What is your favorite Powell & Pressburger Film?
In the mystical, richly allegorical Technicolor world of the dream team, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, which of their magnificent films is your favorite? Mine would be the original version of “Gone to Earth”, which is perhaps the greatest film to ever capture the rare beauty of the English Countryside (Shropshire). David O. Selznick imagined it as an artsy film vehicle for his wife, the ethereal Jennifer Jones, but was shocked by the final product, because it WAS NOT a Hollywood film in the traditional sense, so he severely edited the P&P version, added some narration and a few new scenes...then re-released it in America as “The Wild Heart” (which was a disaster). Fortunately, in the early 2000s, the original “Gone to Earth” that was so meticulously directed and produced by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, and interpreted by the greatly under appreciated Jennifer Jones, along with an ensemble cast, was starting to be shown at several classic film festivals in London, New York, and LA.
I’m curious to know if others love Powell & Pressburger films as much as I do. I also am in awe of “Black Narcissus” and “The Red Shoes”.
|by Anonymous||reply 50||12 hours ago|
[italic]Black Narcissus[/italic]. It was a deep film and I loved the surreal setting.
|by Anonymous||reply 1||02/18/2021|
I agree! Very haunting. Visually stunning and I love Deborah Kerr...I think it is her best performance.
|by Anonymous||reply 2||02/18/2021|
Yes R2, although she was playing a nun, Kerr looked gorgeous. She was robbed of the Oscar so many times. But she was good in BN. I liked the actor who was rocking the khaki shorts too.
|by Anonymous||reply 3||02/18/2021|
I Know Where I'm Going.
Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesay. Been my faborite since the 1980s whe I caught it in TV. Later I was able to see it on the big screen when Scorcese launched his traveling Archers tour. It's magical.
|by Anonymous||reply 4||02/18/2021|
Sexy Sabu in "Black Narcissus" sends me soaring. Kathleen Byron as the psycho horny nun is frightening. David Farrar is the man in the shorts I believe.
|by Anonymous||reply 5||02/18/2021|
R3, the actor was David Farrar. Yes, HOT.
|by Anonymous||reply 6||02/18/2021|
Yes, David Farrar is the hottie in khaki shorts. He just exudes sex amongst the cloistered/ not-so-cloistered sisters.
|by Anonymous||reply 7||02/18/2021|
And Sabu is magnificent. As is Jean Simmons!
|by Anonymous||reply 8||02/18/2021|
I don't think Pressburger was involved with that film, R9, that was just Powell.
But I agree, that's my favorite film from Powell, it's just as good as Psycho.
|by Anonymous||reply 10||02/18/2021|
I like every one mentioned so far. My own favorite is "A Matter of Life and Death" (aka "Stairway to Heaven"), about the involvement in a heavenly trial of a British RAF pilot after he should have died in a crash. It has my favorite performance ever by David Niven, with superb supporting work by Roger Livesey and Kim Stanley (in one of her earliest film roles). I also really like his other WW2 films: "Contraband" (about spies during the Blitz), "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp," and particularly "A Canterbury Tale."
|by Anonymous||reply 11||02/18/2021|
The still images of deranged Kathleen Byron could be from a contemporary film...so vibrant, but very eerie.
|by Anonymous||reply 12||02/18/2021|
DK was never better than in "Black Narcissus." She is so heartbreaking.
|by Anonymous||reply 13||02/18/2021|
R11, Wendy Hiller was scheduled to be in Stairway to Heaven but she dropped out when she got pregnant. In Pressburger's book he says she had to walk down a hill some distance to call him on a pay phone to let them know. She may have been living in Wales at the time - can't remember now.
|by Anonymous||reply 14||02/18/2021|
Age of Consent (1969). Powell directed it. Was Pressburger involved? Who cares? I went to the filming location (Dunk Island, Queensland, Australia).
|by Anonymous||reply 15||02/18/2021|
I was taken to The Red Shoes at a revival house during grade school. Vivid memories / so unlike anythhing I'd ever seen. I remember my older sisters talking about the ending...... still so great.
|by Anonymous||reply 16||02/18/2021|
R16, Same for me. It’s so visually and emotionally stunning.
|by Anonymous||reply 17||02/18/2021|
“I Know Where I’m Going”. Don’t forget Pamela Brown as Catriona.
