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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Michael Powell: 100th Birthday Celebration

As a part of the Mill Valley Film Festival, Mill Valley, California, there will be a Tribute to Michael Powell by Thelma Schoonmaker-Powell, and screenings of I Know Where I'm Going! (1945) and The Red Shoes (1948)

Date Time Event
Sat Oct 8 6:30pm Tribute to Michael Powell by Thelma Schoonmaker
Sun Oct 9 12:15pm I Know Where I'm Going! (1945)
Wed Oct 12 8:30pm The Red Shoes (1948)


This will be followed by a series of films that are being shown at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center.

Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center
1118 Fourth Street
San Rafael,

100th Birthday Celebration

The Rafael honors British director Michael Powell (1905-1990), one of film's greatest artists, with a series that includes some rare and recently restored works. Powell is best known for his longtime collaboration with Hungarian screenwriter Emeric Pressburger. Calling their production company The Archers, they made unconventional movies with an unprecedented shared credit: 'Written, Produced and Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.'

Powell once wrote, 'I grew up with and through the cinema.' His passion for filmmaking has inspired younger generations, including director Martin Scorsese as well as Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese's film editor, who married Powell during his later years. Our Michael Powell celebrations begin with a Tribute presented by Thelma Schoonmaker at the Mill Valley Film Festival, and continue with this series at the Rafael.

Richard Peterson
Director of Programming

Special Thanks: Thelma Schoonmaker and Marianne Bower; Michael Schlesinger, Susanne Jacobson and Grover Crisp of Sony Pictures Entertainment; Ellen Harrington of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences; Dennis Doros of Milestone Films; Mary Tallungan of Walt Disney Studios; Brian Robinson of the British Film Institute; Sarah Finklea and Karen Stetler of Janus/Criterion; Eric di Bernardo of Rialto Pictures; Gary Palmucci of Kino International; Daniel Kasman, John Kirk and Melanie Tebb.


Sunday, October 23, 4:00 & 7:00

This enchanting Powell-Pressburger masterpiece stars Wendy Hiller as a materialistic young woman who travels to the Scottish Hebrides to marry a rich, older industrialist. A storm tosses her in the path of a penniless laird (Roger Livesey), and her values and desires are transformed under the spell of the isles. This beautiful and romantic tale is suffused with moody landscapes, Celtic magic and eccentric humor. With: Pamela Brown. Music: Allan Gray. Camera: Erwin Hillier. Writers/Producers/Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. (UK 1945) 92 min.


Thursday, October 27, 7:00

Filmed on the windswept island of Foula in the Scottish Shetlands, this thrilling and fateful drama was Michael Powell's first important film as director. Two families sharing a difficult life among the jagged cliffs and rough shores are torn apart by tragedy. Powell artfully combines awesome location shooting with themes of mysticism and romance. Recently restored by the British Film Institute, it is an authentic discovery. With: John Laurie, Belle Chrystall, Niall MacGinnis, Finlay Currie, Michael Powell. Producer: Joe Rock. Writer/Director: Michael Powell. (UK 1937)

Preceded by An Airman's Letter to His Mother (1941), a five-minute World War II propaganda short photographed and directed by Michael Powell for Britain's Royal Air Force, with a reading by John Gielgud. Total program 85 min.


Sunday, October 30, 4:00 & 7:00

Once considered one of Powell and Pressburger's oddest efforts, this wartime drama is now a cult favorite in England, inspiring contemporary pilgrimages to the movie's locations. In a quiet Kent village an American G.I., a British sergeant and a military Land Girl set out to expose the mysterious 'glue-man' who's been pouring glue in the hair of young women. Powell combines mysticism and tradition with a film noir atmosphere. With: Eric Portman, Sheila Sim, Dennis Price. Camera: Erwin Hillier. Writers/Producers/Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. (UK 1944) 124 min.


Thursday, November 3, 7:00

The first collaboration between director Michael Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger is a taut spy thriller that might remind you of Hitchcock with its combination of suspense and irony. Set during World War I, it stars Conrad Veidt as a German U-Boat captain, on an anti-British espionage mission, who slips into Scotland with the aid of his contact, a beautiful schoolmistress (Valerie Hobson). With: Marius Goring, June Duprez. Music: Miklos Rozsa. Producer: Alexander Korda. Writer: Emeric Pressburger. Director: Michael Powell. (UK 1939) 82 min.


