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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   11,426 votes »
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Down 18% 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:
Wonderful if flawed 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
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)
Laurence Payne ... Prosecuting council[wearing Davy Crocket hat (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)

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

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:
Abraham Sofaer and Marius Goring reprised their roles as The Judge and Conductor 71 respectively in a BBC radio adaptation in August 1948. Other leading roles were played by David Farrar (Peter Carter) and Andrew Cruikshank (Doctor Reeves). Kathleen Byron (June), and Tommy Duggan (Abraham Farlan) had both appeared in the film in minor roles.See more »
Goofs:
Factual errors: When the prologue shows the Earth and moon, the sunlight is falling on them from different directions. Also, their motion is in the wrong perspective with that of the stars as the viewpoint moves; some stars seem to be farther away than the Earth, but closer than the moon.See more »
Quotes:
[first lines]
Narrator:This is the universe. Big, isn't it.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in L.A. Without a Map (1998)See more »
Soundtrack:
Shoo Shoo BabySee more »

FAQ

Did it really happen?
Did they use CGI?
See more »
69 out of 91 people found the following review useful.
Wonderful if flawed, 9 February 2003
Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom

WW2. RAF pilot Peter Carter's plane is shot to pieces and his parachute is destroyed. In his final distress call he talks to American WREN June on the radio and they bond at that time, when Peter knows he is doomed. They bid farewell and Peter jumps to his death. Later he wakes on a beach to find he survived and he runs to meet June and the two quickly fall in love. However, in heaven there is panic as one of the collectors of souls admits he missed collecting Peter at the moment of his death due to the thick fog all round. When Peter learns of this he appeals and a heavenly court case is convened in order to decide his fate.

This film was made on request from the MOD (ministry of defence). At the time they wanted a film that was set in wartime and stressed the importance of Britain and America overcoming any cultural differences between them and to stand together. The end result could have easily been a big flag waving exercise that would have been historically added to the pile of average propaganda made around the time (albeit for good reason).

However the actual end result is that the film transcends what it could have been and turns into something that is quite wonderful – witty and moving at the same time. The actual story is a little cheesy and on paper sounds like it could be a disaster and in reality it could have been. The film is never clear if it is real or if it is all in Peter's head and it doesn't matter. The plot allows plenty of nice touches as well as romance. The romantic/emotional side of films don't always wash with me but here I was gripped from the start simply by the powerful radio scene. It's very British (stiff upper lip) but still very moving.

The film just about hangs in there during the middle section where Peter falls in love and his supposed hallucinations are discussed by doctors but the film really comes strong in it's climactic court scene. It is witty and plays on national stereotypes really well and makes the point without forcing it down our throats. It works very well and even the sentimentality is well handled and is never as sugary as it could have been.

Niven is superb and is typically British in the lead. Hunter is pretty good but a little too sappy. The strength of the film is in it's support cast – the final courtroom scene relies more on the support cast than Niven or Hunter (who are barely in it towards the end) and yet it works very well. In fact the best characters are all in the afterlife and not the film's real world. The best element of the film is that the direction and sets are great. The gimmick of b/w and colour works better than expected and the use of it really works well – but shouldn't heaven be in colour and earth in monochrome? Maybe that was the point, I guess. The sets are really good and it's easy to be impressed by that staircase even by today's standards – not technically but just in the power of the image.

Overall this is a solid film. I don't think it deserves all the praise that it gets and if I had to list my top 100 then I'm not sure it would be in there but that's not to take away from it because it is a wonderful piece of work. The emotion is powerful without being sentimental and the film is witty and moving in equal measure.

Was the above review useful to you?
See more (126 total) »

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