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.

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Directors/screenwriters: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. Cinematographers (in Technicolor): Georges Périnal, (camera men) Geoffrey Unsworth, Jack Cardiff, Harold Haysom. Production designer: Alfred Junge. Editors: John Seabourne, (assistants) Thelma Myers and Peter Seabourne. Music: (composer) Allan Gray, (conductor) Charles Williams. Sound: C. C. Stevens, Desmond Dew. Costumes: (designer) Joseph Bato, (maker) Matilda Etches. Make-up: George Blackler, Dorrie Hamilton. Process shots: W. Percy Day. Assistant directors: Ken Horne, Tom Payne. Military adviser: Lt.-General Sir Douglas Brownrigg. Period advisers: E. F. E. Schoen, Dr. C. Beard. Special acknowledgement to David Low, 'creator of the (im)mortal colonel'.

Cast: Anton Walbrook (Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff), Deborah Kerr (Edith Hunter / Barbara Wynne / Johnny Cannon), Roger Livesey (Clive Candy), and (in order of appearance) James McKechnie (Spud Wilson), Neville Mapp (Stuffy Graves), Vincent Holman (Club Porter - 1942), David Hutcheson (Hoppy), Spencer Trevor (Period Blimp), Roland Culver (Colonel Betteridge), James Knight (Club Porter - 1902), Dennis Arundell (Café Orchestra Leader), David Ward (Kaunitz), Jan van Loewen (Indignant Citizen), Valentine Dyall (Von Schönborn), Carl Jaffé (Von Reumann), Albert Lieven (Von Ritter), Eric Maturin (Colonel Goodhead), Frith Banbury (Baby-Face Fitzroy), Robert Harris (Embassy Secretary), Arthur Wontner (Embassy Counsellor), Count Zichy (Colonel Berg), Jane Millican (Nurse Erna), Ursula Jeans (Frau von Kalteneck), Phyllis Morris (Pebble), Diana Marshall (Sibyl), Muriel Aked (Aunt Margaret), John Laurie (Murdoch), Reginald Tate (Van Zijl), Captain W. Barrett [US Army] (The Texan), Corporal Thomas Palmer [US Army] (The Sergeant), Yvonne Andrée (The Nun), Marjorie Gresley (The Matron), Felix Aylmer (The Bishop), Helen Debroy (Mrs Wynne), Norman Pierce (Mr. Wynne), Harry Welchman (Major Davis), A. E. Matthews (President of Tribunal), Edward Cooper (BBC Official), Joan Swinstead (Secretary).

Producers: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. Production company: The Archers. Associate producer: Richard Vernon. Management: Sydney A. Streeter, Alec Saville. Floor manager: Arthur Lawson. Chief electrician: Bill Wall. Original distributor: General Film Distributors. Length: 163 mins. First shown (London): 10 June 1943.

This print, made specially for the Treasures from the National Film Archive series, derives from the original Technicolor colour separation deposited by J. Arthur Rank Film Distributors in 1956. It was the first film to be copied as part of the National Film Archive's programme three-colour Technicolor restorations.

[This leaflet was produced for the first NFT screening in 1989, while Powell was still alive. He died in February 1990]
Powell was born near Canterbury in Kent and began his career in banking. He then worked in his father's hotel near Nice, and met director Rex Ingram who stimulated his interest in cinema. Back in Britain, Powell became a director of 'quota quickies', then wrote and directed The Edge of the World (1937), shot in the Shetlands. Powell then met Pressburger, a Hungarian and refugee screenwriter, and they made The Spy in Black (1939) together, then Contraband (1940), 49th Parallel (1941), and inaugurated their own production. company, The Archers, with One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942). From a cut scene in this last film, illustrating the difference in attitude between generations, came the idea for Blimp ...

ROGER LIVESEY (1906-1976) was a Welsh-born actor of stage and screen whose screen career, begun as a boy in 1920, had included roles in Midshipman Easy (1935), Rembrandt (1936), The Drum (1938) and The Girl in the News (1940). He was working in an aircraft factory when Powell selected him for Blimp after failing to get Laurence Olivier, and he worked for Powell again on I Know Where I'm Going! (1945) and A Matter of Life and Death (1946). He also starred in Vice Versa (1947) and later work included supporting roles in The League of Gentlemen and The Entertainer (both 1960). He was married to actress Ursula Jeans.

