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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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A Mirror For England
by Raymond Durgnat

I'd often seen references in the P&P related books to the book by Raymond Durgnat called "A Mirror For England". It was published in the UK by Faber & Faber in 1970 (ISBN: 0571095038) and New York by Praeger in 1971. So I got hold of a copy (I now have my own copy) and was interested to see what he wrote about P&P - but was also very surprised at the number of errors in it.

Illustration plate 9
AMOLAD :- Image of civilians going up the staircase. I'm pretty sure this wasn't actually used in the film.
IKWIG :- He refers to "the celtic females at work on Joan" to make her think about what she really wants, but he refers to them as Pamela Brown and Sybil Thorndyke !! Which version did he see then?? :) Catriona (Pamela Brown) definitely tries to make Joan (Wendy Hiller) think about things, I suppose the other one could be Rebecca Crozier (Nancy Price) but aren't they both really Anglo Scots, rather than celts?
AMOLAD :- He says "On a preliminary trip Upstairs, the pilot finds Heaven a pretty depressing place" - but Peter never visits Heaven (or even the arrivals lounge), he only rides the staircase for a while.
AMOLAD :- He says that Doc Reeves & June convince Peter to fight for his rights. But Peter stands up to Conductor 71 & demands an appeal when they first meet in the rhododendron garden. That's quite a while before he meets Doc Reeves and I doubt if Peter & June have "got round to that yet" (as they hadn't about his poetry).
p29 footnote
Canterbury Tale :- He refers to the "misguided church organist" who poured glue onto girls hair. It's the "misguided magistrate" who's the glue man.
One thing I did like - He refers to "Powell's colour by Pyrotechnicolour" - lovely phrase :)
SBR :- He says Sammy Rice is "trying to scramble up the sheer smooth sides" of the bottle. I'd have said he was trying to stop being crushed by it.
p208 footnote
He says P&P shared full joint credits from AMOLAD to Ill Met by Moonlight. It was from OOOAIM onwards.
Black Narcissus :- He says "the amiable despot (Sabu ...)" but Sabu was the YOUNG General. The amiable old despot was another avatar of the ever wonderful Esmond Knight.
Peeping Tom :- He says that Helen is like Catriona in IKWIG. Is she?? How? Did he know that Pamela was to have played the Mrs Stephens role?
Peeping Tom :- He says it's Pamela Greene with the hare lip in the naughty pictures studio. It's not, it's Susan Travers (Lorraine).
Peeping Tom :- The film was written by LEO Marks, not Louis Marks which spoils his theory about the name Mark Lewis being a twist on the author's name.
Thief of Bagdad :- He lists lots of things in it that have resonances in later films as though Powell did them all deliberately and had his life's work all planned out in 1939/40.

And that's without any comments on his conclusions which are often stretched to breaking point. He just doesn't seem to understand, or allow for, humour, passion or romance. He's so hung up with class he can't see anything else. I always wondered why people from abroad think we're class obsessed in this country, well if they've read anything like this it's no wonder :)

It has since been pointed out that many of the factual errors should be forgiven because when Ray wrote A Mirror For England (in 1971) most of the films were unavailable so he was remembering things from when he saw them when they were first released.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Ray for doing so much to keep P&P in the public mind. At that time, Ray & Kevin Gough-Yates were about the only people writing about The Archers. So, for Ray to write a whole chapter about them was quite something.


See also Obituaries section

Other P&P reviews