There was a line of her dialog that Powell later said he wished he’d changed. Something about why she turned down the Americans (Military, during WWII). But this is similar:
Torquil MacNeil: She wouldn't see a pound note from one pensions day to another.
Joan Webster: People around here are very poor I suppose.
Torquil MacNeil: Not poor, they just haven't got money.
Joan Webster: It's the same thing.
Torquil MacNeil: Oh no, it's something quite different.
Such a great movie. I’ve wanted to go see Corryvreckan (sp?) ever since.
|by Anonymous||reply 18||02/18/2021|
I Know Where I'm Going is quite tremendous. I find their lurid Technicolor fantasies a bit too rich for my blood.
|by Anonymous||reply 19||02/18/2021|
I like all of their films (with the exception of the unwatchable mess that is The Tales of Hoffmann) but the only one of their films I ever felt the need to rewatch is the wonderfully humanistic A Canterbury Tale. Casting non-actor John Sweet as one of the leads really backfired because he was atrocious in his role but everything else about the movie is pure perfection.
|by Anonymous||reply 20||02/18/2021|
Honorable mention to [italic]The Red Shoes[/italic] with Moira Shearer and Anton Walbrook.
|by Anonymous||reply 22||02/18/2021|
"The Red Shoes" is a must, but, as an opera fan, I find the P&P "Tales of Hoffmann" the most fascinating opera film ever made.
Never thought I'd live to see a Blu-ray release of "Oh, Rosalinda!," the rarely-seen P&P Cinemascope update of the operetta "Die Fledermaus," but it happened in the UK a year or two ago. The UK also has the only "Hoffmann" Blu-ray.
Also love "I Know Where I'm Going" and "Peeping Tom."
|by Anonymous||reply 23||02/18/2021|
Colonel Blimp. A lot of people wouldn’t agree with me, it’s very long, but Pressberger and Powell were so good at catching that particular moment in time, WWII. They shot on cheap sets and mostly couldn’t film outside because England was still being bombed. They had to write good storylines to make up for zero special effects. It’s very small and character oriented, like all the good British films of the era. There’s only a few main actors. Deborah Kerr’s first big film. She was incredibly beautiful.
This is Colonel Blimp’s friend, refugee Theo (Anton Walbrook), explaining why he wants to enter England.
|by Anonymous||reply 24||02/18/2021|
[quote] [R11], Wendy Hiller was scheduled to be in … but she dropped out when she got pregnant.
Not quite. Wendy Hiller was Britain’s top star at the time after ‘Pygmalion’ and ‘Major Barbara’. Pressburger wanted to write a big showpiece role for her as well as explore the the other issues of friendship, chivalry and Anglo-German relations.
Britain’s top male star at the time was Larry Olivier (who featured in a Pressburger film the previous year) and, as we know, Larry was a wizard with make up. He and Wendy were an excellent couple to display British resilience in the time of the planned German invasion.
The filming of this big Technicolor film was politically-fraught and complex; it was the longest British film at the time and, unfortunately, as you say, Wendy got pregnant.
Sex-mad Michael Powell chose a slim-hipped 21 year old slip of a girl named Deborah Kerr to replace Wendy Hiller. Really, she may have had a pretty face but she didn’t have the strength to fulfil the part. Then the whole film had to be restructured because sex-mad Michael Powell didn't want to have his 21 year old protégé spoiled with imitation wrinkles,
This complex, intellectual film was made even more episodic and surreal to accomodate her, but thankfully, the excellent Roger and Anton and the brilliant script carry the film.
When you watch the film there's a scene in the second act when Barbara abruptly tells husband Clive to ‘Don't hum’. It patently obvious the scene was written for Wendy Hiller.
|by Anonymous||reply 25||02/18/2021|
Who was the greatest English speaking actress Vivien Leigh or Wendy Hiller?
|by Anonymous||reply 26||02/19/2021|
Anton Walbrook is mesmerizing. That speech he gave in Colonel Blimp made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
I wonder how Deborah Kerr would’ve been in IKWIG instead of Wendy Hiller. Too obvious? Hiller certainly was convincing in the hard nut to crack role.
|by Anonymous||reply 27||02/19/2021|
I just watched “Separate Tables” and Deborah Kerr played the timid daughter of a battle ax mother, all cringing shoulders and wringing hands in the Joan Fontaine mode but also wearing Ugly Glasses. This was 1958, well after her most famous roles.
|by Anonymous||reply 28||02/19/2021|
[quote] Who was the greatest English speaking actress Vivien Leigh or Wendy Hiller?
