Edit
Michael Powell Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trivia (25) | Personal Quotes (19) | Salary (9)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 30 September 1905Bekesbourne, Kent, England, UK
Date of Death 19 February 1990Avening, Gloucestershire, England, UK  (cancer)
Birth NameMichael Latham Powell
Nickname Mickey
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)

Mini Bio (1)

The son of Thomas William Powell & Mabel (nee Corbett). Michael Powell was always a self confessed movie addict. He was brought up partly in Canterbury ("The Garden of England") and partly in the South of France (where his parents ran an hotel). Educated at Kings School, Canterbury & Dulwich College he first worked at the National Provincial Bank from 1922 - 1925. In 1925 he joined Rex Ingram making Mare Nostrum (1926). He learnt his craft by working at various jobs in the (then) thriving English studios of Denham & Pinewood, working his way up to director on a series of "quota quickies" (Short films made to fulfil quota/tariff agreements between Britain & America in between the wars). Very rarely for the times he had a true "world view" and although in the mould of a classic English Gentleman he was always a citizen of the World. It was therefore very fitting that he should team up with an émigré Hungarian Jew Emeric Pressburger, a foreigner who understood the English better than they did themselves. Between them, under the banner of "The Archers" they shared joint credits for an important series of films through the 1940s & 1950s. Powell went on to make Peeping Tom (1960) which was so slated by the critics at the time, he couldn't work in England, UK for a very long time. He was "re-discovered" in the late 1960s & after Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese tried to set up joint projects with him. In 1980, he lectured at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. He was Senior Director in Residence at Zoetrope studio in 1981. He married Thelma Schoonmaker. He died of cancer back in his beloved England in 1990.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Spouse (3)

Thelma Schoonmaker (19 May 1984 - 19 February 1990) (his death)
Frankie Reidy (1 July 1943 - 5 July 1983) (her death) (2 children)
Gloria Mary Rouger (1927 - 1927) (divorced)

Trivia (25)

Ian Christie of the BFI has also written two books about him: "Powell, Pressburger and others" and "Arrows of Desire" both published through the BFI, London.
1978: Awarded Hon DLitt, University of East Anglia.
1978: Awarded Hon DLitt, University of Kent.
1981: Made fellow of BAFTA.
1983: Made fellow of the British Film Institute (BFI).
1987: Awarded Hon Doctorate, Royal College of Arts.
In "Who's Who", he listed his recreation as "Leaning on gates".
Kevin Gough-Yates pioneered the recovery of Powell's and Emeric Pressburger's reputations in Europe. He organized the first major retrospective of their works in 1970 at the National Film Theatre in London and published the seminal interview "Michael Powell in Collaboration with Emeric Pressburger". In 1973 Gough-Yates organized the Europalia exhibition at the Royal Film Archive, Belgium, and featured the Powell/Pressburger films as its main focus. Another important interview with Powell was again published. Subsequently he was the main catalyst in getting the films known throughout Europe.
2002: The Donostia-San Sebastián film festival included a retrospective showing 43 films by Powell. This was the largest number of his films that has ever been seen in one place -- so far.
Ian Christie of the British Film Institute (BFI) has led a revival of interest in Powell's work. He has organized many Michael Powell Seasons at the BFI/NFT (British Film Institute/National Film Theatre) and initiated restoration work on many of Powell's classic films that were thought to be lost in their original form.
1970: The BFI held its first Powell and Emeric Pressburger retrospective. Fourteen films were shown and the booklet "Michael Powell in Collaboration with Emeric Pressburger" by Kevin Gough-Yates was published to accompany the season.
1978: The BFI held a complete retrospective showing all the extant works of Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The book "Powell, Pressburger and Others" by Ian Christie was published to accompany this.
Was voted the 22nd Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
When he was in Crete to prepare the set of Night Ambush (1957) he wore a kilt. Seeing that, the inhabitants of the island thought he was "a Scottish general asking odd questions about partisans".
Was introduced to his wife Thelma Schoonmaker by Martin Scorsese.
1957: Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival.
Powell has been quoted as saying that A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate (1923) had a very critical impact on his career.
He and his first wife Gloria only stayed together for three weeks before they decided to get a divorce.
Although he was still married to Frankie Reidy, he lived for some years with Pamela Brown until her death in 1975.
Upon his death, his remains were interred at Holy Cross Churchyard in Avening, Gloucestershire, England.
The Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival is named in honour of Michael Powell.
Powell was an artist in residence at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in the early Eighties.
2014: An English Heritage Blue Plaque was erected to commemorate Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger at their old offices in London. The plaque was unveiled by Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker.
He directed Esmond Knight in seven films: : Someday (1935), Blackout (1940), A Canterbury Tale (1944), Black Narcissus (1947), The Red Shoes (1948), Gone to Earth (1950) and The Boy Who Turned Yellow (1972). He co-directed all but the first two and last with Emeric Pressburger.

