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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Fascinating trivia (and any goofs) connected with the film

- Powell and Pressburger began the project after hearing Sir Thomas Beecham playing the score on piano and singing all of the parts (he wasn't a great singer) one afternoon at Powell's hotel, La Voile d'Or. Luckily, (or maybe not) part of this performance was captured on film.

- As Spalanzinni (Massine) calls for a harp to accompany Olympia (Shearer) he pirouettes too sharply and a bow flies off his wig. During the "I've Got Eyes" aria, Coppelius (Helpmann) slips slightly as he rushes round the bed, but he recovers so well they probably thought nobody would notice.

- As Olympia (Shearer) dances and sings (mimes) the "Doll Song" she neglects to mime to the voice of Dorothy Bond when the dancing gets tricky.

- When the mechanical doll Olympia (Shearer) is pulled apart her body in a black full body stocking is visible (especially if the brightness is turned up too high).

- Sir Thomas Beecham gave the first UK performance of The Tales of Hoffmann in 1910, and, as its leading authority, not only gave the idea to Powell & Pressburger but also became the musical director, personally auditioning over 50 singers.

- The final shot of Sir Thomas Beecham closing the score and the cover being stamped "Made in England" was especially suitable in the year of the Festival of Britain exhibition.

- It's not actually Sir Thomas who stamps the cover (as is usually reported) but someone leaning over from the orchestra side of the conductor's rostrum - the sleeve is different.

- The New York première was held at the Metropolitan Opera House in aid of the American Red Cross.

- Awarded the Special Prize for Originality of Lyrical Adaptation to Film at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival.

- The Archers released the pre-recorded soundtrack as a 3 LP boxed set, complete with a brochure, [and apparently, as a box of a dozen 45 rpm records (the recording industry was in a period of transition, and it wasn't clear in 1951 which format, 45 rpm "singles" or 33 and 1/3 rpm LPs, would dominate) although I've never seen the version on the 45s]. Beecham had exclusive contracts with EMI in England and Columbia Records in America, and he and the two labels went to court to suppress the soundtrack release, but The Archers won the case. Oddly enough, The Tales of Hoffmann became the first commercially available LP version of the Offenbach opera, and Beecham's first operatic release on LP.

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