R26 I said Wendy Hiller was 'Britain’s top star at the time' in 1942. Vivien was in Hollywood at the time.
And besides, Vivien was more of a movie star rather than an actress.
And, unlike Wendy, she didn't have the strength to symbolise British fortitude during Britain's desperate days of imminent invasion.
|by Anonymous||reply 29||02/19/2021|
[quote] “Separate Tables”
It's two short plays separately crafted by the refined Terence Rattigan.
Unfortunately the maladroit Americans rammed the two stories together. They imported some good English players but they can't, unfortunately, transcend the claustrophobic West Hollywood studio set and the heavy-handed, clumsy director.
|by Anonymous||reply 30||02/19/2021|
R11 It's Kim Hunter, not Kim Stanley in "A Matter of Life and Death", and she's quite good indeed.
|by Anonymous||reply 31||02/19/2021|
ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT (1957) - exciting film set in WWII Greece (based on a true story).
|by Anonymous||reply 32||02/19/2021|
Yes, I wondered about David Niven’s ‘pip pip cheerio!’ character. It was SO exaggerated, even the explanation couldn’t account for it.
|by Anonymous||reply 33||02/20/2021|
R25, my mistake. Hiller had to drop out of Blimp, not A Matter of Life and Death (aka Stairway to Heaven) when she discovered she was pregnant. I have Michael Powell's Million Dollar Movie, his autobiography, A Life in Movies, and Kevin MacDonald's biography about his grandfather, Emeric Pressburger, The Life and Death of a Screenwriter.
Of course Kevin MacDonald is the filmmaker (Last King of Scotland, One Day in September, Touching the Void, State of Play, et al).
|by Anonymous||reply 34||02/20/2021|
[quote] Kevin MacDonald's biography about his grandfather, Emeric Pressburger
It's good that it provide a counterpoint to Powell's self-obsessions but it was obviously written when he must have been about 20 years old. The publisher's sub=editor should have kept a firmer control.
I remember seeing quite a few mistakes and misspellings. Basic stuff like spelling 'Stuart Granger' or not understanding J. Arthur Rank's issues.
|by Anonymous||reply 35||02/20/2021|
IKWIG is tremendous from the mini-biography at the beginning to the intensely romantic climax when she admits she loves the Lord of (Can't prounce or spell it). Pamela Brown was Powell's lover, I believe. Great dogs, too.
|by Anonymous||reply 36||02/20/2021|
I Know Where I'm Going is one of my favorite films, period. I do not care for romance films generally but this one was absolutely perfect. Wonderful performances from everyone, and I wanted to believe it. When Livesey's character is translating the song for her, and he looks at her saying "You're the one for me"? Oooof. I don't know how she didn't give in right there. One of the few movies I had to own on DVD. I also just rewatched A Canterbury Tale and feel the need to mention it. A very warm movie. And I was very moved by A Matter of Life and Death as well. I will stop here before I end up listing all their movies!
|by Anonymous||reply 37||02/20/2021|
Sexy David Farrar is tortured, alcoholic, and "crippled" in THE SMALL BACK ROOM (49). Kathleen Byron plays his abused girlfriend. It's worth a look, and was ahead of its time in depicting a sadomasochistic relationship.
THE ELUSIVE PIMPERNEL (50) is now the most elusive of all P & P films.
|by Anonymous||reply 38||02/20/2021|
MacDonald was 27 when the book came out. At 20 he was still at Oxford.
[quote] IKWIG is tremendous from the mini-biography at the beginning
Powell didn't like that beginning and protested it would empty the theater. Pressburger insisted.
It is also my favorite film. I haven't watched it in a long time. Time to dig it out and give it a watch.
|by Anonymous||reply 39||02/20/2021|
Any color film with Deborah Kerr. She was beyond radiant.
|by Anonymous||reply 40||02/20/2021|
[quote] Pamela Brown was Powell's lover, I believe.
Powell's mega-memoir would have us believe he fornicated with all but two of his leading ladies.
