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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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Black Narcissus at The Arts Club
Wednesday, 26th November 2003
The Arts Club, Dover Street, Mayfair

Just back from another very nice day out in London.

I had been invited there by Lady Ivry Freyberg who had told me she was going there to meet some friends of hers (Ivry was an art student when she first met Emeric) and that they were showing BN.

The people we were meeting there included John Russell Taylor, author of a few books about Hitchcock and others, ex lecturer in film studies at USC and now the arts correspondent on The Times. John had written an article about P&P in Sight & Sound (Autumn '78) titled Myths and Supermen which is a bit confused but has some points of interest. Remember that this was towards the end of the "dark years" where not many of the films were being shown anywhere and there wasn't much being written about them either.

We all had a nice introductory chat and a few drinkies. One of Ivry's friends knew Emeric and he was at her first wedding. I was told her name but I have no idea how to spell it so I won't try to mention it here. I told them the news about the Blue Plaque for Emeric and they all agreed it was a worthwhile idea and promised to support the campaign in any way they could.

We went down to where they were showing the film. There was an introduction from the club president who talked a bit (quite knowledgeably) about P&P and Jack's work in general. Then, just before he asked Jack to say a few words, he added that they had decided to inaugurate "The Alexander Korda Award" for a distinguished contribution to the art of cinema in Britain - and that the first recipient would be Jack!

Jack said a few words and related a few anecdotes, this time about how they did the backings that were seen through the convent windows. It would have been very expensive to do them as colour photographs at the size needed so he suggested that they do them as B&W photographs but with a few pastels rubbed into them by the artists in the set designers department. A good example of why The Archers always did so well to use so many artists. He also related the tale about using a fog filter for the early morning scene after Sister Ruth has run away and how Technicolor said all the film was ruined (they demanded everything be very sharp and clear) but that when they saw the rushes, Micky said "That's exactly what I wanted" and, turning to the Technicolor people said "It's about time you learned about Art".

So then they ran the film. It was an old 16mm print from the BFI and as it was so valuable, the BFI had sent one of their projectionists to run the dual projectors. A bit scratched in a few places and only projected onto a medium sized screen (about 5x6 feet) so you didn't get the full effect but it was very nice.

A very appreciative audience, especially when they saw things like the vertiginous drop below the bell tower. I reminded them afterwards that it was just a painting (by W. Percy Day & Peter Ellenshaw)

After that we retired for a few more drinks & chats.

A Great Day


Other P&P trips