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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.

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Submitted by Mark Fuller

A Canterbury Tale

By: Jack Robertson

From: Unidentified Local Paper
18 May 1944

The girls around wartime Canterbury don't need to ask :"Got any gum, chum?" - they get too much of it, in liquid form, over their hair!

     Eric Portman, local magistrate and lover of Canterbury, doesn't want women about the place. They distract the troops, who would find it more edifying (he thinks) to attend his lantern lectures on Chaucer and historic Canterbury.

     So, in the black out, he turns glue-man and gets away with his sticky business until three modern pilgrims hit his trail.

     They are a Land Girl, Sheila Sim, an American sergeant, John Sweet, and a British sergeant, Dennis Price.

     Judged on its plot, "A Canterbury Tale" would be written down as footling, but the film has a wealth of virtues.

     Erwin Hillier takes us with his camera through scenes of the sheerest beauty, reminding us that the rolling downs and gentle valleys of Kent were not always bristling with the modern impedimenta of invasion - hopfields with the sunlight on them, sound of hammer on anvil, lazy lanes, jostling houses topped by the spire of the great cathedral.

     Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger occupy a unique position in British films.

     They are the only couple privileged to develop an idea right through to the shooting script, and then supervise every shot until the final cut.

     "A Canterbury Tale" is their latest piece of cinema, and again they prove that a hand-picked cast can be preferable to famous names.

     Their discoveries of Sheila Sim and John Sweet clearly indicate that there's unknown talent round the corner if you care to look for it.

     John Sweet is a records pen-pusher in the American Army, drafted before he could start in the teaching profession, and the father of a baby daughter back home in Boston whom he hasn't seen.

     John has about him something of Gary Cooper and the frank, homespun humour of the late Will Rogers. Messrs. Powell and Pressburger use him to bring out a closer understanding of Amarican and British modes of living.

     Sheila, who's half - Scots, actually was a Land Girl earlier in the war. Eric Portman, Esmond Knight, and the scores of kids playing at combined ops, give the picture further distinction and humour.

     Michael Powell is speaking at the Press Fund premiere of "A Canterbury Tale" in the Picture House, tomorrow evening.
Tickets are still available.

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