The operator of the very thorough website (link below) acknowledges Powell occasionally embroidered the truth. Though it does seem credible that the ailing Pamela Brown and the geriatric Powell shared accomodation and an NHS card in the years before they died.
|by Anonymous||reply 41||02/20/2021|
Thank you r41 for linking to that site. Years ago, when IMDb still had forums, there were great (& civil!) discussions on the IKWIG boards and that fellow organized a couple trips to Mull to visit some of the movie locations. The phone booth next to the waterfall is still there. If you go to google maps and do street view, you can see it.
|by Anonymous||reply 42||02/20/2021|
Ah, the Eas na Dabhaich, Carsaig Mull
|by Anonymous||reply 43||02/20/2021|
British cinema in general of the 1940's is on a whole different plane than American cinema. The Powell and Pressburger films are certainly in a class by themselves, and then you have the Gainsborough costume dramas with Margaret Lockwood, James Mason and Stewart Granger. "The Wicked Lady" is a classic most people know, but 'The Man in Gray" is also outstanding.
Then there are the Ealing comedies, the David Lean Dickens adaptions and the colorful musicals and comedies and dramas of manners starring Anna Neagle. while Hollywood certainly had thousands of masterpieces during that time,
There's something about the British films that technically speaking seem far advanced. The Powell and Pressburger films are very unique among them, but for cinema buffs, there are a lot of other classics out there by other filmmakers that are really worth discovering. For me, anything with Alec Guennis, Alastair Sim and Joyce Grenfall is a treat. Check out "The Belles of St. Trinians"!
|by Anonymous||reply 44||02/20/2021|
Yes, R44, British cinema in the 1940's was a tremendous, fertile time of innovation and talent. And I'm not sure why. There's the proverb that 'Necessity breeds invention' so I suspect the war provided a stimulus.
Another stimulus was that J Arthur Rank had a "hands-off" management system which gave freedom to production companies while he successfully distributed them via Universal-International.
These individual producers included Carol Reed, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Asquith, Two Cities Films (David Lean) The Archers (Michael Powell), Frank Launder and Sydney Giliatt, and Michael Relph and Basil Dearden, and Thorold Dickinson.
There was a also tremendous collection of actors and actresses whom Hollywood was determined to purchase. Some of them were sucked into the L.A. system— Simmons, Kerr, Granger, and Mason while others like Alec Guinness, Leo Genn, Anton Walbrook and Michael Redgrave made brief visits.
|by Anonymous||reply 45||02/22/2021|
^ Well all that sounds very rosy for J Arthur Rank. Powell & Pressburger's The Red Shoes went on to become one of the highest-earning British films of all time, with over $5 million.
But, needless to say J Arthur Rank was furious that money-making stars Simmons, Kerr, Granger, and Mason abandoned the ship. He formed a grooming school for young Rank contract players called The Company of Youth but commonly known as the Rank Charm School.
And Rank employed accountant John Davis (seen below) who clipped the wings of the spendthrift Powell & Pressburger and the other Rank employees (such that extravagant queen Dirk Bogarde). Davis investigated co-productions in sunny Commonwealth countries.
|by Anonymous||reply 46||02/22/2021|
Ill Met by Moonlight (1957) starring Dirk Bogarde
|by Anonymous||reply 47||Last Saturday at 3:23 PM|
Rank's Chief accountant John Davis, R46, clipped the wings of Powell & Pressburger and said no more arty nonsense.
Powell & Pressburger left the "mystical, richly allegorical Technicolor world" (as mentioned by the OP) and returned to the gritty black and white militay dramas. But they were forced to use the Rank Contract players— and the effete Dirk Bogarde made a very unconvincing soldier in 'Ill Met by Moonlight', R47.
The obsessive man who runs that thorough site R41 acknowledged the best thing about 'Ill Met by Moonlight' was the title stole from Shakespeare and that it was the most confusing plot in a Powell film. (And that makes me think there was a high misbehaviour behind the scenes with the prissy bourgeois star)
|by Anonymous||reply 48||Last Tuesday at 4:06 PM|
Ill Met by Moonlight (1957) - Visit to the dentist with Christopher Lee speaking German.
Dirk Bogarde really had a comedic talent. Too bad he didn't like those types of roles.
|by Anonymous||reply 49||Yesterday at 8:20 AM|