8.1/10
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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 Greatest Adventure a Man Ever Lived! 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

George Arliss was originally offered the role of the Judge. 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 Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #1.7 (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
Wonderful
22 April 2004 | by (Arizona) – See all my reviews

Enchanting, romantic, innovative, and funny. The vision of this extraordinary film is almost unparalleled, exceeding better known "death romances" such as Ghost. While we know intuitively that Peter and June will find ultimate happiness at the end of that long-long stairway, the joy is in the journey. The moral of the tale, of course, is timeless: love conquers all. But the struggle to achieve that victory is played in a celestial arena of sweeping vision and gripping grandeur. With more than 500 suitably clad extras portraying various ages and cultures, the directors' vision of heaven remains memorable six decades later, far into the CGI era.

Yet for all the cosmic scale, Powell and Pressburger knew an essential truth: the best story is told at the smallest level. The wonderfully, determinedly romantic aspect of "Stairway" is captured with ultimate simplicity: June's teardrop, preserved on a rose petal.

This film, like the story and the set itself, is one for the ages.


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