Restored Version
Sunday, November 6, 4:00 & 7:00

Gone to Earth was bowdlerized in the US by producer David O. Selznick, who re-shaped Powell and Pressburger's original and released his own version as The Wild Heart. Jennifer Jones (then married to Selznick) stars in this lush Technicolor adaptation of Mary Webb's novel as beautiful Hazel, a superstitious, innocent gypsy girl, friend to the forest creatures, who falls prey to arrogant squire Jack Reddin (David Farrar), even after she is wed to the local vicar (Cyril Cusack). This exotic, mystical melodrama has been breathtakingly restored by Walt Disney Studios. Camera: Christopher Challis. Executive Producer: David O. Selznick. Writers/Producers/Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. (UK 1950) 110 min.


Thursday, November 10, 7:00

Prompted to make a movie that would help convince the US to enter the war, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger devised an ingenious premise and cast it with some of Britain's biggest names. Eric Portman plays a German captain stranded with his crew when their U-Boat sinks off northern Canada. To avoid capture, they must make their way to the border, and the safety, of the still-neutral United States. Along the way they encounter (and sometimes debate) a cross-section of Canadian citizens, played by Leslie Howard, Laurence Olivier (as a French Canadian trapper), Anton Walbrook (as a pacifist Hutterite) and Raymond Massey (as an AWOL Canadian soldier). Extensively shot on location, this is very entertaining anti-Fascist propaganda. Editor: David Lean. Camera: Freddie Young. Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams. Writer: Emeric Pressburger. Director: Michael Powell. (UK 1941) 123 min.


Sunday, November 13, 3:00 & 7:00

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's first Technicolor film is one that Winston Churchill tried to ban, but is recognized today as one of the greatest achievements in British cinema. Roger Livesey gives a virtuosic performance as Colonel Clive Candy (from age 30 to 70), as The Archers satirize British traditions and mourn the erosion of honor in the modern era of total war. Deborah Kerr is luminous as the three different women in Clive Candy's life. This time-spanning epic is both funny and profoundly moving. With: Anton Walbrook. Camera: Georges P=E9rinal. Writers/Producers/Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. (UK 1943) 163 min.


Thursday, November 17, 7:00

Presented by David Thomson

Michael Powell made this remarkable horror-thriller a few years after dissolving his partnership with Pressburger. It was denounced in Britain, and the reception crippled Powell's career. Almost two decades later, its New York revival, engineered by Martin Scorsese, brought Powell back into critical favor. Carl Boehm plays a disturbed young cameraman who murders his female victims while filming their death throes. Scorsese called it one of the 'two great films that deal with the philosophy and danger of filmmaking.' With: Anna Massey, Moira Shearer. Writer: Leo Marks. Producer/Director: Michael Powell. (UK 1960) 101 min.

Critic and novelist David Thomson, who discusses Peeping Tom, is author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Cinema and played a key role in reviving Michael Powell's reputation in the 1970s, when he invited Powell to teach with him at Dartmouth College.


Restored Print
Sunday, November 20, 4:00 & 7:00

Filmed in Australia and based on a novel by Norman Lindsay, the penultimate movie directed by Michael Powell stars James Mason as an aging painter who goes to an offshore island for inspiration. He finds his muse in a beautiful young girl, played by Helen Mirren in her film debut. The film was heavily censored and re-scored, and this recent restoration by Sony Pictures Entertainment includes the original music as well as several nude scenes that had been removed from the picture. 'The film was full of nudity,' wrote Powell, 'but it was a painter's nudity.' At the time Powell and Mason were planning a film of The Tempest; perhaps here's a taste of the Prospero they would have offered. With: Jack MacGowran. Writer: Peter Yeldham. Producers: James Mason, Michael Powell. Director: Michael Powell. (Australia 1969) 103 min.


Thursday, November 24, 7:00
Sunday, November 27, 1:00

Presented by Craig Barron (November 27 only)

Michael Powell was one of three directors on this landmark fantasy film adapted from Arabian Nights, and this sumptuous Technicolor production still retains its charm and wonder after more than 60 years. Sabu is the mischievous Thief, and Conrad Veidt is deliciously wicked as the evil Jaffar. Francis Ford Coppola has often called it his favorite film. Music: Miklos Rozsa. Camera: Georges P=E9rinal. Producer: Alexander Korda. Directors: Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan. (UK 1940) 106 min.

