I Was Monty’s Double (ABP 1958 with John Mills and Cecil Parker)

UK / ABP – Maxwell Setton / 100 minutes / 1958 black and white

Writer: Bryan Forbes, from the book by M E Clifton James / Cinematography: Basil Emmott / Music: John Addison / Director: John Guillermin

Cast: John Mills, Cecil Parker, M E Clifton James, Patrick Allen, Leslie Phillips, Michael Hordern, Marius Goring, Bryan Forbes

US Title: Hell, Heaven and Hoboken

The gripping film version of one of the most extraordinary real-life stories to emerge from World War II. Wrote the Financial Times : “To the British talent for bringing the world to the screen as it is or actually was, is here added a curious sympathy and the qualities of understatement which heighten suspense”.

Bryan Forbes provided the tense and witty screen adaptation of M E Clifton James’ autobiographical book I Was Monty’s Double and John Mills and Cecil Parker were perfectly cast as MI5 officers Harvey and Logan, assigned the apparently impossible task of convincing the German High Command that the invasion of Europe in 1944 will be launched from the coast of North Africa. A visit to the theatre gives Harvey the solution when he sees small-time actor M E Clifton James (playing his real-life role) impersonating General Montgomery on stage.

James, a Lieutenant in the Pay Corps, is to be planted in North Africa to make an official “tour of inspection” of the troops, persuading the Germans to divert their forces and material to the area. James is deeply nervous about the assignment but, after concentrated training, and the approval of Montgomery himself, overcomes his stage fright and the improbable scheme is a resounding success, with the Germans moving several divisions to the south of France in response to “Montgomery’s” appearance in North Africa. Then James is kidnapped by German commandos in North Africa …

John Guillermin’s direction was assured, perfectly combining action, suspense and comedy with pace and his highly-effective semi-documentary approach (including cleverly integrated newsreel footage) gives a credible feeling to the entirely fictional kidnap plot that climaxes the film.