Sunday, 10 February 2019

FILM 1939: A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH


FILM 1939: A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

TRIVIA: The huge escalator linking this World with the Other, called "Operation Ethel" by the firm of engineers who constructed her under the aegis of the London Passenger Transport Board, took three months to make, and cost three thousand pounds sterling (in 1946). "Ethel" had one hundred six steps, each twenty feet wide, and was driven by a twelve horsepower engine. The full shot was completed by hanging miniatures.

The first scene shot was David Niven washing up on the beach. Originally planned to fade in from black, Michael Powell decided on the spot that the effect would be too cheesy. When Jack Cardiff told him to look through the camera, Cardiff then deliberately breathed right onto the lens, which fogged the glass for a few seconds until it evaporated. Powell loved the idea and had him use it for the shot.

The premiere (November 1, 1946), at the Empire, Leicester Square, London was held in the presence of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and became the first Royal Film Performance.

For the ping pong scene, Kim Hunter and Roger Livesey were trained by Alan Brooke, the British champion who played many games with International Champion Victor Barna. During a visit to Denham Studios the two champions played a couple of games before an admiring audience of artists and technicians. For luck, Hunter borrowed one of Brooke's tournament paddles for her movie game.

The inspiration for Peter's medical condition came from the semi-autobiographical novel "A Journey Round My Skull" by Hungarian novelist Frigyes Karinthy. More precise medical detail came from Emeric Pressburger's research in the British Library and consultations with Michael Powell's brother in law, Dr. Joe Reidy, who was a plastic surgeon in London.

J.K. Rowling has cited this movie as her favorite movie of all time.

Sir Richard Attenborough (An English Pilot) only has one line: "It's Heaven, isn't it?"

During his "final" radio broadcast, Peter tells June that he is twenty-six-years-old. David Niven was actually thirty-six when this movie was made, and twelve years older than Kim Hunter.

Crispus Attucks was a black American killed in the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770.

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.


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