Craig Barron, visual effects supervisor and matte artist, will introduce the afternoon screening on November 27 and illustrate the film's groundbreaking special effects. Barron interviewed Michael Powell extensively for his book The Invisible Art: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting.


Sunday, November 27, 4:00 & 7:00

The best loved of Powell and Pressburger's films includes some of the most dazzling examples of what Powell conceived as 'composed' film, integrating color, design and music in expressive ways. In her screen debut, Moira Shearer stars as Victoria Page, an up-and-coming ballerina taken under the wing of possessive ballet impresario Lermontov (Anton Walbrook). When she falls in love with a young composer (Marius Goring), life and career collide. With: Robert Helpmann, L=E9onide Massine, Ludmilla Tch=E9rina. Music: Brian Easdale. Camera: Jack Cardiff. Writers/Producers/Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. (UK 1948) 133 min.


Thursday, December 1, 7:00

Based on the novel by Nigel Balchin, this splendid combination of psychological drama and suspense stars David Farrar as a bomb-defusing expert in wartime London who's crippled by a tin leg and a weakness for the bottle. Kathleen Byron is the girlfriend he doesn't think he deserves. When he's called on to tackle an insidious booby-trap being dropped from German planes, will he be up to the job? This underrated, black-and-white film noir is more low-key than The Archers' color spectaculars, but it wields its own powerful grip. With: Jack Hawkins, Robert Morley, Cyril Cusack. Camera: Christopher Challis. Writers/Producers/Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. (UK 1949) 106 min.


Sunday, December 4, 4:00 & 7:00

Presented by Kenneth Turan (Book signing after 4:00 show)

Deborah Kerr stars as the leader of five nuns charged with establishing a school and hospital high in the Himalayas, where the atmosphere unsettles all the women and drives one to madness. Rather than go to India, Powell decided to shoot Rumer Godden's story in the studio, producing a visual and sensual masterpiece that won Oscars for art direction and Jack Cardiff's extraordinary cinematography. Writers/Producers/Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. (UK 1947) 100 min.

Kenneth Turan, who discusses Black Narcissus, is longtime film critic for the Los Angeles Times and for National Public Radio's Morning Edition. He is author of Never Coming to a Theater Near You: A Celebration of a Certain Kind of Movie, a book of essays about great movies that have slipped under the radar. Following the 4:00 screening he will sign copies of the book, available for sale. CO-PRESENTED BY BOOK PASSAGE


Featuring a newly restored print of Powell and Pressburger's
(Stairway to Heaven)

Presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in collaboration with the British Film Institute and the Smith Rafael Film Center

Wednesday, December 7, 7:30
$10 (CFI members & seniors $8)

Jack Cardiff, legendary cinematographer and director, will introduce and discuss a restored print of A Matter of Life and Death, the first of The Archers' films for which he served as chief cinematographer.

Re-titled in the US as Stairway to Heaven, this wartime fantasy remained Michael Powell's favorite film. David Niven stars as a British pilot who should have perished when he leapt without a parachute from his burning plane. By the time that Heaven (rendered in bureaucratic black and white) discovers him missing, he has already fallen in love on Technicolor-rich Earth with a lovely American soldier (Kim Hunter). A heavenly trial is set for his very life, in Powell and Pressburger's witty and phantasmagoric take on Anglo-American relations at war's end. With: Roger Livesey, Kathleen Byron, Robert Coote, Raymond Massey, Richard Attenborough. Camera: Jack Cardiff. Writers/Producers/Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger. (UK 1946) 104 min.

Our film print of A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN) was restored in 2000 by the Academy Film Archive and Sony Pictures Entertainment, in collaboration with the British Film Institute's National Film, Television and Video Archive, London, using new preservation elements from the original nitrate and with digitally re-mastered sound.

Recognized as one of cinema's greatest cinematographers, Jack Cardiff went on to shoot Powell and Pressburger's Black Narcissus (for which he won an Oscar) and The Red Shoes. Other films as cinematographer include The African Queen, The Vikings and The Barefoot Contessa, and his films as director included Sons and Lovers. In 2000 Jack Cardiff received an Honorary Oscar from the Academy for his accomplishments as a "master of light and color".

Other P&P trips