In the Fifties Britain produced a number of well made WWII movies that recaptured the valor and victories of British arms. The war was past and the civilian deprivations that had lasted well after the war were going away. It was time to celebrate what Britain had accomplished. The Man Who Never Was is among these movies. It tells the true story of Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montague (Clifton Webb), a barrister who now is in Naval Intelligence, who has been charged to come up with a scheme that will convince the Germans that the Allies will not mount a major effort to invade Sicily. His solution is named Operation Mincemeat, and involves using a body as a decoy. I won't go into the details because the fun is in seeing just how Montague and his small staff, an aide and a secretary, go about it. But having accomplished their assignment, they are faced with the likelihood that the Germans will try hard to verify what they are being led to believe. The second half of the movie is a tight little drama where Montague has to outwit an Irishman who has become a German agent.
Webb is quite effective playing Montague. There's almost none of the prissiness he brought to most of his roles. He's quiet, determined and smarter than many around him. He has a sharp tongue but seldom shows impatience. It's a nice job. Gloria Grahame plays a young woman who provides an important piece of evidence establishing the body's history, and then unknowingly faces the Irish agent.
In my view, this is a very watchable film that keeps moving at a good pace. Ronald Neame was an experienced, effective director who knew what he was doing. Two of his best films and well worth watching are The Horse's Mouth and Tunes of Glory.
And for those who appreciate a stiff upper lip and immaculate British manners, here are some of those Fifties WWII movies to track down: The Colditz Story, Ice Cold in Alex, The Battle of the River Platte, Ill Met by Moonlight, I Was Monty's Double, Above Us the Waves, The Cruel Sea. I like them all.
There are no extras to speak of. The DVD picture looks very good