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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A Canterbury Tale
Written, Produced and Directed by
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
From: Progress of British Films, Part 1
McKenzie, Vincent & Co. Ltd. 1946
"A Canterbry Tale" is a new story about an old custom. In the fourteenth century Chaucer wrote about the pilgrims he saw riding to St. Thomas a Becket's shrine in Canterbury Cathedral. They went to ask a blessing or to do a penance for sin. They travelled along the Old Road, the Pilgrim's Way, on horseback. In 1944 men and women who visit Canerbury don't think of themselves as pilgrims; they travel by train or tank, or Army lorry, and once there they see bomb craters where churches used to stand and rubble in place of houses. But the Cathedral is still there and so are the trees along the Pilgrim's Way. Through the stories of four modern pilgrims, "A Canterbury Tale" shows that the spirit and tradition of England, and the English countryside, is unchanging.
Eric Portman stars in the film as Thomas Colpeper, J.P. He is a sincere lover of the country, its tradition and its lore, but in his anxiety to impart his knowledge and enthusiasm to the people around him he makes some grave mistakes - and does his penance in Canterbury Cathedral.
Sergeant John Sweet, U.S. Army, is an American Sergeant in the film as he is in real life. As Bob Johnson he makes an unwilling pilgrimage to Canterbury to see the place his grandmother left when she was a little girl. Out of three days' leave he intended to spend one in Canterbury - instead he spends two in Chillingbourne learning to like and understand England and the English people and on his last day he finds Canterbury and his blessing.
Sheila Sim plays Alison Smith. She used to sell garden furniture in a London store before the war. Somehow selling picnic baskets and things that would be used in gardens, woods or meadows was some sort of compensation for not iving in the country herself. Like Thomas Colpeper, she loves the country. When war broke out she heard about the Women's Land Army and joined up immediately. For some time she worked and trained in the North Country. Then she asked for a transfer to a village near Canterbury. It is a sentimental pilgrimage for Alison. Some years before she has spent two glorious weeks camping on the Old Road with her fiance, a geologist. He was killed during a bombing raid on Germany, but still Alison feels that going to Canterbury is like going home. She too receives her blessing.
Dennis Price is the fourth modern pilgrim in "A Canterbury Tale". As a Londoner he understands less of the countryside than the others. Before the war he was a musician. He learned to play the organ, hoping that one day he would play for Chathedral Services and choirs. But in the end he played the organ in a super-cinema. He thought he was satisfied with that. It was not a bad life - the salary was high. But during his pilgrimage to Canterbury he learns that the world holds greater satisfaction for a musician than a cinema organ.
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