"To announce a film called Colonel Blimp was a challenging step to take in 1942," recalled Michael Powell in A Life in Films (1986, Heinemann). "Everybody knew that a great upheaval was due in the High Command and in the War Office. To make a hard-hitting film which lampooned the military mind and said we must pull our socks up if we were going to win the war, at a time when we were losing it hand-over-fist, was a bold enterprise. [...] Approved by the Ministry of Information, the script went up to Sir James Grigg, the Minister of War, who had to approve our borrowing of Army material: uniforms, guns, transport, etc ... He turned our request down point blank, and sent a memo to Churchill and to Brendan Bracken, the Minister of Information, telling them what he thought of it. 'The fat was in the fire.

"Emeric's story was about the friendship that existed for over forty years between an English regular soldier and a German one. This alone scandalised the Establishment when the two countries were at war. But what really put the cat among the pigeons, so far as Grigg and Churchill were concerned, was the climactic scene between the two old friends in 1942, the very year in which we were making the film, in which it is the German, now a refugee from Hitler. who tells his English friend that war is no longer a blood sport,or gentlemen, but a fight to the finish against the most devilish racism ever invented, and that if he goes on treating it as a gentleman's war he's going to lose it. [...]

"[Making the film] was an unforgettable experience for everybody. It is difficult for me to explain what it feels like in a work of art to be borne along on the wings of inspiration. Emeric's screenplay for Colonel Blimp should be in every film archive, in every film library. The actors grew and discovered themselves with every line that they spoke. We averaged three minutes of finished film per day. We shot over six hundred set-ups. John Seabourne ... used to come running from the cutting room to the stage to tell me how excited he was with each day's work. We all depended upon one another, we all learnt from one another. I was not the only director. There were four directors. I learnt from Anton what an artist is. I learnt from Roger what a man is. I learnt from Deborah what love is."

Ian Christie, in his book on Powell and Pressburger's work Arrows of Desire (1985, Waterstone), remarked: "When Blimp first appeared in June 1943, it benefited greatly from the open secret that Churchill had opposed its production and release. 'See the banned film', cinemas gleefully invited. Yet the precise point of its title must have puzzled many provincial audiences who were not familiar with the cartoon character of Colonel Blimp, a feature of the London Evening Standard during the thirties; and indeed the Candy/Blimp identification is only made explicit in the Turkish Bath scene, a favourite setting for Low's cartoon Colonel, and in the mock-heroic tapestry, which opens and closes the film. [...]

"Despite Churchill's fury and advocacy of draconian censorship staunchly rejected by Bracken - there was little that could, be done to deter Powell and Pressburger, other than withholding army cooperation and refusing to release Olivier from service in the Fleet Air Arm. Shooting was completed in only twelve weeks and, for all its length and use of the cumbersome Technicolor process, it cost no more than 200,000. What may have fuelled Churchill's continued opposition to its export was the suspicion that it was, in some sense, directed against him. At least one American officer serving in Britatn concluded that 'Churchill's strength and the he refuses to give ground anywhere is because he himself is a Blimpish character.'

"But The Archers had a larger target in view than bumbling officers; and in Roger Livesey's moving and vulnerable performance.., 'Sugar' Candy is far from a figure of ridicule or menace. He is more a hapless prisoner of his class tradition, steadfast to the point of obstinacy, unable to re-direct his life, or his love, beyond the first id e fixe. He is the centrepiece in a gallery of familiar stereotypes that are one by one animated with pathos and humour. The England portrayed in Blimp may be the stuff of caricature - the Strand magazine, gentlemen's clubs, colonial service - yet it is also an England 'made strange' in Brechtian fashion by the witty, selfconscious manner of its presentation. With its bold sweep from the! Boer War to the Blitz, it achieves the status of a national epic, yet remains intimate and distinctly ambivalent in its attitude to establishment values. [ ... ]

"Even at the level of its overall debate about ends and means, the film speculates dangerously (for the time) that a war may not be worth winning if it involves a fundamental sacrifice of principle by the just. Its wit holds at bay the sentimentality that many of its themes evoke; its willful eccentricity takes it far beyond the confines of most cautionary propaganda; but in the end, it is this great film's elaborate anti-realist, almost allegorical structure that allows it to lament the loss of innocence suffered by both Candy and Britain, and to confront, with childlike wonder, the intonations of mortality."

Turn over to read the other side of the programme notes.

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