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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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Fascinating trivia (and any goofs) connected with the film

- The bomber "B for Bertie" is meant to have crashed back in England (stated explicitly in the HMSO booklet published in 1942). But when we see the abandoned cockpit we see that the compass is showing that the bomber is on a course of about 28 degrees. As the crew baled out over Holland, that course would send her to somewhere like Denmark or Norway, not England.

- After the records are switched & De Jong is in trouble, Frank Shelley says "Your move MAH JONG" (bad pun on his name)

- When he sees the boat that will lead them to the buoy in the North Sea, Frank Shelley says "They're our buoy friends" - This only appears humorous if we pronounce "buoy" as "boy" not using that strange American pronounciation "boo-ey".

- Jo de Vries tells the airmen to look out for a fishing boat with two white diamonds on the starboard side. When we see it, we see the two white diamonds on the port side. If the diamonds are on both sides why did Jo mention the starboard side?

- The fishing boats are a bit of a mystery. The airmen are told to watch out for a specific boat as if it, or the crew of it, will help them. But they give no particular help. It'd have been better to have got a sneaky tow from the fishing boats. But then they wouldn't be spotted and Sir George wouldn't be shot. The small boat that the airmen are in could have got past the swing bridge, they don't have to wait for it to be opened to let the fishing boats through. Even if they do have to wait for it to be opened, why the the fishing boat with the white diamonds? As that doesn't give them any specific help it seems that any fishing boat would do. It'd make more sense for them to be towed out to the buoy by the fishing boats. But when they realise George has been shot they're some way off the coast, and there's no sight of the fishing boats. Depending on the tide, it can be very hard work to row a boat like that offshore. They wouldn't be expected to be used to rowing, they are airmen after all.

- The airmen are told to look for a fishing boat with "two white diamonds on its starboard side." We see the fishing boat with two white diamonds on the port side. If it had the diamonds on both sides, why mention which side they are on?

- John Seabourne Sr. directed the "Lobster Pot" scenes in the North Sea despite being seasick the whole time.

- Michael Powell makes an appearance in his own film. He's the Despatching Officer with his bald head stuck in the bubble watching the bombers take off - and waiting for them to land. That bubble is actually a dome sticking out of the top of a caravan-like vehicle that was towed to the end of the runway. Michael appeared in a few of his films. Not really trying to "do a Hitchcock", just filling in for small roles when it wasn't worth hiring someone else. He had done some acting when he was learning how to make films in the South of France, often playing a comic English tourist.

- One day Noel Coward visited the set and after seeing how the crew staged and wrapped up an elaborate sequence in about 2 hours decided to use most of them on his film In Which We Serve (1942).

- The model of Stuttgart used in the bombing raid was made by David Rawnsley at the Riverside Studio, Hammersmith and filmed by Freddie Ford.

- It is thought that Stuttgart was chosen as their target because Emeric Pressburger had studied there & hadn't liked it very much.

- Actor Emrys Jones (Bob Ashley, wireless operator and footballer) was an international soccer player before the war. The character was made to be a footballer because he could already play well.

- The extra squadron members were all active members of the RAF (XVI) squadron.

- The character of Sir George Corbett is based on Sir Arnold Wilson, a Member of Parliament who, at the fall of France, declared to the House that he did not propose to hide behind the bodies of younger men and joined the RAF at the age of 51. He trained as a rear gunner and was considered for the part (after Ralph Richardson who had joined the Fleet Air Arm) but Sir Arthur was already posted missing over the Netherlands.

- Googie Withers was a revelation in this role. Up to this point she had been known for light comic roles (often in Powell's films) or as very glamorous ladies in period pieces. But in this film she is first seen without (obvious) makeup and dressed in dungarees. But she gives a memorable performance.

While he was making some screen grabs, Nick Dando finished up studying the film quite carefully and noticed ...

- The model of the Wellington made by Victor Woodason actually has a code number which is visible in the flash from hitting the electricity pylon. The serial is KO-B, which gives 115 squadron, and at that time they were based at RAF Marham in Norfolk. Another website gives details of a raid undertaken to Hamburg on 26/07/42 by KO-B, serial number BJ723, pilot Sgt J Smith, when the plane was shot down.

- I've just found out what the Ashley Special is, from OOOAIM. It's a bottle of Nicholsons' Brown Ale, made at a brewery in Maidenhead. In reality it wouldn't have been on the plane, as B for Bertie was based in East Anglia, but as the film was made at Denham Studios, someone went to a local pub for the pint bottle. I always suspected that it might be Guinness, as Bob says "Ashley's is good for you" in the fashion of the famous Guinness advert, but after studying the film in detail whilst preparing some screen grabs, I'm certain that it's Nicholsons. The label is a different shape compared with that shown in the article, but the camel in the middle is quite distinctive, as is the layout of the label.

- Although it's difficult to see, the organ stop that Alec Clunes (where did Martin get those ears from?) pulls out to allow him to play the Wilhelmus via the pedals is sometimes in, sometimes out, depending on viewpoint. The stop is the second from the top on the left-hand side. Around 00:50:45.

- When George is holding De Jong at gunpoint and Frank comes over to say "Your move mah jong", he sometimes has his spectacles on his forehead, sometimes not. Around 00:59.

- Why does the football match start with what looks to be a penalty?

- The roadblock near the German headquarters is manned by a Lewis gun team. 01:05:32.

- The guard at the roadblock is wearing a WW1 helmet, and has a strange collar to his jacket. He's also wearing full equipment. Why? 01:06:03.

- The lorry has white edges to the front mudguards. I wonder if other countries did this during the blackout. 01:06:07.

- The lorry has things written on the tailgate. Kreis 174, Stelle XIV, Abteilung B. Google translates this as Circle 174, Place XIV, Department B. 01:06:50.

David Pickhaver also tells us:

- The two brass VR insignia worn on each collar of Hugh Williams (HW?) & Godfrey Tearle's (GT?) uniforms indicate that they were both in the RAF Volunteer Reserve. i.e. had been in the VR before the war & not called up. 05:00.00 onwards.

- The armoured cars that the cyclists stop for have white crosses painted on the front of them, I suppose It wouldn't have been wise to be driving around East Anglia in 1941 with swastikas showing! 47:00

- As the truck enters the port a large V is clearly seen painted on the wall of a building, could this have been V for the Valkenburg Resistance? Also in the same scene a black cat runs across the road in front of the truck perhaps a sign of good luck to the Dutch Resistance? 1:05.03

- The German searchlight at the gate to the port looks decidedly like a light that would have been used to make the film. 1:06.05 I suppose they had to make use of whatever they had available, there was a war on you know!

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