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.

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

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John Sweet (8 February 1916 - 5 July 2011)

Len Smith & John Sweet in Fordwich Town Hall

Sheila Sim & John Sweet at the Marlowe Theatre

Barbara Sweet emailed me to say that John had died

Dear Steve,

I know that we have been out of touch for quite a while and I'm
sorry. I changed e-mail addresses and things got lost. I'm writing
now to tell you that John died on Tuesday July 5. He hasn't been very
well for the last several months and his body just gave out. He died
peacefully home here with me.

I hope things are going well for you.

My best regards to all.

Barbara Sweet


Steve Crook writes:
John was of course the G.I. in A Canterbury Tale (1944).

He was a real G.I., not a professional actor, working on Eisenhower's staff helping with the preparations for D-Day. He did a bit of amateur theatricals and it was in a Red Cross production for the troops that he was spotted by Michael Powell who realised that he would be perfect for the role of the American in their next film, A Canterbury Tale.

After the film was made, John went with the troops to Europe to do his bit for freedom & democracy. When he was able to be spared from his work for the Army he did a bit of promotional work for the film - there was even an article about him in Life magazine (June 26th, 1944).

He tried out for a few other films but nobody else could see his charm and he never got the jobs. After the war he tried out for a few theatre jobs, but they never quite panned out either. So he went back to his pre-war job of teaching and would have remained buried in obscurity if Paul Tritton hadn't tracked him down when he was researching his book A Canterbury Tale - Memories of a Classic Wartime Movie.

John & Barbara were eventually persuaded to come and visit England again and in October 2000 they did just that. John Sweet and Sheila Sim (Lady Attenborough) had their red carpet moment and were pleased to see that the cinema was full, even on a wet Monday in Canterbury. The next day we took John back to a lot of the locations where they had made that film all those years before.

Sweet by name, he was sweet by nature. A lovely man.

R.I.P. John


Eddie McMillan writes:
I was very saddened to hear that John Sweet had passed away. When Nick Burton and I interviewed John for our 'A Pilgrims Return' documentary in 2000, what struck us most about him was his humility, honesty and gentle nature.

We met John, back in 2000 when he came to Canterbury for a screening of A Canterbury Tale where he was reunited with Lady Attenborough for the first time in 56 years. As he was here and we had access to him, we realised very quickly that it would be a great idea to interview him. So we arranged the shoot and completed the whole thing in less than two hours! John proved to be a wonderful interviewee, lucid, candid and perceptive. He talked enthusiastically about Canterbury, the production of A Canterbury Tale, celebrity culture and his life after the film.

He will be remembered fondly for his wonderful portrayal of Sgt. Bob Johnson in A Canterbury Tale, the good-natured American soldier who touches all around him with his seemingly naive charm, empathetic nature and initial cultural differences which were not that different after all. As Thelma Schoonmaker communicated to me about our documentary "John Sweet was so interesting and also moving. His values perfectly echo what A Canterbury Tale is about".

John bequeathed his ACT archive to the department and this includes various press cuttings, photographs and his precious and insightful diary of the production.

He was a lovely man and he will be sadly missed.

Eddie McMillan

Powell Research Group
Department of Media
Canterbury Christ Church University

Other P&P obituaries