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The Powell & Pressburger Pages

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Report for the Kentish Express
By: Paul Tritton

'A CANTERBURY TALE' 60th anniversary location walk

   More than 50 devotees of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's classic wartime movie A Canterbury Tale met at Chilham on Sunday (August 31) for a guided walk to locations where several of its key scenes were created 60 years ago.

   The film is all about the experiences of three latter-day pilgrims to Canterbury during the last weekend in August 1943, and was filmed at places in and around the Kentish Stour valley and the city in the summer of that year.

   Main destination for Sunday's 60th anniversary location walk was Chilmans Downs, overlooking Chilham, where on the last Sunday in August 1943 Michael Powell began filming the memorable 'scene in the long grass,' featuring Sheila Sim (now Lady Attenborough) and the late Eric Portman as Land Army girl Alison Smith and Thomas Colpeper, JP.

   The walkers gathered in the same place on the hillside to see Helen Lawson, from Chartham, and Steve Crook, founder of the Powell & Pressburger Appreciation Society, re-enact the scene.

   Scenes that starred US Army Sergeant John Sweet, who on the last Sunday in August 1943 joined Powell's cast to play 'Sgt Bob Johnson,' were re-enacted at their locations at Chilham Mill and nearby Julliberrie's Grave, a prehistoric long barrow.

   Some of the film's action took place in cornfields at Stile Farm, Chilham . On Sunday, eight-year-old Jonathan Smith from Stile Farm played the roles of "Terry" and "Leslie" in recreations of the scenes where Bob meets the leaders of two rival gangs of schoolboys, joins in their spectacular 'river battle' and then invites them to a pow'wow at which they agree to help identify the sinister 'glueman.'

   Other memorable scenes recreated included the one in which a Bren Gun Carrier commanded by 'Sgt Peter Gibbs' (Dennis Price), ambushed Alison as she drove her horse and cart along the Pilgrims' Road.

   John Clark, from Canterbury, who was a Chilham schoolboy in 1943, described how he watched Powell's cameramen and cast at work at Chilham Mill and Shottenden, and appeared with his mother in crowd scenes when a military parade through Canterbury was filmed for in the closing scenes.

   Co-leader of the walk, Paul Tritton (author of A Canterbury Tale - Memories of a Classic Wartime Movie), read out an email from Michael Powell's widow , Thelma Schoonmaker Powell, who wrote, 'I will be thinking of you all. I wish I could be with you but at precisely the moment you are enjoying a drink to celebrate the end of your anniversary walk, I will be in a dark theatre in Montreal looking at "dailies" of The Aviator with Martin Scorsese.' Thelma is Scorsese's film editor.

   The event was the seventh annual reunion for A Canterbury Tale enthusiasts. Details of next year's location walk will be announced on

More information about the trip