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A Matter of Life and Death
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Stairway to Heaven (1946) More at IMDbPro »A Matter of Life and Death (original title)

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Overview

User Rating:
8.1/10   11,244 votes »
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Down 8% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Writers:
Michael Powell (written by) and
Emeric Pressburger (written by)
Contact:
View company contact information for Stairway to Heaven on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
March 1947 (USA) See more »
Genre:
Tagline:
Neither Heaven nor Earth could keep them apart! See more »
Plot:
A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Awards:
3 wins See more »
NewsDesk:
(2 articles)
English Heritage honours London flat that was base for Powell and Pressburger
 (From The Guardian - Film News. 17 February 2014, 4:31 PM, PST)

Ill Met By Moonlight
 (From GreenCine. 11 October 2011, 12:22 PM, PDT)

User Reviews:
Stunning archery See more (126 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

David Niven ... Peter Carter

Kim Hunter ... June
Robert Coote ... Bob

Kathleen Byron ... An Angel

Richard Attenborough ... An English Pilot
Bonar Colleano ... An American Pilot (as Bonor Colleano in closing credits)
Joan Maude ... Chief Recorder
Marius Goring ... Conductor 71

Roger Livesey ... Doctor Reeves
Robert Atkins ... The Vicar
Bob Roberts ... Dr. Gaertler
Edwin Max ... Dr. Mc.Ewen
Betty Potter ... Mrs. Tucker

Abraham Sofaer ... The Judge

Raymond Massey ... Abraham Farlan
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Robert Arden ... GI Playing Bottom (uncredited)

Robert Beatty ... US Crewman (uncredited)
Tommy Duggan ... Patrick Aloyusius Mahoney (uncredited)
Erik ... Spaniel (uncredited)
John Huntley ... Extra in Celestial Courtroom (uncredited)
John Longden ... Narrator of introduction (uncredited) (voice)
Howard Marshall ... Cricket Commentator on Radio (voice) (uncredited)

Lois Maxwell ... Actress (uncredited)
Richard Nielson ... Minor Role (uncredited)
Wally Patch ... ARP Warden (uncredited)
Robert Rietty ... Man on Stairway (uncredited)
Roger Snowden ... James Monahan (uncredited)
Spangle ... Spaniel (uncredited)
Wendy Thompson ... Nurse (uncredited)
Frederick Valk ... RAF Chaplain (uncredited)
Geoff van Rijssel ... Extra in Celestial Courtroom (uncredited)
Joan Verney ... Girl (uncredited)
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Directed by
Michael Powell 
Emeric Pressburger 
 
Writing credits
Michael Powell (written by) and
Emeric Pressburger (written by)

Produced by
George R. Busby .... assistant producer (as George Busby)
Michael Powell .... producer
Emeric Pressburger .... producer
 
Original Music by
Allan Gray (music composed by)
 
Cinematography by
Jack Cardiff (photographed by)
 
Film Editing by
Reginald Mills 
 
Casting by
Pat MacDonnell (uncredited)
Adele Raymond (uncredited)
 
Production Design by
Alfred Junge (production designed by)
 
Costume Design by
Joseph Bato (uncredited)
Hein Heckroth (uncredited)
 
Makeup Department
George Blackler .... make-up
Ida Mills .... hair styles
 
Production Management
Robert C. Foord .... unit manager (as Robert C.Foord)
 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Parry Jones Jr. .... assistant director
Paul Kelly .... second assistant director (uncredited)
Laurie Knight .... third assistant director (uncredited)
Pat Marsden .... third assistant director (uncredited)
 
Art Department
Arthur Lawson .... assistant art director
Joseph Bato .... assistant painter (uncredited)
William Hutchinson .... draughtsman (uncredited)
William Kellner .... draughtsman (uncredited)
Terence Morgan II .... assistant property maker (uncredited)
Don Picton .... draughtsman (uncredited)
Roger Ramsdell .... assistant art director (uncredited)
 
Sound Department
C.C. Stevens .... sound recorder
Michael Colomb .... assistant boom operator (uncredited)
Peter Davies .... dubbing sound camera (uncredited)
Roy Day .... sound maintenance (uncredited)
John Dennis .... pre-dubbing (uncredited)
Desmond Dew .... dubbing crew (uncredited)
David Hildyard .... boom operator (uncredited)
Harold Rowland .... sound camera operator (uncredited)
G. Sanders .... assistant boom operator (uncredited)
Alan Whatley .... dubbing crew (uncredited)
 
Special Effects by
W. Percy Day .... additional effects (as Percy Day)
Henry Harris .... special effects
Douglas Woolsey .... special effects
William C. Andrews .... special effects (uncredited)
George Blackwell .... additional effects (uncredited)
Stanley Grant .... additional effects (uncredited)
 
Visual Effects by
Peter Ellenshaw .... assistant matte artist (uncredited)
Stanley Grant .... special photographic effects (uncredited)
Jack Whitehead .... back projection (uncredited)
 
Camera and Electrical Department
Geoffrey Unsworth .... camera operator
Bill Wall .... chief electrician (as William Wall)
Dick Allport .... clapper loader (uncredited)
Eric Besche .... focus puller (uncredited)
Jim Body .... focus puller (uncredited)
Christopher Challis .... second assistant camera (uncredited)
Fred Daniels .... still photographer: portraits (uncredited)
Eric Gray .... still photographer (uncredited)
George Minassian .... assistant camera (uncredited)
Johnnie von Klotze .... assistant camera (uncredited)
 
