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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   13,605 votes »
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Popularity: ?
Up 25% 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 »
User Reviews:
A young WWII airman misses his heavenly call, and challenges the laws of the universe to remain on earth. See more (138 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)
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 (voice) (uncredited)
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 (uncredited)
Robert Rietty ... Man on Stairway (uncredited)
Roger Snowdon ... 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 
 
Cinematography by
Jack Cardiff (photographed by)
 
Film Editing by
Reginald Mills 
 
Casting by
Pat MacDonnell (uncredited)
Adele Raymond (uncredited)
 
Production Design by
Alfred Junge 
 
Costume Design by
Hein Heckroth (costumes)
Joseph Bato (uncredited)
 
Makeup Department
George Blackler .... makeup artist
Ida Mills .... hair stylist
 
Production Management
Robert C. Foord .... unit manager
 
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)
 
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 Michael Chorlton)
Natalie Kalmus .... colour control
J. Arthur Rank .... presenter (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:S (1987) | Finland:K-16 (1947) | 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 (certificate #33789) (re-rating) (1995) | West Germany:16

Did You Know?

Trivia:
The first scene shot was David Niven washing up on the beach. Originally planned to fade in from black, Michael Powell decided on the spot that the effect would be too cheesy. When Jack Cardiff told him to look through the camera, Cardiff then deliberately breathed right onto the lens, which fogged the glass for a few seconds until it evaporated. Powell loved the idea and had him use it for the shot.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:
Featured in The 100 Greatest Films (2001) (TV)See more »
Soundtrack:
Shoo Shoo BabySee more »

FAQ

Did it really happen?
Did they use CGI?
See more »
51 out of 57 people found the following review useful.
A young WWII airman misses his heavenly call, and challenges the laws of the universe to remain on earth., 20 August 1998
Author: Loretta (loretta.crosthwait@telops.gte.com) from Fort Worth, TX, USA

I LOVE this movie. Director Michael Powell once stated that this was his favorite movie, and it is mine as well. Powell and Pressburger created a seemingly simple, superbly crafted story - the power of love against "the powers that be". However, its deception lies in the complexity of its "is it real or is it imaginary" premise. Basically, one could argue that it is simply a depiction of the effects of war on a young, poetically inclined airman during WWII. Or is it? The question is never answered one way or the other. Actually, it is never even asked. This continuous understatement is part of the film's appeal.

The innovative photography and cinematography even includes some nice touches portraying the interests of the filmmakers. For instance, Pressburger always wanted to do a cinematic version of Richard Strauss' opera, Der Rosenkavalier, about a young 18th century Viennese aristocrat. This is evident in the brief interlude in which Conductor 71, dressed in all his finery, holds the rose (which appears silver in heaven). The music even has a dreamy quality.

All of the acting is first rate - David Niven is at his most charming, and he has excellent support from veteran Roger Livesey and relative newcomer Kim Hunter. But, in my opinion, the film's charm comes from Marius Goring as Conductor 71. He by far has the most interesting role, filling each of his scenes with his innocent lightheartedness, brightening the film. It's a pity that some of Conductor 71's scenes were left on the cutting room floor. It is also a pity that Goring's comedic talents are rarely seen again on film, except in the wonderful videos of The Scarlet Pimpernel television series from the 1950s. This is by far and away the most memorable role of his film career. He is a perfect foil for relaxed style of Niven, and his virtual overstatement contrasts so nicely with the seriousness of the rest of the characters. Ironically, also in the mid -1940s, Niven also starred against another heavenly "messenger", played by Cary Grant, in The Bishop's Wife. Their acting styles were so similar that I found the result boring, unenergetic, and disappointing. As a note, according to Powell, Goring desperately wanted the role of Peter Carter, initially refusing Conductor 71. It's a good thing he gave in and gave us such a delightful portrayal.

The movie, "commissioned" to smooth over the strained relations between Britain and the U.S., overdrives its point towards the end. But it is disarming in its gentle reminders of the horrors of war - the numerous casualties, both military and civilian, the need to "go on" when faced with death. There is a conspicuous lack of WWII "enemies" in heaven, but the civilians shown are of indeterminate origin. Powell and Pressburger could have been more explicit in their depiction but it wasn't necessary. The movie may not have served its diplomatic purpose as was hoped for, but its originality continues to inspire moviemakers and viewers alike on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Message Boards

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Recent Posts (updated daily)User
Who would you have defend your life Morry32
Rather special badgerking10
Love this film, but... larch88
Any sign of a Blu-ray Disc release? stevewoodhouseuk
Did Abraham Sofaer Also Play the Surgeon We See at the End of the Film? OldFilmLover
doctor reeve shapak
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