As a lighthearted satire on British army life during the last war, Private’s Progress has moments of sheer joy based on real authenticity. But it is not content to rest on satire alone and introduces an unreal melodramatic adventure which robs the story of much of its charm. The Boulting Brothers obviously felt there must be some point to the plot and they’ve added an adventure tailpiece in which a War Office brigadier invades enemy territory to bring back valuable art treasures to Britain.
The basic comedy, however, derives from the depiction of the typical misfit into the army way of life. Ian Carmichael is shown as the earnest university student who interrupts his studies to join the forces. He is a lamentable failure.
Many weaknesses of the yarn are surmounted by the allround performances of the cast. Carmichael does remarkably well. Richard Attenborough is in confident mood as a private who soon gets to know his way around. Dennis Price gives a smooth study as the brigadier.