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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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Director's Guild of Great Britain Honours Michael Powell

What a lovely Sunday Nicky & I had.

Well I certainly had a great time & she didn't complain either :)

But she made a few corrections to what I said

The occasion was that the Director's Guild of Great Britain had finally decided to honour Michael Powell with a plaque on his house in Melbury Road.

I say finally because it was about 3 years ago that Ian Christie first mentioned that it was being mooted.

Note that it's to honour only Michael, no mention of Emeric !! :(

Also that it's only a Director's Guild plaque, Micky's not eligible for his English Heritage Blue Plaque until 2005.

Directors Guild plaque at Melbury Road
Directors Guild plaque
on Micky's old house
The Directors Guild decided not to have any part of the event at Melbury Road itself (it's quite narrow & has a lot of traffic and they didn't want to risk any accidents) but I went there & took a few photos of the house with it's new plaque, just under the Blue Plaque for Marcus Stone (1840-1921), artist who lived there from 1877-1921. It's one of 4 Blue Plaques in that small road, There was quite a thriving artistic community there at the turn of the last century. Fuller view of Micky's old house at Melbury Road
Fuller view of
Micky's old house

So on to the Electric Cinema in the Portobello Road for a screening of Peeping Tom (1960). They decided to show this I presume because it was filmed in Melbury Road.

Maybe also because it's the best known film that Michael did that Emeric wasn't at all involved in?

Nicky and I were there as Thelma's guests (she'd invited Paul Tritton but he couldn't make it). Nicky had already arrived by the time I arrived (only a few minutes late) and the cinema manager was giving an introduction.

Nicky: Not the cinema manager, but the director of the Director's Guild

Steve: That's the trouble with being a few minutes late :)

Nicky: He said that PT had been chosen because EP wasn't involved and they wanted it to be MP's day. Also because it was filmed locally. He said that he had contacted English Heritage about plaques but had realied that 'this wasn't going to happen in my lifetime' so decide what the Guild could do.

Steve: Is he planning on dying before 2005 then? That's when we plan to have the English Heritage Blue Plaque on Melbury Road for Micky. We plan to have Emeric's plaque in Eaton Square in 2002/3.

He then introduced Ian Christie & Thelma Schoonmaker (who had flown in from Italy where she's finishing off Scorsese's latest masterpiece, The Gangs of New York. Sadly Marty wasn't with her).

Ian spoke about the cinema and it's Powell (& Pressburger) connection. It was one of the few places that showed P&P films through the dark days of the sixties & early seventies when they were all but forgotten. Ian said that he saw most of the P&P films there for the first time, often savagely cut & sometimes only in black & white (when they were meant to be in Technicolor)

Thelma then introduced a few people sitting in the audience such as :-
Columba Powell who played young Mark in the film
Anna Massey who played Helen
Jack Cardiff, direct from his Oscar parties
Kathleen Byron, the mad nun herself
Elena Marks, widow of Leo
Freddie Francis, camera operator on SBR, GTE & TEP

Nicky: And Marius Goring's widow Prudence

Steve: That's another name I missed by being late :(

Thelma said they'd invited Noreen Ackland (editor of PT, assistant editor on TRS, SBR, TEP, ToH & IllMet) and Shirley Ann Field (Diane Ashley, the fainting actress in PT) but they hadn't made it.

Lady Freyberg had told me she'd been invited but wasn't there. Maybe she was put off because the event seemed to be deliberately ignoring Emeric.

Then we watched the film.

It's always lovely to see these films on a full size screen as they were meant to be seen, none of these cineplex sized screens thank you :)
You see so much more than on the video or DVD as well. Although they're fine for reference and of course it's better to see the films on a small screen than not at all.

You all know the standard unanswered questions (or if you don't, check them at /FAQ/FAQ31.html)

There are quite a few continuity errors as well, a lot were probably due to the very restricted budget but even so, some shouldn't have slipped through. These are listed at /Reviews/60_PT/PT00.html.

