The Thinking 

A Great War Movie

May 28, 2012


Bernard Montgomery, left, and Meyrick Clifton James Source: The Australian

I WAS MONTY’S DOUBLE, a British movie made in 1958 and directed by John Guillermin, is the story of a mostly unsuccessful military actor commissioned to impersonate General Bernard Montgomery during World War II. Meyrick Clifton James, the actor, plays himself in the movie and he is outstanding. It’s a truly remarkable performance. From a 2010 piece in The Australian:

IN 1944 a washed-up Australian actor named Meyrick Clifton James experienced one of the oddest career revivals in history.

James was not a great actor. He could neither sing nor dance, and he had lost a finger in the trenches during World War I. When war broke out again he volunteered to entertain the troops, winding up in Leicester, in the Army Pay Corps Variety Troupe. With his thin face and grey moustache he could do a remarkable impersonation of the top British soldier, Bernard Montgomery.

On the eve of D-Day the failed actor was plucked from obscurity to play the starring role in one of the war’s most melodramatic deception: as Monty’s double.

Here is a clip at Turner Classic Movies. The movie also stars one of the most hardworking British movie actors of all time, John Mills.

— Comments —

Paul writes:

I tried to view your clip of I Was Monty’s Double, but it would not play. But I will be on the lookout for it on TCM. Yes John Mills was unbelievable. Check out his performance in Tunes of Glory (1960) co-starring Alex Guinness, who plays a guilt-ridden officer after a spoiler alert concerning John Mills.

Mills, and so many British actors who were underpaid in Britain, played minor parts even after they were major stars. For example, John Mills played a minor role as a pathetic high-ranking officer in King Rat (1965) starring the young George Segal. I am not sure many know he played the unrecognizable, bizarre pub character in the excellent Ryan’s Daughter (1970). As a child, I first became aware of John Mills in Swiss Family Robinson (1960), a major Disney hit that prompted the tree house in Disney World.

 Laura writes:

He made more than 120 movies. His best performances, in my opinion, were in Hobson’s Choice (1954) and Great Expectations (1946), both directed by David Lean.

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