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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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Round the British Studios
Picture Show, December 8th, 1956
By: Edith Nepean

It was an exciting day in the Rank Organisation studios at Pinewood. Early morning mists were drifting across the grizzly fir trees of the mighty Alps Maritime. A realistic link with the sequence taken on location. A band of khaki-clad men, one in a red beret, were trying their hardest to kidnap an elusive general for a scene in the latest Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger production, "Ill Met By Moonlight".

Michael Powell, the director, never spares himself when making a picture. Before he started on his latest film, off he went to Crete. Though speaking little of the language, he walked over the island, sleeping in dry river-beds, re-living the experience of a classic wartime adventure. And now, with Emeric Pressburger, he strives to bring this suspensful adventure story to the screen, preserving the authenticity and spirit of the exploit and the men who made it possible.

"It was in 1944," Michael Powell explained, "and Crete had been occupied by the Germans for three years. British secret agents had been busy organising bands to fight the Germans. But though the Allies were winning the war, they were not ready to free Crete. So two British Special Service officers, Major Patrick Leigh-Fermor, played by Dirk Bogarde, and Captain William Stanley Moss, played by David Oxley, planned a spectacular gesture to keep up Cretan morale. It was to kidnap General Karl Kreipe *, a german Commander-in-Chief, from his headquarters, and smuggle him off the island to British headquarters, Cairo. This part is played by Marius Goring. Both Leigh-Fermor and Moss were two highly intelligent Guards officers. They enlisted the help of Britain's chief agent and of picked Cretan partisans.

"The kidnapping was successfully carried out one night as the general drove from his headquarters back to the Villa Ariadne. The party took to the mountains to make their way to the south coast, where they hoped to make a rendezvous with a British motor-launch. Then followed a hazardous escape through the mountains and the German picket lines, with 20,000 troops in hot persuit. And thus follows on the story of breathless adventure."

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger share joint responsibility for the triple function of writing, producing and directing all their productions. On a working basis Emeric Pressburger writes and Michael Powell directs, and they produce together. Their films include "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp", "A Matter of Life and Death" ("Stairway to Heaven" in America), "Oh! Rosalinda!!" and "The Battle of the River Plate", which had the honour of being chosen for this year's Royal Film Performance.

Dark-haired, dark-eyed Dirk Bogarde looked very tough and unshaven in khaki, wearing a dashing red beret. But nothing in the world can disguise Dirk's charm and lovable personality. "I am thoroughly enjoying my part as 'Paddy' Leigh-Fermor," he told me.

This role is in complete contrast to his characterisation of a simple, dignified Spanish peasant boy in "The Spanish Gardener".

"Ill Met By Moonlight" is Dirk Bogarde's twenty-fourth film in nine years of screen stardom. I am longing to see him in a real heart-throb romanc, I do hope one will be found for him soon. He, too, would like such a part for a change.

It was a great pleasure to meet Marius Goring in our studios again. Too long has he been away. Who can forget his brilliant work as the young composer in the Michael Powell production, "The Red Shoes"?

Marius Goring, played the part of General Karl Kreipe, looks very handsome in the be-ribboned uniform of a German general.

"I have been so busy with television," he told me, "that I have had little time for anything else." He starred in a series of TV films as "The Scarlet Pimpernel", "I am glad to get back into films again," he said, "and also I shall be happy to be back on the stage. When this picture is finished, I shall start rehearsals for a play, which has been held back until I completed this film."

Tall, dark and handsome David Oxley is another fine young actor whom I met on the set in Pinewood. He gets his first big screen chance as the irresistable Guards officer, Captain "Billy" W. Stanley-Moss. "It was five years ago," he told me, "that Michael Powell gave me my first film part in 'The Elusive Pimpernel'. Since then I have had a great deal of stage experience. I have also made a number of television appearances. I am enjoying my part in 'Ill Met By Moonlight' enormously. It is an exciting and strenuous one. The locations were set amid very fine scenery. Our headquarters were in the South of France."

Music, as we all know, adds greatly to the dramatic or romantic value of a picture. You will hear some fine music in "Ill Met By Moonlight" by the Greek composer, Mikis Theodorakis, which was played by the Athens Symphony Orchestra.

Attractive Michael Gough, recently voted the Best Television Actor of the Year by the Guild of Television Producers and Directors, has the ability, so it would appear, to play every type of part, romantic, sinister and otherwise! In his latest film he becomes a Cretan partisan, Andoni.

The Irish actor Cyril Cusack is a British secret radio operator, Sandy Rendel. It is certainly a brilliant interbational all-actors cast, no beguiling blondes or sultry brunettes. Laurence Payne is Manoli, and Wolfe Morris, George, the two principal Cretan lieutenants to the British officers. I also met Ronald Barthrop, as Micky Akoumianakis, who was Britain's chief agent in Herakleion, John Cairney plays Elias, a young student and Micky's helper. The Greek actor Paul Stassino plays bandit chief Yanni Katsias; Canadian-born Adeeb Assaly plays Zahari, an Anglicised Cretan; Brian Worth is Stratis, a Greek policeman and secret partisan; and Howard Marion Crawford is the British port officer.

* The General was never identified by his first name in the film. In the credits he is referred to as Maj. Gen. Kreipe. In real life he was Generalmajor Heinrich Kreipe. Calling him Karl seems to have been an invention of the Rank publicity department. Back

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