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A Canterbury Tale (1944)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Mystery | 21 January 1949 (USA)
A 'Land Girl', an American GI, and a British soldier find themselves together in a small Kent town on the road to Canterbury. The town is being plagued by a mysterious "glue-man", who pours... See full summary »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Sheila Sim ...
...
Peter Gibbs
John Sweet ...
Bob Johnson (as Sergt. John Sweet U.S. Army)
...
Narrator (non-US versions) / Seven-Sisters Soldier / Village Idiot
Charles Hawtrey ...
Thomas Duckett
Hay Petrie ...
Woodcock
George Merritt ...
Ned Horton
Edward Rigby ...
Jim Horton
Freda Jackson ...
Prudence Honeywood
Betty Jardine ...
Fee Baker
Eliot Makeham ...
Organist
Harvey Golden ...
Sergt. Roczinsky
Leonard Smith ...
Leslie
James Tamsitt ...
Terry
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Storyline

A 'Land Girl', an American GI, and a British soldier find themselves together in a small Kent town on the road to Canterbury. The town is being plagued by a mysterious "glue-man", who pours glue on the hair of girls dating soldiers after dark. The three attempt to track him down, and begin to have suspicions of the local magistrate, an eccentric figure with a strange, mystical vision of the history of England in general and Canterbury in particular. Written by David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Four modern pilgrims in a story of today - yet away from war.

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Mystery | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

21 January 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Canterbury mesék  »

Box Office

Budget:

$650,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the first box-office flop that the team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger had, and it was unseen and unavailable for many years before being rediscovered in the late 1970s. It was only after that that people began to question whether or not Stanley Kubrick had seen it prior to making his famous success, "2001 - A Space Odyssey". Certainly, the opening of this film, where a falcon is released from a falconer's wrist in the 14th-century prologue, flies into the air out of shot and seems to turn into a World War II RAF plane as the modern sequences that take up the rest of the film begin, is very similar to the famous moment in "2001" where a bone, flung into the air by the prehistoric ape-man Moonwatcher at the end of the film's first section, is transformed by a single cut into a space-craft moving through space, to usher in the second section, set some four million years later. Neither Kubrick nor Powell ever confirmed this apparent influence. See more »

Quotes

[Lost in a heavily bombed Canterbury]
Passer-by: It is an awful mess, I don't blame you for not knowing where you are. But you get a very good view of the Cathedral now.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

Onward Christian Soldiers
(uncredited)
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Lyrics by Sabine Baring-Gould
Sung in the cathedral
See more »

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User Reviews

 
One of the best, from two of the best filmmakers, ever.
30 July 2006 | by (Jackson Heights, NY) – See all my reviews

Here's another rich and wonderful piece of movie-making from the Powell/Pressburger team--as well as a lovely little time capsule of WWII Britain: the land girls, small town England, and what real patriotism is all about (unlike the sleazy variety much of America and some of Britain are currently experiencing). Made in 1944, while the war still raged, A CANTERBURY TALE is a discovery as good as anything I've seen from this amazing film-making team. Beginning with a lovely link to Chaucer's tales, it uses a marvelous quick cut between like objects that may remind you of something Stanley Kubrick is now heralded for doing (nearly a quarter-century later!), it then moves ahead to tell the story of four people whose paths cross to a purpose.

Full of quiet surprise and a lead character (Colpeper) who is enormously problematic, the film makes you look, listen, think and feel intently. (For me, cinema can't provide much more.) As the movie seems to meander along, it is actually picking up an enormous head of steam which will--at the end--let loose a blast of patriotism, pride, beauty, sound, architecture and spirituality. Regarding the latter, I do not refer to the fact that the finale is set in a cathedral--as beautiful and symbolic as this one may be. This film rises above any stricture of creed because of the honest humanism of its creators.

This is a "war film," as it appears from the view of civilians who remain at home. Among other things, it shows that, while a civilian population in wartime must give up a great deal, the rewards can be commensurate. (Concerning Iraq, this is something Americans at home have not yet begun to learn or do.) This astonishing film stands, after more than sixty years, as one of those rewards.


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