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.

I make no money from this site, it's purely for the love of the films.

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

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From: Al Hirst

Steve Crook wrote:

> In fact at one of them someone asked the
> killer question "Why do the people here
> like Powell (& Pressburger) films?" so
> I thought I'd ask you lot. We went around
> the room all giving a varied but interesting
> set of answers.

The first PnP film I can remember seeing was 49th P. It was at a Saturday matinee and I was twelve. I just loved it and was completely caught up in the adventure and, of course, the Canadian setting was an added thrill! I can still recall the suspense of the final scenes with Raymond Massey and Eric Portman and how delighted we all were when Portman (the Nazi) was refused entry into the USA (still a neutral power) on a technicality - not being listed on the bill-of-lading I believe. At twelve age my critical faculties did not extend much beyond the adventurous aspects of the film. In those days my two favourite adventure films were The Adventure of Robin Hood (Flynn) and The Four Feathers (Clements and Richardson) - as a matter of fact they still are so I haven't developed much!!

A few years later my pal and I went to see TLADOCB. I have since come to appreciate it's many artistic qualities more than I did at that initial viewing but even then PnP's device used to depict elapsed time literally took my breath away - Candy diving into the pool as a young man and emerging at the other end middle-aged!! Wow!! Even at the time I appreciated the cleverness economy and sheer innovation (which has become a hallmark of PnP). I suppose this has been copied in various ways, and so often, that some may feel I overreacted but this was the first time I had seen something that some filmmakers would have taken pages to accomplish done in one sentence, so to speak.PnP's ability to keep the viewer's interest for 3 hours in a film laden with complex plotting and characterizations is, I believe, a wonderful artistic achievement. An aside - the fact that Roger Livesey starred was an added bonus - I'd seen him in 1938 or 39 in Drums and, being 8 or 9 yrs old really liked him!!

I liked him even more in IKWIG. This film sealed the matter!! The beautiful BnW cinematography, the lovely and yet muscular script, the humaneness of the characters and the romantic, wistful allure together, of course, with the simple but ever-present dilemna of the plot - will true love emerge victorious over the protagonist's desire for security and high position? Who can forget the fairytale train journey with the beautiful title song and wedding dress shimmering away as a prelude to the dream in which Joan tries to justify her decision to marry for money and station, the celeidh, the Hebridean setting and the magical ending!! The sheer wonder of the whole project! This may not be PnP's greatest achievement but I'd be willing to bet it's their most loved! An acquaintance of mine who operates a Vintage Video store here in Toronto told me that an elderly lady came into his shop (7 or 8 years ago) and when during the course of their conversation discovered he actually had it in stock actually wept. Bridget Fonda when visiting Toronto dropped in to browse around, discovered it, and bought 5 or 6 copies to distribute to friends.

Anyway, I suspect I'm going on too long so just let me say that all of the other PnPs I've seen-- Spy in Black, Contraband and especially TRS, BN, AMOLAD have all given me, to various degrees, captivating moments in the Cinema and on DVD and have reinforced my opinion that film "when done right" is the art form of our time - and PnP "did it right"!! - and Jack Cardiff didn't hurt, either.

A slight quibble - I don't feel that to admire PnP necessarily means denigrating others e.g. David Lean, Carol Reed et al - The more great film makers the richer we all are, don't you think? I agree PnP deserved to be Knighted - so does Albert Finney to name another. But that's a different discussion.

Al Hirst

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