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A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

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 D. Carter
Kim Hunter ... June
Robert Coote ... Bob Trubshaw
Kathleen Byron ... An Angel
Richard Attenborough ... An English Pilot
Bonar Colleano Bonar Colleano ... An American Pilot (as Bonor Colleano)
Joan Maude Joan Maude ... Chief Recorder
Marius Goring ... Conductor 71
Roger Livesey ... Doctor Frank Reeves
Robert Atkins Robert Atkins ... The Vicar
Bob Roberts Bob Roberts ... Dr. Gaertler
Edwin Max ... Dr. Mc.Ewen
Betty Potter Betty Potter ... Mrs Tucker
Abraham Sofaer ... The Judge / The Surgeon
Raymond Massey ... Abraham Farlan
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Storyline

Returning to England from a bombing run in May 1945, flyer 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 USAAF, 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 mixup in heaven. They couldn't find him in all that fog. By the time his "Conductor" catches up with him 20 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:

A motion picture beyond all wonder! 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)
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)| Color (Colour) (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The backcloth of the High Court scene, suggesting tiers of seats stretching into infinity, measured 350 feet long and 40 feet high. Altogether 8 backcloths of similar large dimensions were used in Other World scenes, and 29 elaborate sets were constructed. In all these vast scenes 5,375 crowd artistes were used, including real R.A.F. crews, Red Cross nurses and W.A.A.C.s. See more »

Goofs

The prologue narrator refers to stars and regions of gas between them, then says that "the starlight makes the gas transparent, and where there are no stars, it appears as dark obscuring clouds." Transparency is actually caused not by starlight but by the absence of dust; starlight will either have no effect on the appearance of gas, or will cause it to be illuminated or perhaps to fluoresce. Dark obscuring clouds are those that contain dust and are not illuminated. 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 »

Connections

Referenced in When Did You Last See Your Father? (2007) 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

 
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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