In Private’s Progress mild undergraduate Stanley Windrush (Ian Carmichael) is called up for military service during the Second World War but has a hard time since he proves to be singularly unsuited to army life.
He disappoints Major Hitchcock (Terry-Thomas) who expects, on his posting to a Holding Unit, that Windrush will be a good influence on his lazy barrack mates, led by expert scrounger Private Percival Henry Cox (Richard Attenborough). Windrush is subsequently sent to language school where he learns Japanese. Then, through the influence of his uncle Bertram (Dennis Price) at the War Office, Windrush joins an expedition into enemy territory where, disguised as German soldiers, they are dropped behind German lines to recover looted art treasures. The mission requires a knowledge of German which Windrush does not have. The operation is, in reality, an elaborate swindle devised by Bertram to keep the treasures out of official hands and, after a series of misadventures, the art treasures make their way back to him. But Cox’s over-confidence results in the police becoming suspicious…
Terry-Thomas initially turned down the part of the heavy-drinking major but was persuaded to accept by his agent. His line “You’re an absolute shower!” became a national catch-phrase.
Cast: Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price. Peter Jones, William Hartnell, Thorley Walters, Ian Bannen, Jill Adams, Victor Maddern, Kenneth Griffith, Miles Malleson, John Le Mesurier
Director: John Boulting
Producer: Roy Boulting
Screenwriters: John Boulting, Frank Harvey from Alan Hackney’s novel
Cinematography: Eric Cross
Composer: John Addison
UK / British Lion – Charter / 97 minutes / 1956