I Was Monty’s Double (1958)
“The Gigantic Hoax of World War II”
Director: John Guillermin
Cast: M.E. Clifton James, John Mills, Cecil Parker
Synopsis: The incredible but true story of how an impersonator was recruited to impersonate General Montgomery to mislead the Germans about his intentions before the Normandy campaign.
I Was Monty’s Double has the kind of title and plot that might lend itself to some knockabout farce, and for much of the time it’s played for laughs – or at least appreciative smiles: the humour is never strong enough to raise anything more. The humour eventually gives way to a kind of low-level suspense before writer Bryan Forbes nearly blows it all by fabricating a Nazi commando kidnap plot simply because they had to finish with a big bang rather than a slow fade.
M. E. Clifton-James plays himself and British war general Bernard Montgomery, but because he lacks the kind of screen presence or craft to carry a picture on his own, much of the focus is transferred to trusty old John Mills, who plays Army Major Harvey, the man who hatches the madcap plan to pass off Clifton-James as the General. The ever-genial Cecil Parker also plays a major part as Harvey’s superior and the conduit between him and high command.
The story itself provides few occasions for drama or suspense, but makes good use of the opportunities available to it. Clifton-James’ understandable lack of confidence is explored as he is tutored in capturing all of Monty’s mannerisms and learning every aspect of his history, and a fair amount of tension is supplied by his meeting with an enemy undercover agent who is known to the allies, and whom they are trying to convince they are planning their final push on Hitler’s weakening grip on Europe via North Africa.
I Was Monty’s Double is a movie mired in another era in the same way that Dickens’ novels are from a bygone age. However, while Dickens’ stories are timeless, I Was Monty’s Double is a product of its age and hasn’t travelled well over the past fifty-odd years. However, it does provide a valuable insight into the ingenious methods used by the British in the war against Nazism.
(Reviewed 22nd May 2012)