The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

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.

A lot of the documents have been sent to me or have come from other web sites. The name of the web site is given where known. If I have unintentionally included an image or document that is copyrighted or that I shouldn't have done then please email me and I'll remove it.

I make no money from this site, it's purely for the love of the films.

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Letter to Films in Review, June/July 1990
From: Philip Leibfried

     To many, Michael Powell was a fine director, a true cinematic artist of an original stripe. To me he was also a friend, and for a while, mentor. It was his boundless broad-mindedness which sealed our friendship.

     I first met him at the Greenwich Village shop where I worked as a salesman. It was just after Thanksgiving, 1984. He ambled in, wearing his yellow Inverness coat, and walked up to the counter where I was standing. I liked him immediately. He proved to be an amiable customer; he knew what he wanted (a walking stick) and was easily pleased. Though I didn't know whom I was dealing with at the time, I found out some months later, after he had paid several more visits to the shop.

     Emboldened by his friendliness, I asked Britain's premiere film director if he would care to look at a screenplay I had written a couple of years previously. He not only agreed, but invited me to his apartment for a drink two days later.

     There I met his wife, Thelma, and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (who was the actual tenant of the apartment), among others. [Bellhaus was cinematographer for Scorsese on After Hours, The Color of Money, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Guilty by Suspicion, The Age of Innocence, Quiz Show and The Gangs of New York. So I think we can assume he's a good friend of Thelma & Marty] I presented Michael with a copy of my screenplay. That was the last I saw or heard from him until ten days later, when a letter was delivered to the shop. The gist of it was that Michael Powell, director of The Red Shoes and other masterworks, was interested in directing my screenplay! He was leaving for England that day, hence the letter. From then on, our relationship became a series of letters and visits, when he was in New York. The most memorable occurred in June, 1986, at an apartment in East 10th Street. Well into writing his autobiography, A Life in Movies, Michael invited me for lunch and generously spent four hours of his valuable time discussing the presentation he had written based on my screenplay. I found out that his menu was as interesting as his films. He was a gourmet in both a gastronomic and cinematic sense.

     Michael's sense of humour was also front rank. When I told him that I had signed up for a screenwriting course, he informed me that I could learn more from him, and that it would also be cheaper! [And Michael probably needed the money in '86]

     His autobiography was published in this country in April, 1987. A celebration was held at the Museum of Modern art. I was included among the friends and associates invited by Michael.

     A few months later, I moved to California for a vacation. letters were still exchanged; Michael never lost touch. When I returned to New York near the end of summer 1988, Michael and Thelma were in touch shortly thereafter and immediately asked me out to dinner. I was given a progress report on the search for a producer for our film.

     The following month Michael treated me to an afternoon at a private club in mid-town Manhatten. Our main topic of discussion was, of course, our film. Michael was also busily engaged in writing volume two of his autobiography. When I saw him in April, 1989, it was for the last time, though I didn't know it. (How could I?) The occasion was a lecture on film history given at the main branch of the New York Public Library. I received a letter from Michael in October stating that the first draft of volume two was being edited for publication in 1990. Two phone calls in the following months to his hotel revealed that he was very ill. Then a letter from Thelma just days before his death informed me that he was not expected to live. Fortunately, she had taken him back to his beloved England.

     Filmdom has lost another of its great ones, one who gave most of his long life to the medium he loved so well. Filmdom should be grateful for the time Michael Powell spent with us; I know I am.

Philip Leibfried

New York NY

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