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Stairway to Heaven (1946)

A Matter of Life and Death (original title)
PG | | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | March 1947 (USA)
A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court.
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1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Robert Coote ...
Bob
...
...
An English Pilot
Bonar Colleano ...
An American Pilot (as Bonor Colleano)
Joan Maude ...
Chief Recorder
Marius Goring ...
...
Robert Atkins ...
The Vicar
Bob Roberts ...
Dr. Gaertler
Edwin Max ...
Dr. Mc.Ewen
Betty Potter ...
Mrs Tucker
...
The Judge
...
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Storyline

Returning to England from a bombing run in May 1945, flyer Peter Carter's plane is damaged and his parachute ripped to shreds. He has his crew bail out safely, but figures it is curtains for himself. He gets on the radio, and talks to June, a young American woman working for the USAAF, and they are quite moved by each other's voices. Then he jumps, preferring this to burning up with his plane. He wakes up in the surf. It was his time to die, but there was a mixup in heaven. They couldn't find him in all that fog. By the time his "Conductor" catches up with him 20 hours later, Peter and June have met and fallen in love. This changes everything, and since it happened through no fault of his own, Peter figures that heaven owes him a second chance. Heaven agrees to a trial to decide his fate. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

THE NEAREST THING TO HEAVEN! (print ad - all caps) See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

March 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Matter of Life and Death  »

Box Office

Budget:

£320,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Color:

(Dye - Monochrome)| (Colour) (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

It was during a visit to Hollywood in 1945 that director Michael Powell decided to cast the then-unknown Kim Hunter as June, the American servicewoman, largely upon the recommendation of Alfred Hitchcock, who had done a series of screen tests of actors and actresses auditioning for parts in his upcoming production, Notorious (1946). The trouble was that in these tests, Hunter was not seen but, rather, heard off-camera, feeding lines and cues to the actors Hitchcock was actually testing. But Hitchcock assured Powell that he would arrange a "face-to-face" with Hunter and her agent, so that he could see for himself whether she fit the requirements of the "all-American" girl Powell had envisioned opposite David Niven. And upon first encountering Hunter, Powell agreed with Hitchcock that she indeed was a perfect choice for the role. See more »

Goofs

In several scenes the overseas hat worn by June has gold piping for an officer yet she was a Tech Sergeant. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: This is the universe. Big, isn't it?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Foreword (Scrolled up the screen at the start of the film): This is a story of two Worlds the one we know and another which exists only in the mind of a young airman whose life & imagination have been violently shaped by war [Pauses, then scrolls up to reveal] Any resemblance to any other world known or unknown is purely coincidental. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Pleasantville (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Scherzo
(1842) (uncredited)
from "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op.61"
Written by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Played on a record at the Shakespeare rehearsal
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Between heaven and earth
19 September 2005 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

The great talents of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger are noticeable in their wonderful "A Matter of Life and Death". It was part of the recent tribute to Mr. Powell that played at the Walter Reade in New York. This film, in particular, shows us one of the best British films from that, or any other era.

"A Matter of Life and Death" has a brilliant cinematography by Jack Cardiff, a man who knew how to work wonders with a camera. Particularly impressive is the contrast from the monochromatic tones given to the scenes played in heaven, and the colored ones when the action comes back to earth. This was quite a coup, and well ahead of its times. The black and white sequence that involves the long staircase where Peter and the Conductor are chatting has to be one of the most amazing things on any film.

Much has been said in this forum about the film, so our comment will be about the great acting Powell and Pressberger got out of the large, distinguished cast, who responded magnificently to the directors' guidance.

David Niven, is Peter, whose aircraft is hit and his best friend dies as a result of it. This film marked one of the highlights in Mr. Niven's career. He was an excellent film actor as he shows us in this movie. Kim Hunter is surprisingly good as June, the woman who talked to Peter as his plane was falling from the skies. As fate would have it, Peter and June fall in love at first sight.

Some of the best British film actors grace this film with their presence. Robert Coote, is Bob, the man who is admitted to heaven, but he is surprised his friend Peter never made the trip with him. An excellent star turn by Marius Goring, who as the Conductor 71 steals the film. Mr. Goring, who had worked with the directors, is one of the best things in the movie. Also, Roger Livesey, as Dr. Frank Reeves, does one of the best appearances of his career, as well as Raymond Massey, who is seen as Abraham Farlan.

"A Matter of Life and Death" is a timeless film that will always be seen with gratitude toward its creators.


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