There are many cases of authors making cameos as themselves in films. This film took it to another level.
Released in 1958, I Was Monty’s Double was an adaptation of the memoir by M. E. Clifton James, a member of the Royal Army Pay Corp who was recruited by the security services because of his striking resemblance to General Bernard Montgomery. Two officers, Major Harvey and Lt. Colonel Logan (John Mills and Cecil Parker), ordered James to pretend to by Monty in order to trick the Germans into thinking that the D-Day invasion would strike from the south of France, rather than from Normandy.
The most notable roll in the film is that of James, because it is played by James himself. This is not just some brief cameo, but the man is playing the lead role in the story of his life. Not only that, but he is also playing the role of Monty, thus James was acting two parts in the film.
As the story unfolds, James follows Monty, learns his mannerisms and adopts his ways (James is forced to stop smoking and drinking as Monty did neither of these). Then he travels to Gibaltar and North Africa, meeting various people. Meanwhile the Germans are fooled into thinking that the invasion is taking place elsewhere, but as things develop a plot to kidnap James is formed.
The later of these stories is a fabrication that never happened, but nevertheless it does add some extra drama to the story. It is not the only bit that was added to story by the scriptwriter Bryan Forbes. There is some added comedy with appearances from Sid James (John Le Mesurier also appears in a bit-part). There were also some elements to the story that were removed. As you learn from watch the extras, which include an interview with historian and author Terry Crowdly, James was missing one of his middle fingers, so a prosthetic had to be made for him.
However, the main draw of the film is that it is a rare case of someone playing out their own life story, throughout the entire length of the movie. It shows how he struggled to play the role of Monty, mainly due to his nerves. While immediately after he completed his mission James was treated rather shabbily, being forced to stay in a safe house for an extended period because he couldn’t return home, he was finally able to have some good come out of his part to help the war.
As well as the interview, other extras include a behind-the-scenes photo gallery, an extract from a newsreel about James, and colour home footage by Mills that was shot during the filming.
I Was Monty’s Double is available now from StudioCanal.