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 Lydia Robertson

Theater Gossip

From: The Evening Independent, St Petersburg, Florida
26 July 1947

One of the most unusual pictures I have ever seen and one of the best directed films this year "Stairway to Heaven" which opened yesterday at the Playhouse theater, presents, very effectively, what thoughts came to a flier of the RAF after he suffered sever brain injury. Fact and dreams are so intermingled that it is rather difficult to separate them and I feel sure that a great many persons who see the picture will not understand what is going on or why. But it is vividly clear to those who saw the picture from the first. Movie fans have a habit of going to see a picture without any regard to a beginning or an end. Nobody would think of going to a stage play in the middle of the second act but they go to movies any old time and expect to be able to pick up the story immediately. This cannot be done with some pictures that treat things seriously. If you do see "Stairway to Heaven" be certain that you see it from the beginning, otherwise you will be puzzled and will not get much out of it. The story that is told is fantastic but it is well told and the cast plays splendidly. It is a picture well worth seeing as it treats with reverence the mystic world of the Great Beyond.

The cast:
Peter CarterDavid Niven
JuneKim Hunter
BobRobert Coote
An AngelKathleen Byron
An English PilotRichard Attenborough
An American pilotBonar Colleano
Chief RecorderJoan Maude
Conductor 71Marius Goring
Doctor ReevesRoger Livesey
The VicarRobert Atkins
Dr. GaertlerBob Richards
Dr. McEwenEdwin Max
Mrs TuckerBetty Potter
The JudgeAbraham Sofaer
Abraham FarlanRaymond Massey

  Co-starring David Niven, Raymond Massey and Roger Livesey with Kim Hunter in the romantic lead and Marius Goring also featured, "Stairway to Heaven" is built around a fascinating romantic story. Niven, as the RAF pilot of a severely damaged and burning bomber returning to England after a raid over Germany, falls in love over the command radio with Kim Hunter, an American WAC base radio operator, just before jumping several thousand feet without a parachute. Miraculously, he finds himself alive and washed ashore, regaining consciousness just as Miss Hunter is returning to her quarters from the base.

  Partly as a result of the jump, Niven becomes subject to momentary hallucinations at which times he imagines great activity taking place in heaven to claim him and balance the books there. But, because he has fallen in love, he demands the right to live. A trial is arranged in heaven, but an attorney must be found to plead his case. He has the choice of all the great men in history.

  In the meantime, on earth, Roger Livesey, a famous neurologist and a doctor friend of Miss Hunter's diagnoses Niven's condition and makes arrangements for corrective surgery with the local army medical authorities. While attempting to rush the pilot to hospital, Livesey is killed and is this able to become the attorney to plead the airman's case in heaven.

  The trial takes place just as Niven is undergoing surgery. Raymond Massey, because he was the first American killed by the British in the American revolution, is the prosecuting attorney. Livesey proves eternal love with the aid of Miss Hunter's teardrop, deposited on a rose. Niven wins the right to live. The surgery is successful.

  In his portrayal of the airman, Niven has never been seen to better advantage. Kim Hunter, opposite him as the WAC, does a fine piece of acting. As the American revolutionary and heavenly prosecutor, Massey is convincing in his delivery of satiristic realism. One of the finest supporting characterizations ever filmed is that of Livesey as the doctor.

A. R. D.

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