Clifton Webb stars in this fascinating account of a daring intelligence operation designed to mislead the Nazis prior to the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily. In an effort to convince the Germans to redeploy their defenses,... more » Lt. Commander Montagu (Webb) creates a false English officer and fabricates letters that indicate the British intend to land in Greece. Montagu than plants these documents on a dead man and orchestrates the "discovery" of this "officer" on the coast of Spain, Knowing the papers will fall into German hands. What follows is a taut cat-and mouse game as British Intelligence waits for Berlin to respond, then races to stay one step ahead of the Nazi agent dispatched to determine if the dead man is genuine. This true story of ingenious deception is a riveting tale of wartime espionage.« less
"Although the film was a ostensibly a 20th Century Fox production, THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS was filmed in England using primarily English crew and cast (though American leads). It belongs to a tradition of English war films in which aspects of the war are treated slowly, deliberately, and with great precision. While in the US war films tended to feature John Wayne leading Marines into combat, the British tended to focus much more on the preparation and plans of operations. For instance, the very fine film THE DAM BUSTERS features very little in the way of actual combat. And THE MAN WHO NEVER WAY has no combat whatsoever.The movie is based on a book by the same name about Operation Mincemeat, in which the British attempted to mislead the Germans about the intended invasion spot for D-Day by planting a corpse with fake papers on a beach in Spain, knowing that the Spanish would pass the papers onto the Germans. The entire movie is involved with the formation of the plan, and then creating the man who never was, creating his papers and personal effects. On one level, not much happens in the film, but on another it is one of the most fascinating films ever made about the war, because of the practical problems they deal with in the executing of the operation. Knowing that it was all based upon real events greatly adds to the appeal of the film.Clifton Webb, who was in fact far too old for the part, turns in a convincing performance as Lieutenant Commander Montagu. In most of his films he comes across as arrogant, but in this one he instead communicates competence and intelligence. Gloria Grahame is excellent as the primary female presence in the film. If you look carefully, you can spot Stephen Boyd in a small role, a few years before he would portray Messala in BEH-HUR."
An exciting World War II movie
J. Taylor | Florida | 03/31/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I rate "The Man Who Never Was" as an excellent and exciting World War II movie. Why can't movies be made like this anymore? Recent World War II movies are not accurate and place too much emphasis on effects. In my opinion, the more "special effects" a movie has, the more fake it is. Anyhow, "The Man Who Never Was" describes the true events of the British trying to confuse the Germans as to where the Allies will invade - Sicily or Greece. By arranging to have a dead body wash ashore in Spain with top-secret documents, the British cause the Germans to alter their defenses, thus saving the Allies from suffering even more casualties. How the British found a body, the details that they had to come up with to make the Germans believe the body was for real, and the subsequent German effort to determine whether or not the information found on the body was accurate, all make for an exciting story which moves at a swift pace. This is really a great World War II movie."
Fine account of elaborate wartime hoax... Good DVD from Fox
dooby | 07/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fine movie of wartime espionage, disinformation and deception. Based on the book by Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu, it tells of British Naval Intelligence's attempt to deceive the Germans about the planned 1943 invasion of Sicily. Trying to draw as many German troops away from Sicily as possible, they concocted a plan to have a dead body wash ashore in Spain, with papers purportedly from Allied High Command indicating that the invasion would go by way of Greece or Sardinia instead of Sicily. The subterfuge succeeded. The Germans embarked on a massive build up of defences around Sardinia and the Greek Peloponnesus, thinning out their defences on Sicily. The hoax affected not only the Sicilian offensive but had effects across the entire European theater. Hitler swallowed it whole. Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was sent to personally supervise the defence of Greece. The 1st Panzer Division was withdrawn from France. Two other Panzer divisions were withdrawn from the Russian front just when they were needed at the crucial Battle of Kursk. Operation Mincemeat, as it was called, was one of the most ingenious and successful hoaxes perpertrated by the Allies during the Second World War.
This is a war movie with little battlefront action. It concentrates on the quiet background work of the Intelligence Service. The first half of the movie deals with the hatching of the plan, the procurement of the dead body, the faking of the dead man's history and the drawing up of his elaborate cover story. The fictional officer is christened "Major William Martin" of The Royal Marines. The second half starts when the Germans fall for the ruse and send a spy over to England to check out its veracity. There follows a cat and mouse game as the British try to tie up loose ends and fill in the fake history they have put together for the dead man, including his purported girlfriend. The movie is always absorbing, often rivetingly so. It is one of the few WW2 espionage films that have stood the test of time. The fact that it was a true story makes it doubly interesting.
