Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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Directors: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Producers: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Screenplay: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Based on the novel by: Rumer Godden
Director of Photography: Jack Cardiff
Editor: Reginald Mills
Production Designer: Alfred Junge
Music / Sound Score Composed / Conducted by:
Deborah Kerr (Sister Clodagh)
Flora Robson (Sister Philippa)
Jenny Laird (Sister 'Honey' Blanche)
Judith Furse (Sister Briony)
Kathleen Byron (SisterRuth)
Esmond Knight (the Old General)
Sabu (Dilip Rai, the Young General)
David Farrar (Mr Dean)
Jean Simmons (Kanchi)
May Hallatt (Angu Ayah)
Eddie Whaley Jr (Joseph Anthony)
Shaun Noble (Con)
Nancy Roberts (Mother Dorothea)
On Ley (Phuba)
Joy Rawling (Deborah Kerr's double in Ireland)
Independent Producers, Archers Film Productions
Assistant Producer: George R. Busby
Assistant Director: Sydney S. Streeter
2nd Assistant Director: Kenneth Rick *
3rd Assistant Directors:
L. Knight, Robert Lynn Continuity: Winifred Dyer *
Assistant Continuity: Joanna Busby *
Casting Director: Adele Raymond *
Assistant Casting: Patrick MacDonnell *
Jerry Dereham, Bill Hahn *
Colour Consultant: Natalie Kalmus
Associate Colour Consultant: Joan Bridge
Christopher Challis, Ted Scaife, Stan Sayers *
Focus Pullers: Ian Craig, Ronald Cross *
Herbert Salisbury, Michael Livesey *
Technicolor Camera Assistant: Dick Allport *
Lighting Electrician: Bill Wall *
Chief Electrician: Harry Black *
Colour Stills: George Cannon *
Monochrome Stills: Max Rosher *
Portrait Stills: Fred Daniels *
Process Shots: Percy W. Day
Special Effects Camera: Douglas Hague *
Foreground Miniatures: Jack Higgins *
Synthetic Pictorial Effects: Syd Pearson *
lst Assistant Editor: Seymour Logie *
2ndAssistant Editors: Lee Doig, Noreen Ackland *
Art Director: Arthur Lawson
Set Dresser: M.A.S. Pemberton *
Scenic Artist: Ivor Beddoes *
Art Department Trainee: R. Townsend *
Indian Set Dresser: E. Harvison *
Elliot Scott, Don Picton, William Keliner, J. Harman,
G. Beattie, Alan Harris *
Chief Construction Manager: Harold Batchelor
Costumes: Hein Heckroth
Dress Supervisor: Elizabeth Hennings *
Wardrobe Mistress: Dorothy Edwards *
Wardrobe Master: Bob Raynor *
Make-up: George Blackler *
Assistant Make-up: Ernie Gasser *
Hairdresser: Biddy Chrystal *
Assistant Hairdresser: June Robinson *
Music Performed by: London Symphony Orchestra
Music Recording: Edward A. Drake *
Sound Recording: Stanley Lamboume
Chief Production Mixer: John Dennis *
Boom Operator: George Paternoster *
Boom Assistant: Mick Stolovich *
Dubbing Mixer: Gordon K. McCallum
Dubbing Editor: John Seabourne Jr. *
Indian Liaison Officer: Kenneth Perry *
Horticultural Consultant: Giles Loder *
United Kingdom 1947 © 100 mins
Close-up: Kathleen Byron
Black Narcissus + Interview with Kathleen Byron
We are delighted to welcome Kathleen Byron to the NFT to discuss her career with Ian Christie, Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck College and editor of books on Gilliam, Scorsese, Powell and Pressburger, and Russian cinema.
From the Himalayas to a house off the Old Kent Road, Kathleen Byron's career may not have developed quite as expected. For most of us the abiding memory is of her rouged lips, fine cheekbones and piercing, eyes as Sister Ruth in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1946 classic, Black Narcissus .
She trained during the war at the Old Vic, but at the age of 20 was called up and worked in censorship. After appearing in a few films for the Crown Film Unit, her agent introduced her to Powell to read for a film he and Emeric Pressburger were producing, Silver Fleet 'He had a disconcerting, habit of staring at you. I couldn't think of anything else to do, so I stared back. And he said "You can't try and stare me into giving you the part."' But Powell was clearly impressed and followed her career with interest. 'I got married and went to the States. Mickey and Emeric came over to cast A Matter of Life and Death, and he asked me to come back and play the Angel. Then the part of Sister Ruth came up.'
Black Narcissus, based on the novel by Rumer Godden, takes a group of nuns in a disused palace in the Himalayas and pits them against the climate, an alien culture and above all, sex. While their leader Sister Clodagh (played by Deborah Kerr) just manages to restrain her feelings towards the local expatriate hunk, Mr Dean, Sister Ruth exchanges her wimple for a scarlet dress and lipstick and goes - well, crazy. The part won rave reviews for Byron of the 'Star is Born' variety.
