Bertram Tracepurcel
Miles Malleson ... Mr. Windrush Snr.
Sally Miles Sally Miles ... Catherine
David King-Wood David King-Wood ... Gerald
Derrick De Marney ... Pat
William Hartnell ... Sgt. Sutton
Brian Oulton ... M.O. at Gravestone Camp
Michael Trubshawe ... Col. Fanshawe
John Le Mesurier ... Psychiatrist
Jill Adams ... Prudence Greenslade
Terry-Thomas ... Major Hitchcock


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 {J-26}

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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Did You Know?


William Hartnell made a career out of playing tough military NCOs in movies and on television. However, in real-life, he joined the Royal Armoured Corps in World War II, but was invalided out within eighteen months, due to a nervous breakdown. See more »


Windrush takes the truck to the spivs yard where it's broken up and put in a scrap lorry but the radiator grill they're seen throwing in is different to the one that was on the lorry. See more »


Arthur Egan: Look Stanley, the British army isn't run by a lot of idiots you know.
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 »


There'll Always Be an England
Music by Ross Parker
Lyrics by Hugh Charles
Sung in the pub
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User Reviews

"An Absolute Show-wer!"
17 May 2012 | by tim-764-291856See all my reviews

The Halliwell's Film Guide that I used to get and live by always praised 'Private's Progress', but has it ever been on TV? Not that I know of and as someone in his mid 40's I hardly would have seen it when it was theatrically released.

So, now, to my just purchased Terry Thomas Collection; very good value and which includes this film plus five more. I would suggest this be the best way of buying Private's Progress, as the remainder (not seen yet) are well regarded and Thomas starred in some great films.

My second viewing in two days and I'm loving the disarmingly naive Ian Carmichael, who isn't quite a fish out of water but is certainly floundering at the edges. The film is set in 1942 and the offbeat intro sets the tone. The script is superb, gently bristling with satirical jibes and subtle in-jokes that are only revealed after repeat viewings. The comedy relies on intelligent writing rather than visual gags, so give it a chance - and concentrate!

The cast list is quite an extravaganza, a feast of well-known and famous faces that I was brought up on. Aside of the aforementioned Terry Thomas, who is the entertainingly robust toff Major Hitchcock, John Le Mesurier as an Army psychiatrist and a bounder of a chancing fellow private, Richard Attenborough. As Private Cox, he instigates a major theme of this film, getting out all you can from an unfortunate situation that war happens to be. We might associate such waspish satire with the likes of Hollywood writers such as Billy Wilder and his 'Stalag 17', but this is our very own, very English example.

There's also an array of other, lesser characters that will be familiar to anybody who watches Brit movies of the '60s.

It all rolls along nicely, fairly briskly leading to a rather bizarre situation that finds Windrush moving into Intelligence, becoming a Japanese translator but gets sent on a mission to Germany - where his new found skills prove absolutely useless and he nearly ends up getting shot as he can't speak a word of German! The story about stolen art treasures that his Brigadier uncle (Dennis Price) is having brought back, somewhat unofficially, from occupied Germany quickens the visual pace and sees out the film, ending with Windrush finally back at his old school, where he is a master.

Transfer quality: this one is fine, obviously un-restored and slightly grainy, with the odd blemish but seldom noticeable and which is par for the course for a film of this era.

So, Private's Progress is a delight, hideously unknown and one of British cinema's little gems.

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German | English

Release Date:

17 February 1956 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Private's Progress See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (re-issue) (1957)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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