8.1/10
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184 user 74 critic

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

PG | | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | March 1947 (USA)
Trailer
1:23 | Trailer
A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court.
Reviews
1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
David Niven ... Peter Carter
Kim Hunter ... June
Robert Coote ... Bob Trubshaw
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 ... Dr. Frank Reeves
Robert Atkins Robert Atkins ... The Vicar
Bob Roberts Bob Roberts ... Dr. Gaertler
Edwin Max ... Dr. McEwen
Betty Potter Betty Potter ... Mrs. Tucker
Abraham Sofaer ... The Judge
Raymond Massey ... Abraham Farlan
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Storyline

Returning to England from a bombing run in May 1945, pilot Peter Carter's plane is damaged and his parachute ripped to shreds. He has his crew bail out safely, but figures it is curtains for himself. He gets on the radio, and talks to June, a young American woman working for the U.S. Army Air Forces, and they are quite moved by each other's voices. Then he jumps, preferring this to burning up with his plane. He wakes up in the surf. It was his time to die, but there was a mix-up in heaven. They couldn't find him in all that fog. By the time his "Conductor" catches up with him twenty hours later, Peter and June have met and fallen in love. This changes everything, and since it happened through no fault of his own, Peter figures that heaven owes him a second chance. Heaven agrees to a trial to decide his fate. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Neither Heaven nor Earth could keep them apart! See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

RAF survivors played themselves in the Other World's High Court, alongside 72 real Red Cross nurses and 25 WACs who also played themselves in the country house base where they were stationed. They donated their earnings to the Red Cross. See more »

Goofs

While Peter is riding up the stairway with Conductor 71, they pass the statues (on the left side of the staircase) of Lincoln, then Plato, then Mohammed, and then Solomon. When Peter realizes he needs to go back down the stairs, the statue of Lincoln can again be seen as the next statue coming up. Then, after he stands up to leave, the statue of Mohammed is once again next to him. However, a representation of Mohammed, correctly, is never seen; only the base of the statue with his name plate on it is seen. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: This is the universe. Big, isn't it?
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Crazy Credits

Foreword (Scrolled up the screen at the start of the film): This is a story of two Worlds the one we know and another which exists only in the mind of a young airman whose life & imagination have been violently shaped by war [Pauses, then scrolls up to reveal] Any resemblance to any other world known or unknown is purely coincidental. See more »

Alternate Versions

The US release was cut to avoid showing the naked shepherd boy in the sand dunes. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Story of Film: An Odyssey: Post-War Cinema (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Scherzo
(1842) (uncredited)
from "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op.61"
Written by Felix Mendelssohn
Played on a record at the Shakespeare rehearsal
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User Reviews

 
What a marvel!
15 December 2004 | by film-29See all my reviews

This movie has the most beautiful opening sequence ever made. I've seen this movie for the first time a week ago, since then every day I see the opening and every time I feel as thrilled as I felt the first time I heard David Niven uttering the immortal words from Sir Walter Raleigh's The Pilgrimage:

Give me my scallop-shell of quiet, My staff of faith to walk upon, My scrip of joy, immortal diet, My bottle of salvation, My gown of glory, hope's true gage; And thus I'll take my pilgrimage (…)

Do you know why it would be a truism to say Michael Powell's and Emeric Pressuburger's lives are thoroughly justified for having crafted such a wonderful opening? Because they had been already admitted in the Paradise of Poets long before they made this movie.

I imagine both of them facing trial during Doomsday and saying nonchalantly to an irate God: I beg your pardon, Sir. So, do You want to know what have we done during our lifetime? Well, well you'll see: We've written directed and produced: I know Where I'm Going, Colonel Blimp, Red Shoes… do you think that enough Sir? It is rather obvious that these two great artists had already fulfilled their duty with God, Nature the Muse or Whatever you may call It when they shot A Matter of Life and Death. The fact that other people's lives would be justified for their deeds could be not apparent to everybody, notwithstanding I feel my life would have a meaning had I never done anything else that to see this movie.

Of course old-timers will be tempted to say: They don't do movies like this one any more. They'll be partially mistaken; they didn't make movies like this in the past times either.

I've have already quoted Keats here, but I'll repeat his words: A thing of beauty is a joy forever.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | French | Russian

Release Date:

March 1947 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Matter of Life and Death See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

GBP320,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$124,241
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Archers See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Color:

Black and White (Dye - Monochrome) (heaven scenes)| Color (Technicolor) (Earth scenes)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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