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.

A lot of the documents have been sent to me or have come from other web sites. The name of the web site is given where known. If I have unintentionally included an image or document that is copyrighted or that I shouldn't have done then please email me and I'll remove it.

I make no money from this site, it's purely for the love of the films.

[Any comments are by me (Steve Crook) and other members of the email list]

  Steve's Logo

The Battle of the River Plate

From: Picture Show; November 3rd, 1956

Magazine cover
London Premières

The Battle of the River Plate (J.A.R.F.D.).

On October 29th the Gala Première at the Empire Theatre Leicester Square, London, was the Royal Film Performance. The film chosen for this spectacular event, "The Battle of the River Plate," tells of the first big heroic action of the Second World War. It was ten days before the declaration of war in September, 1939, that the German pocket battleship, the Graf Spee, sailed from Germany with orders to sink merchant ships and avoid battle. Her captain, Hans Langsdorff (Peter Finch), though his ship invunerable. The powerful Graf Spee was speedier and had greater fire power than any ship England could send against her, with the exception of the Repulse, Renown and Hood. For months the Graf Spee preyed on Britain's vital line of merchant shipping with devastating results.

Then, early in December, the Royal Navy picked up a message giving the position of the liner Doric Star while under attack. With masterly strategy, Commodore Harwood (Anthony Quayle) based his plan of attack on the carefully calculated belief that the Graf Spee would make for the River Plate.

The Commodore was right and our film tells of that day, December 13th, when the cruisers H.M.S. Exter, commanded by Captain Bell (John Gregson), Ajax, flagship commanded by Captain Woodhouse (Ian Hunter), and the New Zealand ship Achilles, commanded by Captain Perry (Jack Gwillim), outgunned and outranged, attacked with such ferocity and resources that the Graf Spee, severly damaged, was forced to flee to the safety of Montevideo Harbour.

Four days later an astounded world heard the news that the German captain had scuttled his ship after his time limit for staying in Uraguayan waters had expired.

To collect authentic material for this story, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, writer, producer and director team responsible for this powerful film, spent eighteen months delving through secret Admiralty records and travelling thousands of miles to talk to men who witnessed and took part in the action.

The result is an unforgettable story of suspense and action filmed in VistaVision and Technicolor.

Back to index