I Was Monty's Double (film)
|I Was Monty's Double|
|Directed by||John Guillermin|
|Produced by||Maxwell Setton at Walton Studios|
|Screenplay by||Bryan Forbes|
|Based on||I Was Monty's Double|
by M. E. Clifton James
|Music by||John Addison|
|Edited by||Max Benedict|
|Distributed by||Associated British-Pathé Limited|
|21 October 1958 (UK)|
I Was Monty's Double is a 1958 film made by Associated British Picture Corporation (ABPC). It was directed by John Guillermin. The screenplay was adapted by Bryan Forbes from the autobiography of M. E. Clifton James, an actor who pretended to be General Montgomery as a decoy during the Second World War (see Operation Copperhead).
A few months before the D-Day landings during the Second World War, the British government decides to launch a campaign of disinformation; spreading a rumour that the landings just might take place at a location other than Normandy. The details of the operation (actually, there were several such operations) are handed to two intelligence officers, Colonel Logan (Cecil Parker) and Major Harvey (John Mills). They are initially unable to devise such a plan – but one night, Harvey sees an actor at a London theatre, putting on a convincing impression of General Bernard Montgomery.
Logan and Harvey discover that the actor is M. E. Clifton James (who plays himself in the film), a lieutenant stationed in Leicester with the Royal Army Pay Corps and that he was a professional actor in peacetime. He is called to London, on the pretext that he is to make a test for an army film, and a plan is devised that he should tour North Africa, impersonating 'Monty'.
'Jimmy' as Harvey calls him, is doubtful that he can carry off an impersonation of Montgomery, especially with his air of command, but with time running short and no options open to him, he agrees.
Disguised as a corporal, he spends some days at Montgomery's headquarters and learns to copy the general's mannerisms and style. After an interview with the general himself, he is sent off to tour North Africa.
Accompanied by Harvey, who has been 'promoted' to brigadier for his cover as Montgomery's aide-de-camp, 'Jimmy' arrives at Gibraltar, where the governor, who has known the general for years, can't get over the likeness. To further foster the deception, a local businessman and known German agent, Karl Nielson (Marius Goring), is invited to dinner, knowing that he will spread the information. This happens quickly and their aeroplane is (unsuccessfully) attacked on leaving Gibraltar.
James and Harvey tour several places in North Africa and visit the troops. With only a few days to go before the landings, it is learned that the Germans have indeed been fooled and have kept large numbers of troops in the south, away from Normandy. His job done, James is put into 'cold storage' at a heavily guarded villa on the coast.
But the Germans have been fooled more than Harvey realises. A team of German commandos are landed by submarine to kidnap 'Monty'. They kill his guards and are ready to embark with James, but Harvey gets wind of the kidnap and foils it at the last moment. They return quietly to London.
- M. E. Clifton James as himself and General Montgomery
- John Mills as Major Harvey
- Cecil Parker as Colonel E. F. Logan
- Patrick Allen as Colonel Mathers
- Patrick Holt as Colonel Dawson
- Leslie Phillips as Major Tennant
- Michael Hordern as Governor of Gibraltar
- Marius Goring as Karl Nielson
- Barbara Hicks as Hester Baring
- Duncan Lamont as Wing Commander Bates
- Anthony Sagar as Guard Sergeant
- John Gale as Flight Lieutenant Osborne
- Kenneth J. Warren as Flying Officer Davies
- James Hayter as Sergeant Adams
- Sid James as Desk Clerk Y.M.C.A.
- MacDonald Parke as American General
- Patrick Connor as Soldier in Tent (uncredited)
Near the end of the film, the scriptwriter Bryan Forbes has a bit part as a young Lieutenant who assists Harvey in the beach rescue of M. E. Clifton James.
Comparison with book
The film broadly follows the account by James in his book of the same name, but according to James, there was no attempt to kidnap him. The German High Command did plan to have him killed, but Hitler vetoed the plan until he could be sure where the landings would actually take place.
Gibraltar was in reality a hotbed of German agents, and James/Montgomery was spied on by several operatives who were smuggled into Gibraltar specifically to discover what 'Monty' was up to. James/Montgomery deliberately talked nonsense about non-existent operations and plans, in the hope that the spies would overhear and take such information seriously.
The intelligence officer who initially recruited James was David Niven, at that time serving as a lieutenant-colonel at the War Office.
The film also includes well-received performances by Leslie Phillips, Michael Hordern as the governor of Gibraltar, 'Rusty' Eastwood, Marius Goring as Karl Nielson and Barbara Hicks as Logan's formidably competent secretary, Hester Baring. In common with many British films from the period Sam Kydd makes a brief appearance. Bryan Forbes appears as a young officer co-opted to help intercept the kidnappers.
The film inspired a Goon Show episode entitled 'I was Monty's Treble', referring to at least 3 doppelgangers.
The Private Eye comic strip, Battle for Britain was penned by Ian Hislop under the nom-de-plume Monty Stubble. When the comic strip ended, after the 1987 General Election and Stubble's death, his gravestone was shown to bear the inscription "I was Monty Stubble".
On some US prints, the title is Hell, Heaven or Hoboken, taken from an address made by the title character to US officers.