The production was not without its hiccups though. "When I was asked to write some thoughts about Powell for Positif, I didn't say it as all sweetness and light, because he was often difficult to work for. But Deborah just said how charming he was ... 'A particular problem scene was Sister Ruth's arrival at the house of the man she loves, Dean. 'I said, "She's very happy now she's in his presence." But he wanted me to dart all over the place. I said no, and he walked off the set. Jack Cardiff (the cameraman) asked "Are we ready?" and he replied, "Ask her." When it was finished he said it wasn't what he intended, but it was very good. After that I managed to behave myself. In fact later Mickey said to someone, "She did it on cheek."'
Did she research the role? 'No, I didn't study much about madness, but I've had letters from psychiatrists saying it was a marvellous portrayal of someone on the verge of collapse. And I think it was because I kept in my mind all the time that she was sane.' Despite another superb performance in her only other Powell film, The Small Back Room, Byron found herself typecast for years. 'I went to see John Huston for Quo Vadis, and I said, "I don't know how you see me," and he replied "We see you as strictly neurotic, Miss Byron." I became a heavy, one of the Bad Girls of Hollywood.'
Her reputation for portraying neurotic women led to the point where in a Crown Court episode, when she was accused of murder, the jury decided before hearing any evidence that she did it: 'I was shattered, as there was no proof and I played it as though she was innocent. I thought, I wouldn't get away with anything if this was real life!'
Hard to believe that the gentle, smiling woman drinking tea with me could induce such fears, though I recall I last saw her playing a ferocious schoolteacher in Take Three Women. 'Well, I did model her on Mrs Thatcher.' But in spite of offers now of more sympathetic roles on stage and in television, nothing has quite matched the Powell magic. 'I was in France when Mickey, sent me a telegram saying, "You've got the part of Sister Ruth. The trouble is, you'll never have such a good one again."' He was probably right.
Interviewed by David Thompson, Radio Times, 9 January 1986
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born Kathleen Elizabeth Byron in London,
11 January 1921
Film roles: 1942 The Young Mr Pitt (GB, dir Carol Reed) 1943 The Silver Fleet (GB, dir Gordon Wellesley) as schoolmistress 1946 A Matter of Life and Death (GB, dir Michael Powell) as an officer angel 1947 Black Narcissus (GB, dir Michael Powell) as Sister Ruth 1948 The Small Back Room (GB, dir Michael Powell) as Susan 1949 Madness of the Heart (GB, dir Charles Bennett) as Veritee Falmont 1950 The Reluctant Widow (GB, dir Bernard Knowles) as Madame Annette de Chevreaux Prelude to Fame (GB, dir Fergus McDonell) as Signora Bondini 1951 Tom Brown's Schooidays (GB, dir Gordon Parry) as Mrs Brown Scarlet Thread (GB, dir Lewis Gilbert) as Josephine Life in Her Hands (GB, dir Philip Leacock) as Ann Peters Four Days (GB, dir John Guillermin) as Lucienne Templer The House in the Square (GB, dir Roy Ward Baker) as Duchess of Devonshire Hell Is Sold Out (GB, dir Michael Anderson) as Adette de Baizaman 1952 My Death Is a Mockery (GB, dir Tony Young) as Helen Bradley The Gambler and the Lady (GB, dir Pat Jenkins) as Pat 1953 Young Bess (US, dir George Sidney) as Ann Seymour 1954 Star of My Night (GB, dir Paul Dickson) as Eve The Night of The Full Moon (GB, dir Donald Taylor) as Jane Profile (GB, dir Francis Seade) as Margot Holland 1955 Handcuffs, London (GB, dir Bernard Knowles) as Janet Tedford Secret Venture (GB, dir R.G. Springsteen) as Renee L'Epj'ne Otello (USSR, dir Sergei Yutkevich, dubbed voice of Desdemona) 1960 Hand in Hand (GB, dir Philip Leacock) as Mrs O'Malley 1962 Night of the Eagle (GB, dir Sidney Hayers) as Evelyn Sawlelle 1968 Hammerhead (GB, dir David Miller) as Lady Calvert 1969 Wolfshead, the Legend of Robin Hood (GB, dir John Hough) as Katherine of Locksley 1971 Private Road (GB, dir Barney PlattsMills) as Mrs. Halpem Twins of Evil (GB, dir John Hough) as Katy Weil 1972 Nothing But the Night (GB, dir Peter Sasdy) as Dr Rose 1973 Craze (GB, dir Freddie Francis) as Mudel Sharp 1974 The Abdication (GB, dir Anthony