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Emeric Pressburger Is Dead at 85; The Screenwriter for 'Red Shoes'

The NY Times
Published: 6 February 1988

Emeric Pressburger, a British screenwriter whose widely acclaimed films made in collaboration with the director Michael Powell included The Red Shoes and Tales of Hoffmann, died yesterday of bronchial pneumonia at a nursing home in Saxstead, England. He was 85 years old.

"He was always an original writer and an ideal partner for me," Mr. Powell said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I'm very English, and Emeric brought Central European culture and a love of music to our films. He was immensely courageous. I admired his courage, his honesty and his lovely sense of humor - a real deep humor about human beings."

Mr. Pressburger was born on Dec. 5, 1902, in the Hungarian village of Miskolc, and attended college in Prague and Stuttgart, before moving to Berlin in 1925. There, he wrote newspaper articles and film scripts, which he submitted to UFA, the German film company. Left Hitler's Germany

Mr. Pressburger was hired by UFA's script department in 1928, and his first writing credit was for a 1930 sound film by Robert Siodmak called Abschied (Farewell). He contributed to about eight films between 1930 and 1932, including Emil and the Detectives (1932) and many musicals. After Hitler's rise to power in 1933, Mr. Pressburger went to Paris, where he wrote several scripts, including La Vie Parisienne, a 1935 film directed by Mr. Siodmak.

Mr. Pressburger moved to London in 1935, and began working for Alexander Korda, the Hungarian-born British film producer. He also joined a circle of Hungarian exiles that included the writer Arthur Koestler and George Mikes, the humorist. Mr. Korda introduced him to the director Michael Powell in 1938, and the two men began their long collaboration with the film, The Spy in Black. Their third film, The Forty-Ninth Parallel (released in the United States as The Invaders) - a 1941 suspense drama starring Leslie Howard and Laurence Olivier - won an Academy Award for Mr. Pressburger for best original story.

The two men formed a production company called the Archers, and used the credit, "written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger," for each of the 14 films they collaborated on between 1941 and 1956. Colonel Blimp His Favorite

These films included The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), a sentimental tale of a British soldier, which Mr. Powell said was Mr. Pressburger's favorite film; A Canterbury Tale (1944), about an English village during World War II; Stairway to Heaven (1946), a fantasy about a wartime pilot; The Black Narcissus (1946), about a group of nuns establishing a remote Himalayan mission, and The Tales of Hoffmann, an offbeat retelling of Offenbach's opera. The Red Shoes, their 1948 romantic drama of the ballet world starring Moira Shearer and based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, became one of their most popular and acclaimed films.

After their partnership ended, Mr. Pressburger wrote and produced a 1957 film called Miracle in Soho, and wrote a number of scripts that were not produced. He also published two novels in the 1960's, "Killing a Mouse on Sunday" a tale of a Spanish Loyalist in Franco's Spain that was made into the 1964 film, Behold a Pale Horse, directed by Fred Zinnemann, and "The Glass Pearls".

In 1972, Mr. Pressburger and Mr. Powell briefly resumed their collaboration, on a British children's film called The Boy Who Turned Yellow, and several years later, the two were commissioned to write a novel of "The Red Shoes". Mr. Pressburger was also honored in 1983, when he was invited to become one of the first fellows of the British Film Institute.

Mr. Pressburger is survived by his daughter, Angela John of Nova Scotia, and two grandchildren.

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