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A Canterbury Tale (1944)

Three modern day pilgrims investigate a bizarre crime in a small town on the way to Canterbury.
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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 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
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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:

Another Film of Unusual Merit! See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Mystery | War

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

21 January 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Canterbury mesék See more »

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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 »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film takes place in August 1943. See more »

Quotes

Sergt. Roczinsky: Hey, let's have some tea first, huh?
Bob Johnson: That stuff?
Sergt. Roczinsky: Sure; it's a habit, like marijuana.
Bob Johnson: I'll take marijuana.
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 inserted:
  • A scene between Bob () and his new bride 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

Featured in The South Bank Show: Michael Powell (1986) See more »

Soundtracks

Come to the Church in the Wild Wood
(uncredited)
Written by William S. Pitts
Sung by John Sweet as he washes
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Dennis Price in His First Starring Role
10 June 2013 | by drednmSee all my reviews

This superb allegory by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger follows the pilgrimages of three disparate people during WW II as they make their way to Canterbury along the 600-year-old Pilgrims Path. Each is seeking a miracle or consolation from their journey.

Alison (Sheila Sim) is a London shop girl who ventures to the English countryside to work on a farm as a "land girl" and to revisit the spot where she vacationed with her now dead soldier boyfriend. Bob (John Sweet) is a naive American GI who's girlfriend back in Oregon has stopped writing to him. He told his mother he'd visit Canterbury. Peter (Dennis Price) is a disillusioned organist whose career has been limited to playing in movie theaters and who is soon to ship out overseas.

The three disembark a train together and venture toward the great cathedral city when Alison is attacked in the dark by a strange offender known locally as the "glue man." He's poured nasty glue all over her head. As the three find lodgings and talk to locals they learn that the glue man has struck many other times.

Alison settles into her farm job while Bob discovers the countryside still (in 1944) very much tied to 19th-century ways. Peter tries to find out more about the glue man. They all meet a local eccentric (Eric Portman) who may be the glue man. He lectures locally on the rewards of country life and works as a magistrate in Canterbury. They all meet at the cathedral as they meet their fates.

Absolutely gorgeous B&W photography lovingly displays the beautiful countryside with ample shots of wide sky and billowing fields, rustic farms and buildings, and always Canterbury in the background.

The simple story lines are set against the complex allegory of a journey of discovery. Each of the pilgrims finds something in Canterbury, but what happens to them afterwards is left to our imagination. Both Alison and Bob find answers to their private sorrows, and Peter attains a cherished dream. All three are changed in deep and moving ways.

John Sweet was an amateur actor stationed with the US Army in England when he was discovered for this role. His plainspoken American is both naive and deeply wise. His growing love of the countryside and the old ways is infectious. Sheila Sim plays a sturdy and practical girl who deals with her loss while loving her new life in the country. Dennis Price plays the most complicated character, since his loss is more a loss of ambition and opportunity than a loss of human love. His discovery at the cathedral is very moving. Portman is a lonely and aging man who may be attracted to Alison as a kindred spirit, but all paths do not lead to the same destination.

Many notable actors in small parts include Edward Rigby, Charles Hawtrey, Hay Petrie, Freda Jackson, Esma Cannon, Graham Moffatt, Eliot Makeham, Esmond Knight, and Judith Furse.

Powell and Pressburger scored a major success with this moving and seemingly simple story. But the characters will stay with you long after watching this glorious masterpiece.


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