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Hein Heckroth .... costumes
 
Editorial Department
David Powell .... assistant editor (uncredited)
 
Music Department
Walter Goehr .... conductor
Lambert Williamson .... assistant conductor (as W.L. Williamson)
 
Other crew
Joan Bridge .... associate colour control
Michael C. Chorlton .... motor-bike shots (as MichaelChorlton)
Natalie Kalmus .... colour control
J. Arthur Rank .... presents (as J.Arthur Rank)
John Seabourne Jr. .... liaison editor
Alan Brook .... advisor: table tennis (uncredited)
Alan Brook .... trainer: table tennis (uncredited)
Andrew Donally .... support team (uncredited)
Bernard Kaplan .... technical advisor: operating theatre (uncredited)
Vivienne Knight .... publicist (uncredited)
Ainslie L'evine .... assistant continuity (uncredited)
Bunny Parsons .... continuity (uncredited)
Bill Paton .... assistant: Mr Powell (uncredited)
Maggie Unsworth .... continuity (uncredited)
 
Crew verified as complete


Production Companies
  • Archers, The (as A Production of the Archers London England)
DistributorsSpecial Effects
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Additional Details

Also Known As:
"A Matter of Life and Death" - UK (original title)
See more »
MPAA:
Rated PG for thematic elements (re-rating) (1995)
Runtime:
104 min
Country:
Language:
Color:
Black and White (Dye-Monochrome) | Color (colour) (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Certification:
Finland:K-16 | Ireland:G | Portugal:M/12 | Spain:T | UK:A (original rating) (passed with cuts) | UK:U (tv rating) | UK:U (re-release) (2005) | UK:U (re-release: re-rating) (2000) | UK:U (video rating) (1995) (uncut) | USA:Approved (PCA #11724) | USA:TV-PG (TV rating) | USA:PG (re-rating) (1995) | West Germany:16

Did You Know?

Trivia:
"The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast a 30-minute radio adaptation of the movie under the alternate title "Stairway to Heaven" on June 23, 1949, with David Niven reprising his film role.See more »
Goofs:
Factual errors: The opening voice-over states that the movie opens on May 2nd 1945 an hour after a 'thousand-bomber raid' (shown as somewhere in the area of Berlin). However, the last area bombing raid of the war in Europe took place on the 15th April 1945 against Potsdam (just west of Berlin).See more »
Quotes:
[first lines]
Narrator:This is the universe. Big, isn't it.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Soundtrack:
ScherzoSee more »

FAQ

Did it really happen?
Did they use CGI?
See more »
43 out of 52 people found the following review useful.
Stunning archery, 30 January 2000
Author: Spleen from Canberra, Australia

The opening flourishes left me purring with delight at their inventiveness - the altered version of the Archers' logo, the introductory disclaimer, the way the camera pans over the cosmos. It's strange to think that `It's a Wonderful Life' came out in the same year. No great coincidence: the 1940s was awash with heaven-and-earth films; but the glowing cotton wool nebulas and cutesy angels of the competition look tattered, something best passed over in silence, when placed next to Alfred Junge's vision.

It continues to look great all the way through, as more and more striking ideas are sprung upon us. I'm not a great fan of mixing colour with black and white in general. One of the two visual schemes almost always looks ugly when placed next to the other. Not so here. Powell dissolves colour into monochrome and monochrome into colour as if it's the most natural thing in the world, a mere change of palettes. Both the colour photography and the black and white could stand on their own.

As for the story ... this may be Pressburger's best script, or at least it would have been had the conclusion been a more logical outcome of preceding events. Other than that it's tight, yet with more going on than I can possibly allude to here. Was the heavenly stuff real or imaginary? (Or both? Perhaps Carter dreamt up a fantasy that was, as it so happened, true.) Everyone says we're meant to neither ask nor answer this question, but I don't see why. I'm sure we ARE meant to ask the question. The film even gives us clues as to what the answer is - indeed, the problem is that there are too many clues and they seem at first to be pointing in different directions. The fact that other things ought to occupy our attention as well doesn't mean that this shouldn't occupy us as well. There is, as I've said before, a lot going on.

Consider the scene in which Abraham Farlan (Heaven's prosecuting lawyer) plays a radio broadcast of a cricket match, and contemptuously says, `The voice of England, 1945.' Dr. Reeves (the defence) acknowledges the exhibit with a great deal of embarrassment, and then produces one of his own: a blues song from America, which Farlan listens to as though he's got a lemon in his mouth. Reeves looks smug.

Snobbery? Well, I don't see why it's snobbish to condemn blues music - and that's not what Powell and Pressburger are doing, anyway. As the song is being played, we get a shot of the American soldiers listening to it: several of them nod their heads to the rhythm, perfectly at home. THEY don't find it incomprehensible. There's something valuable about the song and neither Reeves nor Farlan knows what it is. Reeves probably realises as much. All English audiences (and all Australian, Indian, etc. audiences as well) know without being told that there is something of value in the cricket broadcast, too; and that while Reeves understands THAT, he is unable to explain it to Farlan - hence the blues broadcast, which shows that people can understand each other without sharing an understanding of everything else. It's a clever scene.

One last thing. I found David Niven a bit cold, without the charisma he would acquire later in his career; but even so, I don't think a film has grabbed my heart quite so quickly after the action began, as this one did.

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