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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Submitted by Mark Fuller
A Canterbury Tale
From: Today's Cinema (Trade Paper)
10 May 1944
EAGLE-LION. BRITISH. 11274 Ft. CERT "U" REL.: NOT FIXED
DIRECTORS; MICHAEL POWELL, EMERIC PRESBURGER
LEADING PLAYERS: ERIC PORTMAN, SHEILA SIM, DENNIS PRICE, SGT. JOHN SWEET
RECORDING SYSTEM: WESTERN ELECTRIC
Kentish village romantic drama. Thoughtful story of modern pilgrimage to Canterbury made by land girl and American and British sergeants . Distinctive theme dilates eloquently on immutability of English countryside, life and character, as revealed to American sergeant as he traverses Kentish village in quest of alleged miscreant. Many subtle touches of revealing by-play emphasised by telling dialogue and delightful characterisation, together with charming exchanges of viewpoint between Yank and Britisher which assert how much in common each country has. Closing scene especially effective in pointing close of pilgrimage when each character finds heart's desire, all ending on a stirring note of choral singing of "Onward, Christian Soldiers". Sensitive direction, beautiful leading portrayals, superb camera-work, first-rate all-round production qualities. Outstanding general entertainment, notably for best-class halls.
The Michael Powell - Emeric Pressburger team have blazed another new narrative trail. This time they tell of a modern pilgrimage, investing an old custom with all the dramatic insight permitted by the screen technique of to-day - the custom of centuries ago when pilgrims journeyed along the Old Road to Canterbury. Our modern pilgrims are an American sergeant, his British counterpart, and a Land Girl, each of whom have their own particular problem solved on arriving at journey's end.
To point their story, the authors have introduced an apparently sinister character who pours glue over girls in the blackout, and it is the hunt for this miscreant which supplies much of the worth-while development. Thus Sergeant Sweet, U.S.A [sic] joins forces with Sergeant Peter Gibbs to find the despoiler of pretty Alison Smith, and in the course of their mutual sleuthing the boys find out much that is common to their own country in thought and manner. It is in this latter regard that the film bears its message, for while the hunt has its own excitement and thrill and ingenuity, it is the vivid beauty of the Kentish countryside, and the revealing bits of by-play touching on the British spirit and character, that makes the film such distinctive entertainment.
And the link-up with the pilgrims of the past is subtly conveyed, not only in the suggestion that the English countryside is unchanging, but in the eloquent characterisation of the alleged miscreant, who turns out to have had a finely patriotic reason for his curious behaviour. In the end, the pilgrimage brings its reward to the American in finding that his fiancèe is true to him, after all, to the Britisher in at last playing the organ in the celebrated Canterbury Cathedral, and to the Land Girl in hearing good news of her missing sweetheart.
Here, then, is a lofty patriotism devoid of flag-wagging, admirably dove-tailed into a delightful canvas of the Kentish countryside, and rich in basic drama and emotionalism narrated with rare discernment. And it has all been beautifully portrayed as to the leading characterisations, with Sergeant John Sweet superbly nonchalant as the enquiring American, Dennis Price his sturdy counterpart, Sheila Sim the charming girl in the case, and Eric Portman the apparent malefactor who turns out as good a patriot as any of them.
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