Man Who Never Was [1956]

Director: Ronald Neame
Stars: Clifton Webb, Gloria Grahame, Robert Flemyng, Josephine Griffin, Stephen Boyd
Genre: War, Drama
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 103 minutes

A real beauty of a true story provides the basis for The Man Who Never Was, a gripping World War II picture that has no combat scenes, no great vistas of troops. The time is 1943, as the Allies prepare the invasion of Sicily and desperately need a diversionary ploy to make the Germans suspect another invasion target. The solution is simple but ingenious: a dead man's body will be left in the sea to float ashore on the coast of Spain; made to look like a British pilot, he will be carrying papers suggesting an Allied attack on Greece. When the papers fall to the Nazis, they'll swallow the bogus story…or will they? The film's final third tracks an Irish spy for the Axis (Steven Boyd, in one of his first roles) as he travels to London to investigate loose ends. Clifton Webb gives a crisp, disciplined performance as Ewen Montagu, the officer in charge of the scheme. The film errs only in some melodrama involving Gloria Grahame, the histrionic roommate of an Intelligence worker. Other than that, director Ronald Neame brings his steady, classy approach to bear on a good yarn, and saves special grace for the treatment of the unfortunate dead man who unwittingly loaned his body to a stunt that saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. The film's final haunting shots capture the ethereal shiver of its title. --Robert Horton

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