I Was Monty's Double (film)
I Was Monty's Double (aka Hell, Heaven or Hoboken) 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.
|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|
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)
- Sam Kydd as Soldier in Cinema
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.
Based on Lieut. M.E. Clifton James' own story of his successful attempt to deceive the Germans regarding General Montgomery's pre-D. Day movements, I Was Monty's Double 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, cameos abound. Ubiquitous actorSam Kydd makes a brief appearance, screenwriter Bryan Forbes appears as a young officer co-opted to help intercept the kidnappers. Near the end of the film, Forbes has a bit part as a young Lieutenant who assists Harvey in the beach rescue of M. E. Clifton James.
Film Historian Alun Evans in Brassey's Guide to War Films (2000) noted, I Was Monty's Double as, "... in itself interesting without all the trivia asides, with Bryan Forbes' screenplay from, yes, Clifton James, the actor's book, amusingly played by a stalwart cast."
Film critic Leslie Halliwell in Leslie Halliwell's Film Guide (1989) described I WAS Monty's Double, "an amusing and intriguing first hour gives way to spy chases, but the overall provides solid entertainment."
In popular culture
I Was Monty's Double inspired a Goon Show episode entitled "I was Monty's Treble", referring to at least 3 doppelgangers. The film was also spoofed in the comedy film On the Double, with Danny Kaye playing a double role.
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".
Since 2010, the name 'Monty's Double' has been adopted by the actor Colin Brooks-Williams as the identity for his popular Field-Marshal Montgomery lookalike and impersonation act, with which he tours 1940s-themed events nationwide ; as a tribute to the Field-Marshal himself and to M.E.Clifton James the original war-time 'Monty's Double'. Colin has registered the name 'Monty's Double' as his professional stage name with the actor's union 'Equity' and carries the name on his Equity membership card.
- Film credits and Variety film review; 5 November 1958, p. 7.
- Axmaker, Sean. "Film article: 'I Was Monty's Double' AKA'Hell, Heaven or Hoboken'." TCM, 2019. Retrieved: 8 August 2019.
- "Release Dates: 'I Was Monty's Double'." IMDb, 2019. Retrieved: 8 August 2019.
- Evans 2000, p. 101.
- Halliwell 1989, p. 502.