Personal Quotes (19)

I make films for myself. What I express I hope most people will understand. For the rest, well, that's their problem.
My master in film, Buñuel, [Luis Buñuel] was a far greater storyteller than I. It was just that in my films miracles occur on the screen.
[of his wife Frankie] In fact, if only I had been the perfect husband, she would have been the perfect wife.
We decided to go ahead with [David O. Selznick] the way hedgehogs make love: verrry carefully!
For ten years we had all been told to go out and die for freedom and democracy; but now the war was over. The Red Shoes (1948) told us to go out and die for art.
Actors and technicians were being demobbed [demobilized] every day. Very soon the only ham actor left in the combined forces would be General George S. Patton.
The great innovators have always been fearless . . . I have fallen off haystacks, out of trees, over cliffs. I have been nearly drowned, shot and hanged. I have been in countless car crashes without getting a scratch. I have been alone in an office with Louis B. Mayer.
Art is merciless observation, sympathy, imagination, and a sense of detachment that is almost cruelty.
Everyone has heard of Canterbury if only because they murder archbishops there.
[interview in Midi-Minuit Fantastique, Oct. 1968] I live cinema. I chose the cinema when I was very young, 16 years old, and from then on my memories virtually coincide with the history of the cinema . . . I'm not a director with a personal style, I am simply cinema. I have grown up with and through cinema; everything that I've had in the way of education has been through the cinema; insofar as I'm interested in images, in books, in music, it's all due to the cinema.
[1987] I got my first assignment as a director in 1927. I was slim, arrogant, intelligent, foolish, shy, cocksure, dreamy and irritating. Today, I'm no longer slim.
[After Peeping Tom (1960)] When they got me on my own [the critics] gleefully sawed off the limb and jumped up and down on the corpse.
The truth lies in black and white.
Seventy years ago there were men like D.W. Griffith and seventy years later - now - there are not many men like Martin Scorsese. But so long as there is one there will be others, and the art of the cinema will survive.
I am the teller of the tale, not the creator of the story.
Of course, all films are surrealist. They are because they are making something that looks like a real world but isn't.
The only genius in films was Walt Disney.
[on Deborah Kerr] Deborah Kerr is enormously sensitive and responds to a director particularly. I think she could have gone on to become a very great actress, but she went on as a contract artist with MGM for just too long.
[on Walt Disney] He was one of the great innovators of film. One of the things I liked was when talkies came in, a lot of the timing of silent films went out of the window and nobody made those marvelous slapstick comedies anymore because there were only verbal jokes. But Disney kept on making those wonderful cartoons for at least another ten years so he kept the whole idea of film comedy and narrative through image alive. People don't realize that they owe an enormous lot to him.

Salary (9)

77 Park Lane (1931) £300
The Man Behind the Mask (1936) £1,000
The Edge of the World (1937) £1,000 (for screenplay)
Contraband (1940) £2,000
One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942) £3,000
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) £2,500 + 12.5% of profits
A Matter of Life and Death (1946) £5,000 + 12.5% of profits
The Red Shoes (1948) 18.75% of profits
Oh... Rosalinda!! (1955) £6,500

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page