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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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Complete credited cast:
Robert Coote ...
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
Abraham Sofaer ...
The Judge


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


Neither Heaven nor Earth could keep them apart! See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

March 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Matter of Life and Death  »

Box Office


£320,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)


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

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The backcloth of the High Court scene, suggesting tiers of seats stretching into infinity, measured 350 feet long and 40 feet high. Altogether 8 backcloths of similar large dimensions were used in Other World scenes, and 29 elaborate sets were constructed. In all these vast scenes 5,375 crowd artistes were used, including real R.A.F. crews, Red Cross nurses and W.A.A.C.s. See more »


In the end credits, Bonar Colleano's name is misspelt Bonor Colleano. See more »


[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 »


Referenced in Pleasantville (1998) See more »


Shoo Shoo Baby
(1943) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Phil Moore
Sung on the radio by an unidentified man at the trial
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Timeless Classic
21 December 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Few movies can be viewed almost 60 years later, yet remain as engrossing as this one. Technological advances have not dated this classic love story. Special effects used are remarkable for a 1946 movie. The acting is superb. David Niven, Kim Hunter and especially Roger Livesey do an outstanding job. The use of Black and White / Color adds to the creative nature of the movie. It hasn't been seen on television for 20 years so few people are even aware of its existence. It is my favorite movie of all time. Waiting and hoping for the DVD release of this movie for so many years is, in itself, "A Matter of Life and Death".

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