7.5/10
4,971
70 user 30 critic

A Canterbury Tale (1944)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Mystery | 21 January 1949 (USA)
Three modern day pilgrims investigate a bizarre crime in a small town on the way to Canterbury.
Reviews

Photos

Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Eric Portman ... Thomas Colpeper, JP
Sheila Sim ... Alison Smith
Dennis Price ... Peter Gibbs
John Sweet ... Bob Johnson (as Sergt. John Sweet U.S. Army)
Esmond Knight ... Narrator (non-US versions) / Seven-Sisters Soldier / Village Idiot
Charles Hawtrey ... Thomas Duckett
Hay Petrie ... Woodcock
George Merritt ... Ned Horton
Edward Rigby ... Jim Horton
Freda Jackson ... Prudence Honeywood
Betty Jardine Betty Jardine ... Fee Baker
Eliot Makeham ... Organist
Harvey Golden Harvey Golden ... Sergt. Roczinsky
Leonard Smith Leonard Smith ... Leslie
James Tamsitt James Tamsitt ... Terry
Edit

Storyline

A 'Land Girl', an American GI, and a British soldier find themselves together in a small Kent town on the road to Canterbury. The town is being plagued by a mysterious "glue-man", who pours glue on the hair of girls dating soldiers after dark. The three attempt to track him down, and begin to have suspicions of the local magistrate, an eccentric figure with a strange, mystical vision of the history of England in general and Canterbury in particular. Written by David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Four modern pilgrims in a story of today - yet away from war. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Mystery | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

John Sweet was not a professional actor, but a real-life army sergeant stationed with the American forces in wartime England. He donated his salary from the film to the NAACP. This was his only feature film role; he died in 2011, at age 95. See more »

Quotes

Thomas Colpeper, JP: [hidden in the tall grass] Glorious, isn't it?
Alison Smith: [startled] Is anybody there?
Thomas Colpeper, JP: [standing] It's a real voice you heard. You're not dreaming.
Alison Smith: You know, just now I - I heard sounds.
Thomas Colpeper, JP: What sounds did you hear?
Alison Smith: Horses' hooves, voices, and a lute. Or an instrument like a lute. Did you hear anything?
Thomas Colpeper, JP: Those sounds come from inside, not outside. Then only when you're concentrating, when you believe strongly in something. Just now I was concentrating on who was coming up the hill to disturb me.
Alison Smith: Disturb you? At what?
Thomas Colpeper, JP: ...
See more »

Alternate Versions

The original UK version runs 124 minutes. For the USA release, the film was re-edited to 95-minutes and new footage starring Kim Hunter inserted:
  • A scene between Bob (John Sweet) and his new bride Kim Hunter on the Rockefeller Center introduces the story which he then tells in flashback.
  • The idyllic scenes with the boys' river battle and much of the hunt for the glue-man is cut with addition scenes or commentary by Bob added to cover the gaps.
  • There is an additional epilogue with Bob and his girl at the tea-rooms in Canterbury.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Days of Heaven (1978) See more »

Soundtracks

Angelus ad Virginem
(uncredited)
Traditional
Heard as a peal of bells in the opening titles
See more »

User Reviews

 
One of the best, from two of the best filmmakers, ever.
30 July 2006 | by talltale-1See all my reviews

Here's another rich and wonderful piece of movie-making from the Powell/Pressburger team--as well as a lovely little time capsule of WWII Britain: the land girls, small town England, and what real patriotism is all about (unlike the sleazy variety much of America and some of Britain are currently experiencing). Made in 1944, while the war still raged, A CANTERBURY TALE is a discovery as good as anything I've seen from this amazing film-making team. Beginning with a lovely link to Chaucer's tales, it uses a marvelous quick cut between like objects that may remind you of something Stanley Kubrick is now heralded for doing (nearly a quarter-century later!), it then moves ahead to tell the story of four people whose paths cross to a purpose.

Full of quiet surprise and a lead character (Colpeper) who is enormously problematic, the film makes you look, listen, think and feel intently. (For me, cinema can't provide much more.) As the movie seems to meander along, it is actually picking up an enormous head of steam which will--at the end--let loose a blast of patriotism, pride, beauty, sound, architecture and spirituality. Regarding the latter, I do not refer to the fact that the finale is set in a cathedral--as beautiful and symbolic as this one may be. This film rises above any stricture of creed because of the honest humanism of its creators.

This is a "war film," as it appears from the view of civilians who remain at home. Among other things, it shows that, while a civilian population in wartime must give up a great deal, the rewards can be commensurate. (Concerning Iraq, this is something Americans at home have not yet begun to learn or do.) This astonishing film stands, after more than sixty years, as one of those rewards.


51 of 62 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 70 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
Edit

Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 January 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Canterbury Tale See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$650,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page



Recently Viewed