Anna, Thelma, Columba & Ian on stage at the Electric When it was finished and the applause died down, Ian & Thelma went back up onto the stage and were joined by Anna & Columba (very brave of Columba who's quite shy by nature) to answer any questions about the film.

Anna was the main target as most of the others had been quite thoroughly grilled (in documentaries or at live sessions) before. She said that although it was her first film, it was 40 years ago (shades of Col Blimp "40 years ago <gurgle gurgle>") so she couldn't remember everything. She did remember being given quite a long rehearsal time though and that a lot of the takes were quite long. As she had only done theatre work before this didn't surprise her. It was only as she did more films she realised how unusual this was :)

It was especially important for the scenes with Esmond Knight that everyone be well rehearsed so that he knew where everyone was (he was almost completely blind) and Anna said that there was certainly no improvisation on her part.

This was confirmed by someone behind us who had been an actor in PT. I didn't catch his name (was it given?) I think he was the one who was showing Diane Ashley the trunks.

Although Leo was on the set & probably discussed things with Micky as they went along so there may have been some last minute changes in other scenes.

One of the biggest differences from the original plan was in using Carl Boehm instead of someone like Bogarde or Laurence Harvey as was originally planned. Carl's accent made it very unusual but he made a most sympathetic & understandable serial killer.

Ian talked for a while about the reviews, reminding us that it was the liberal, left-wing Tribune that gave the worst review of all, the one saying "The only really satisfactory way to dispose of Peeping Tom would be to shovel it up and flush it swiftly down the nearest sewer. Even then, the stench would remain..." - Derek Hill, Tribune, 1960. There are a few more of the killer reviews listed at /Reviews/60_PT/PT_Killers.html

But he also reminded us that the trade reviews were quite reasonable. It was just that the distributors decided not to support it.

Soon after that the cinema manager came back in saying that he had to show a film to make some money for the place so we retired to an upstairs bar across the road.

Anna had to dash off, her husband wasn't well apparently. Shame, I'd have liked to have had a word with her. Not only about PT but about her dear old Dad as well.

But a few glasses of wine helped lubricate things and soon everyone was chatting and schmoozing like professionals :)

I had a nice chat with Elena Marks, commiserating on the death of Leo (without mentioning their divorce) saying that I'd met him at the opening of the Violette Szabo museum and had hoped to talk more about his film work. She said she'd like to stay in touch & I gave her my card.
I must get some PaPAS cards done, my normal business cards aren't really suitable for that sort of occasion.

I had a quick catching up of news & gossip with Columba, Ian & Nick Burton from UKCCC (home of The Michael Powell Building)

I had a word with Jack, congratulating him and asking if he was enjoying this resurgence of fame (he is so far). He said to say hello to Natacha who organised that event in Oxford in 1999.

I had a brief word with Thelma and when I mentioned the letter I'd written to the BFI about BN (screen going blue instead of black as Sister Ruth faints) she introduced me to a nice man from the BFI :)

Oh so many nice people and a great time.

Eventually people began to drift away so Nicky & I made our way back to the tube station. I'd left my car near Melbury Road so was getting the tube back to it. But we were so busy talking we didn't notice that I wanted to go the other way. No matter, it was a nice day for a diversion :)

Then today I got an email from a Jo Botting at the BFI who tells me they've "initiated a comparison of the print with original nitrate material in the archive. We will inform you of the results"
[I've since been told they do agree they got it wrong and are withdrawing the current print until they can do another one.
See letter from the BFI.]

She also reminds me that the newsletter that the NFT sent out recently says that they are ending the "Treasures from the National Film and Television Archive" series (which is what most of the P&P screenings get listed under) she suggests we complain to the NFT !!

I think that'll just about do for today. I'll nip off home now to be bright eyed for Jack (& Ian) at the Prince Charles tomorrow.

I said this is going to be a busy month :)


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