Fox have released a barebones edition of the film on DVD. It contains both the widescreen version in its original 2.55:1 Cinemascope (enhanced for widescreen TV) and a fullscreen pan-&-scan version. The widescreen version strangely is placed on the unmarked flipside of the double-sided DVD. Picture quality is fine, very good in fact if you consider this film dates from 1955. There is very little dirt, speckling or any print damage. Colors are strong and bright. Skintones look natural. Black levels are well rendered. The pan-&-scan version version looks terrible in comparison, with a claustrophobic, darker image, heavier grain and a softer picture overall. Sound is available in the original English 2.0 mono, a 4.0 Surround remix as well as alternate Spanish and French 2.0 mono tracks. A single theatrical trailer is all that's included. A fine memento of wartime subterfuge and deception with solid acting and direction from a time when there was still a viable British Film Industry.
Note: The grave at Huelva, on the southern coast of Spain still bears the name "Major William Martin". The real identity of the dead man was kept secret for over 50 years. It was only in 1996 that he was finally identified as a homeless alcoholic Welshman. Today, across the bottom of the white marble tombstone is an added epitaph, finally revealing his identity, "Glyndwr Michael served as Major William Martin"."
THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS--A very memorable war picture!!
dooby | 12/30/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My son asked me to purchase some WWII DVD's for him this past Christmas. Sadly, I wasn't able to include the best NAVAL WWII movies which were made by the British. Two of the best of them were The Man Who Never Was and Sink The Bismark. Sadly neither of these titles are available on DVD. Both are better than just about any of the American WWII movies (yes, I'm an American). Both of these movies are based on TRUE stories (Unlike Disney's latest Pearl Harbor movie!!), only the minor characters are fictional. If you ever see the Man who Never Was you will never forget it. The story is about a true scheme which the Brits used to make the Germans believe the southern European landings were going to be in a different location than the real one. They discuss how to do this and come up with the idea of obtaining a body of a young man, which they are going to dress up as an officer with invasion plans for another location than the one intended. The movie spends a lot of time explaining how they got the body, what they had to do to fake all this, including figuring out on which European beach they should have the body wash ashore. Unlike most American movies, you really get an excellent view of what it's really like to plan CIA type operations. Wonderful movie. You will love all the characters, even the villains!! Lots of naval action from the highest to the lowest commands. Buy it.
---UNFORTUNATELY IT IS NOT AVAILABLE ON DVD YET!!!----
Neither is "Sink the Bismark", which I remember seeing in college back in the early '60's. I remember it vividly because the auditorium in which it was shown allowed the audience to "attack and sink" the Bismark using paper airplanes!! This movie is also terrific. It too is VERY British. It too explains why the British Navy was so awesome in WWII. It also has great actors in great roles. Super movie. Both of these movies are the best in WWII movies. Now if I could just remember the name of the British naval movie which tells the story of the naval war off the coast of South America!! Yet another wonderful British Naval movie!!
The Man Who Never Was has scenes which should bring tears to your eyes, if you are the least bit sensitive!! Good movie to get your gal into crying on your shoulder!! (And that actually happened as well ;-)"
Superb re-telling of a true wartime operation.
Alan Royle email@example.com | Fremantle, Western Australia. | 09/25/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Clifton Webb is perfectly cast as the British Naval Officer who devises the plan to decieve German Intelligence, as to the whereabouts of the Allied landings in Sicily during World War 2. As with most British films of its kind, "The Man Who Never Was" relies upon the facts to maintain interest throughout,tampering with history just enough to provide tension and drama where it is needed. Webb's performance is both intelligent and touching, while Stephen Boyd as the German agent sent to investigate the situation,exudes just the right amount of charm and malevolence. Gloria Graham is probably the only downside to this highly effective film,but the others well and truly make up for her somewhat overcooked effort. Made in 1956, in colour, "The Man Who Never Was" has not "dated" at all and stands as a fine example of the British cinema's ability to tell a good story well."