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1995 Press Relese
Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death)
Production Company: The Archers through J. Arthur Rank Films
Writers/Producers/Directors: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Cinematographer: Jack Cardiff
Camera Operator: Geoffrey Unsworth
Editor: Reginald Mills
Production Design: Alfred Junge
Assistant Art Director: Arthur Lawson
Costume Design: Hein Heckroth
Score: Allan Gray
Conducted by: Walter Goehr
Sound: C.C. Stevens
Associate Producer: George R. Busby
Assistant Director: Parry Jones Jr.
Special Effects: Douglas Woolsey and Henry Harris
Restoration: The British Film Institute
Processing and Prints: Rank Laboratories, London
(1946, 104 minutes, monochrome & color, 1.33:1, mono, rated PG)
CAST Peter Carter David Niven June Kim Hunter Dr. Frank Reeves Roger Livesey Abraham Farlan Raymond Massey Conductor 71 Marius Goring Bob Trubshaw Robert Coote Judge Abraham Sofaer Pilot Richard Attenborough Angel Kathleen Byron Chief Recorder Joan Maude Dr. McEwen Robert Atkins Mrs. Tucker Betty Potter USAF Captain Bonar Colleano
Columbia Pictures and Rank Film Distributors,
in Association with Martin Scorsese,
to re-release Powell and Pressburger's Stairway to Heaven
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's classic romantic fantasy Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death), originally produced and financed by the Rank Organization, will be re-released this spring by Columbia Pictures in association with Martin Scorsese. The film, which was recently restored by the British Film Institute, is being reissued in conjunction with the publication by Random House of Powell's autobiography, Million Dollar Movie, as well as a touring program of other Powell/Pressburger features sponsored by the BFI and Piper-Heidsieck champagne.
The film will have a premiere screening April 5th at New York's Museum of Modern Art, followed by a party at Dunhill's. The event will be hosted by Scorsese, Powell's great friend in his later years; Powell's widow, Academy Award-winning film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and several members of Pressburger's family. Similar events will follow on April 12th in Los Angeles and April 27th in San Francisco (the latter as the Centerpiece event of the city's annual Film Festival). Exclusive engagements begin April 14th at New York's Film Forum and Los Angeles' Nuart, April 21st at Chicago's Music Box and April 28th at San Francisco's Castro, with additional dates to follow in Boston, Seattle, Washington, San Diego, and other cities.
Though the film's actual title is A Matter of Life and Death, it was originally released for the U.S. as Stairway to Heaven. While Powell professed his preference for his own title, Stairway is the one most Americans know it as, so for this release, it was decided to simply use both. It will be shown in its complete version; the initial U.S. release was trimmed by several minutes, although a few uncut 16mm prints did find their way across the Atlantic in later years.
Written, produced and directed by Powell and Pressburger under their famed "Archers" banner and released in 1946, the picture was the filmmakers' response to the U.K. government's request to "do something" about the frayed Anglo-American relations in the immediate post-WW2 era. David Niven stars as an RAF squadron Leader forced to jump from his plane without a parachute. He miraculously survives, causing great consternation in Heaven; it turns out that one of the Collectors of Souls (Marius Goring) got lost in England's notorious fog. Niven is then forced to defend his life before what is truly the highest court of all.
Also in the cast are Kim Hunter as an American nurse [A WAC radio operator] with whom Niven falls in love (causing even more consternation "up there"), Raymond Massey as the prosecutor and Roger Livesey as a warm-hearted neurologist who believes Niven is delusional, yet winds up as his "defence attorney". A very young Richard Attenborough has a small role as another pilot. Legendary cinematographer Jack Cardiff photographed the film in both Technicolor (for scenes on Earth) and monochrome (for scenes in "the other place"); his camera operator Geoffrey Unsworth, himself went on to a distinguished career as an Academy Award-winning director of photography. Alfred Junge was production designer, Reginald Mills was editor, and Allan Gray composed the score.
When the picture opened in England, it was selected as the very first film to be shown as a Royal Command Performance. Over here, The New York Times' Bosley Crowther put it on his Ten Best list, calling it "indisputedly the best of the batch of Christmas shows. It's a delight!" Nearly half a century later, its charms have not diminished: Leonard Matlin's Movie Guide gives it four stars and calls it "an absolute original - and a gem", and Leslie Halliwell's Film Guide echoes the **** rating and notes, "it deserves full marks for its sheer arrogance, style, wit and film flair". Scorsese finds it "romantic, daring and beautifully realized", and Powell himself said it was his personal favourite of all their films.
While Columbia Pictures will release the film domestically through its Repertory Division, Rank Film Distributors will continue to handle the international Market.
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