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A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

PG | | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | March 1947 (USA)
A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court.
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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 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:

The Greatest Adventure a Man Ever Lived! See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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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:

£320,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$3,815,000, 31 December 1947
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Archers See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

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
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

An adaptation of this movie was broadcast as a live television show on April 9, 1951 in the "Robert Montgomery Presents" on NBC as "Stairway to Heaven". It starred Richard Greene as Peter, Jean Gillespie as June, and Bramwell Fletcher as Dr. Reeves. See more »

Goofs

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 »

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 »


Soundtracks

Shoo Shoo Baby
(1943) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Phil Moore
Sung on the radio by an unidentified man at the trial
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Between heaven and earth
19 September 2005 | by jotix100See all my reviews

The great talents of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger are noticeable in their wonderful "A Matter of Life and Death". It was part of the recent tribute to Mr. Powell that played at the Walter Reade in New York. This film, in particular, shows us one of the best British films from that, or any other era.

"A Matter of Life and Death" has a brilliant cinematography by Jack Cardiff, a man who knew how to work wonders with a camera. Particularly impressive is the contrast from the monochromatic tones given to the scenes played in heaven, and the colored ones when the action comes back to earth. This was quite a coup, and well ahead of its times. The black and white sequence that involves the long staircase where Peter and the Conductor are chatting has to be one of the most amazing things on any film.

Much has been said in this forum about the film, so our comment will be about the great acting Powell and Pressberger got out of the large, distinguished cast, who responded magnificently to the directors' guidance.

David Niven, is Peter, whose aircraft is hit and his best friend dies as a result of it. This film marked one of the highlights in Mr. Niven's career. He was an excellent film actor as he shows us in this movie. Kim Hunter is surprisingly good as June, the woman who talked to Peter as his plane was falling from the skies. As fate would have it, Peter and June fall in love at first sight.

Some of the best British film actors grace this film with their presence. Robert Coote, is Bob, the man who is admitted to heaven, but he is surprised his friend Peter never made the trip with him. An excellent star turn by Marius Goring, who as the Conductor 71 steals the film. Mr. Goring, who had worked with the directors, is one of the best things in the movie. Also, Roger Livesey, as Dr. Frank Reeves, does one of the best appearances of his career, as well as Raymond Massey, who is seen as Abraham Farlan.

"A Matter of Life and Death" is a timeless film that will always be seen with gratitude toward its creators.


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