I Was Monty’s Double (1958)

I Was Monty’s Double (1958)

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A real dead ringer for lurrrrve. I mean... Field Marshal Montgomery.
A real dead ringer for lurrrrve. I mean… Field Marshal Montgomery.

Twitter Plot Summary: The chap who actually was Monty’s double in WW2 reprises the role in a film. It’s all about misleading the Germans about D-Day.

Genre: Drama/History/War

Director: John Guillermin

Key Cast: John Mills, Cecil Parker, Leslie Phillips, Sid James, John Le Mesurier, ME Clifton James.

Five Point Summary:

1. Sid James! Hyahyahyahyah!

2. He does look a lot like Monty.

3. And there’s Leslie Phillips – well helllloooo!

4. Those Americans are hard to please.

5. Will the ploy work? Well, yes we know it did.

Unlike many war films of the era, I Was Monty’s Double is incredibly whimsical. Released in the same year as the excellent Ice Cold in Alex, John Mills (latterly Sir John Mills) is Major Harvey, a man tasked with coming up with a way of distracting the Germans away from the planned D-Day invasion. The solution was simple – to use an actor who bears an uncanny resemblance to Field Marshal Montgomery, ship him off to North Africa and pull German troops away from the Normandy beaches. Thankfully the ploy worked -and the tide of the war changed in favour of the Allies. This is just one of a number of initiatives that made the D-Day landings a success, and it’s nice for a film to show the war from a different angle. Absent are the epic fight scenes that you would usually expect to see and, bar one tense shoot-out towards the film’s end, is light on any action whatsoever beyond groups of people talking. A bit like Game of Thrones then. Also, you’d hardly expect a film about a Field Marshal, or even a film about his body double, to be high on action set pieces. That’s the whole point about being a Field Marshall, he’ll be back at HQ looking at maps or something.

ME Clifton James returns to the real-world role he played during World War 2 – that of General Montgomery’s double. In a slightly meta-plot James plays himself playing Monty. And also plays Monty. Given just a couple of weeks to train him up in Monty’s mannerisms, James is happy for the opportunity to take the role, but isn’t certain he can inhabit the character and personality of Monty. Doing that typically British thing, he’s told to buck up and get on with it. And so he does.

Americans. Tough crowd.
Americans. Tough crowd.

Given its whimsical tone it’s appropriate that future Carry On starts Sid James and Leslie Phillips show up in supporting roles. There’s even a brief appearance by John Le Mesurier as James’ commanding officer who looks down on actors. Wars are for fighting, how’s acting supposed to help with that? Well, as it turns out it helped quite a bit. If the Nazis had not fallen for the ploy, the outcome of D-Day (and at the risk of possibly over-emphasising the contribution this made to the war effort, potentially even the outcome of the war itself) could have been completely different. That would be an intriguing idea for a “what if?” movie, should anyone think to make it.

I’m of the opinion that the tone has been approached from the right angle (as opposed to an acute angle) and to have tried making this topic any more serious than they did would have been to its disservice. Suffice to say, if you want big explosions then go watch a Michael Bay film. Meanwhile the rest of us will just sit here and quietly enjoy one of the great success stories of WW2.

Favourite scene: James forgetting his speech to the American forces, but rallying with an improvised speech of his own.

Quote: “Who do you think you are? Monty?”

Silly Moment: ME Clifton James is following Monty around at a distance, trying to learn his mannerisms, then almost gets run down by a staff car. He ends up in a puddle of mud. Or maybe oil.

Score: 4/5

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