Harvey) as the Queen Mother 1975 One of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing (US, dir Robert Stevenson) as Colonel's Wife 1980 The Elephant Man (US, dir David Lynch) as Lady Waddinqton 1990 Out (GB, dir Peter Todd) 1996 Emma (GB, dir Doug McGrath) as Mrs Goddard 1998 Diary (GB, dir Peter Todd) Les Misérables (US, dir Bille August) as Mother Superior Saving Private Ryan (US, dir Steven Spielberg) as old Mrs Ryan Television roles: 1954 Nell Gwynn's Tear, from the series Fabian of the Yard (GB, dir Bernard Knowles) as Janet Tedford 1956 Cocktail Girl, from the series Fabian of the Yard (GB, dir Charles Saunders, tx 30/1/1956) as Helen Kervan 1961 Name, Date and Place, from the series Danger Man (GB, dir Charles Frend, tx 22/1/1961) 1966 Play to Win, from the series Thirty Minute Theatre (GB, dir Douglas Camfield, tx 7/11/1966) as Eve Price 1968 The Portrait of a Lady parts 3-6 (GB, dir James Cellan Jones, tx 20/1/1968 - 10/2/1968) as Countess Gemini 1969 The Confessions of Marian Evans (GB, dir Don Taylor, tx 23/11/1969) 1970 Mr Wallace Predicts, from the series Paul Temple (GB, dir Eric Hills, tx 25/1/1970) as Mrs Fairley 1972 The Moonstone parts 1-3 (GB, dir Paddy Russell, tx 16/1/1972 - 30/1/1972) as Lady Verinder The Golden Bowl parts 1-6 (GB, dir James Cellan Jones, tx 4/5/1972 - 8/6/1972) as Fanny Assingham Baden-Powell, from the series The Edwardians (GB, dir Robert Knights, tx 19/12/1972) as Agnes Baden-Powell 1973 The Haunting, from the series Menace (GB, dir Geraid Blake, tx 5/4/1973) as Madame Ordine The New Life, from the series Away From It All (GB, dir Robert Knights, tx 8/4/1973) as Viv The Mystery of the Amber Beads, from the series The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (GB, dir Don Leaver, tx 16/4/1973) as Miss Lyle Rewarding Destiny, from the series The Brontës Of Haworth (GB, dir Marc Miller, tx 21/10/1973) as Miss Wooler 1974 Marked Personal (two episodes, GB, dir tan Wyatt, tx 23/7/1974, 24/7/1974) as Janice Maxwell-Brody Heidi (four episodes, GB, dir June Wyndham-Davies, tx 20/10/1974 - 24/11/1974) as Brigitta 1975 Honey (GB, dir Jolin Scholz-Conway) North and South parts 1-3 (GB, dir Rodney Bennett, tx 1/12/1975 - 15/12/1975) as Mrs Hale 1976 Coming to Terms, from the series Angels (GB, dir Michael E. Bdant, tx 15/6/1976) as Mrs Sheppard 1977 Almost Tomorrow, from the series Jubilee (GB, dir Pieters Rogers) Night of the Marionettes, from the series Supernatural (GB, dir Alan Cooke, tx 30/7/1977) as Eisbeth One Good Turn, from the series The Upchat Line (GB, dir Robert Reed, tx 31/10/1977) as Mrs Johnson 1978 Forty Weeks (GB, dir Wads Hussein) as Mrs Green An Englishman's Castle (GB, dir Paul Ciappessoni) 1979 Weapon, episode of Blake's 7 (GB, tx 23/1/1979) as Clonemaster Fen 1980 To Die, To Live, from the series Together (dir Matthew Robinson) 1981 Hedda Gabler (GB, dir David Cunliffe, tx 3/3/1981) as Aunt Juliana 1982 God Speed Co-Operation (GB, dir Moira Armstrong, tx 26/9/1982) 1984 Dearly Beloved, from the series Love and Marriage (GB, dir Rodney Bennett, tx 15/1/1984) as Marian 1985 Thunder Rock (dir Mike Vard 1989 Charity, episode of Casualty (GB, dir Sue Butterworth, tx 13/10/1989) as Avril Maitiand 1990 Portrait of a Marriage (parts 2 and 4, GB, dir Stephen Whittaker, tx 26/9/1990) as Lady Camock 1991 A Corporal of Horse, episode of The Bill (GB, dir Mike Vardy tx 30/7/1991) as Mrs MacInally 1992 Nearly Dearly Departed, from the series Moon and Son (GB, dir John Strickland, tx 8/2/1992) as Agnes Burley 1993 The Golden Pince-Nez, from the series Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (GB, dir Peter Hammond, tx 14/6/1993) 1997 Rose Cottage, from the series Frighteners (GB, tx 4/3/1997) as Bessie Hammond Remembering Sister Ruth, from the series 10 x 10 (GB, dir Malcolm Venville, tx 6/11/1997, interviewee) 1999 Strangler's Wood, from the series Midsomer Murders (GB, dir Jeremy Silbertson, tx 3/2/1999) as Dorothea Pike To Have and To Hold, episode of Casualty (GB, dir Dominic Lees, tx 4/12/1999) as Lizzie Bumley
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Box Office 0171 928 3232
Programme notes and credits compiled by Filmographic Services, bfi National Library.
Notes may be edited or abridged. Questions / comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org