At the Double Monty
If you live in Britain and watch a bit of daytime TV there is a good chance you will have seen "I Was Monty's Double" show up on the TV schedule as it seems to be on just about every over month. But that isn't a complaint because "I Was Monty's Double" is based upon one of the more entertaining true stories to come out of WWII, that of stage actor M.E. Clifton James who prior to the D-Day landings acted as General Montgomery's double, tricking the enemy to suspect the landings would be somewhere else. Having said that, whilst based on James's own story and sees him playing himself and of course Monty in the movie there is poetic licence taken and in doing so "I Was Monty's Double" ends up a fun movie about James's exploits, whilst still highlighting what he did.
With the D-Day landings not far off British Intelligence officers Major Harvey (John Mills - Ice Cold in Alex) and Col. Logan (Cecil Parker - Indiscreet) are assigned the task of somehow feeding false information to the enemy so that they don't suspect Normandy as the target. Whilst out at a show Major Harvey along with the entire audience are surprised when General Montgomery appears on stage and even more surprised when they learn it is a look a like actor called M.E. Clifton James. It leads to James becoming Monty's double, sent to the Mediterranean with Harvey by the side to trick the enemy into thinking something big is going to happen there. But being Monty's double doesn't come with out its dangers, from those who know the real Monty as well as assassination and kidnap attempts.
So let me just say that I haven't read M.E. Clifton James's novel on which "I Was Monty's Double" is an adaptation of but I feel safe in assuming that when Bryan Forbes adapted his story he put a more entertaining spin on things. As such the first half of the movie has a real streak of humour running through it, be it Major Harvey being a bit of a ladies man with a thing for secretaries to Harvey and Logan rail roading James into agreeing to being Monty's double. I don't mind this at all because lets be frank the true story seems so hilariously far fetched that it is ideal for some humour although I do find it a shame that a certain part of the story was changed. What I am on about is the fact it was actor David Niven, whilst serving in the army who came across M.E. Clifton James because including that would have made it even funnier.
But whilst this first half of humour extends into the second half that second half focuses more upon the danger that James put himself in. We witness close calls when meeting people who knew the real Monty to attempts on his life, he was that convincing. As I said there is still humour in this second half but it does a good job of making you realise what James did for Britain.
And on the subject of M.E. Clifton James it is so good that he appears in the movie because whilst his story has a more humorous slant his own, slightly nervous and at times awkward performance makes it feel very real. In fact his awkwardness works well next to a more polished cast which features John Mills, Leslie Phillips, Michael Hordern and Cecil Parker although I am bewildered why James never received top billing but is the last name in the credits.
What this all boils down to is that "I Was Monty's Double" is an enjoyable and humorous take on the true story of M.E. Clifton James who was part of one of the more audacious WWII plots.