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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Submitted by Mark Fuller

Lovely to Look at But Not Much of a Tale

I Go To The Pictures....By Lilian Duff

From: Sunday Graphic
14 May 1944

The biggest film of the week is also my biggest disappointment. "A CANTERBURY TALE" (Odeon)was written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who made "49th Parallel", "One of Our Aircraft Is Missing" and "Colonel Blimp".

     From this team one expects an unusual story and lovely photography, and their new idea of a modern pilgrimage to Canterbury had obvious possibilities.

     Up to a point all expectations are realised. The English countryside, so long neglected, has never been filmed so beautifully and some of the incidents and characterisations have a pleasant humour.

     But all this is the sugar round a most unpalatable pill. Not all the pictorial beauty and amusing touches of dialogue can disguise the fact that the basic story is an insult to the intelligence.

Fanatical J.P.
It revolves around a Kent magistrate with a passion for local archaeology and scenery, and a fanatical desire that others should share them.

     ????????? he try to accomplish this. By pouring glue on the heads of girls who go out with soldiers, thereby distracting their attentions from his lantern lectures.

     The hunt for the perpetrator supplies what little there is in the way of plot. One of the victims, a new Land Army girl, determines to discover him, and is helped by an American sergeant, an English sergeant (formerly a cinema organist) and a band of small boys.

     Without much difficulty they prove that the magistrate is the offender, whereupon he explains how idealistic are his intentions, and only the English sergeant is still keen on denouncing him to the police.

     Even he forgets all about it when he gets the chance to play the organ in Canterbury Cathedral.

     All this is linked with the theme that modern pilgrims to Canterbury may still receive blessings as pilgrims did in Chaucer's day.

What It Teaches
Thus the American hears from the girl in Oregon who seems to have forgotten him, the land girl's missing fiance turns up and the organist learns, as the magistrate puts it, to prefer Handel and Bach to "I Kiss Your Hand, Madam."

     Before and after the film came along, by the way, we heard much about it's value as a means of interpreting Britain to America and vice versa. What will Americans actually learn about Britain? Only that the scenery and architecture are lovely at their best, and that magistrates are liable to mild forms of perversion.

     The characterisation of the american (played by Sergeant John Sweet, in private life a schoolmaster) is charming in a ??????, homely James Stewart fashion, and Eric Portman, as the magistrate, Sheila Sim, as the land girl, and Dennis Price, as the organist, give competent performances.

     But if it had not been for the loveliness of the Kent scenery I should have been outside the cinema long before this 124-minute film was over.

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