A Matter of Life and Death ()

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A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court.


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Cast verified as complete

Peter Carter
Bob Trubshaw
An Angel
An English Pilot
An American Pilot (as Bonor Colleano)
Joan Maude ...
Chief Recorder
Conductor 71
Dr. Frank Reeves
Robert Atkins ...
The Vicar
Bob Roberts ...
Dr. Gaertler
Dr. McEwen
Betty Potter ...
Mrs. Tucker
The Judge
Abraham Farlan
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
GI Playing Bottom (uncredited)
US Crewman (uncredited)
Tommy Duggan ...
Patrick Aloyusius Mahoney (uncredited)
Erik ...
Spaniel (uncredited)
John Huntley ...
Extra in Celestial Courtroom (uncredited)
Narrator of Introduction (uncredited) (voice)
Howard Marshall ...
Cricket Commentator on Radio (uncredited) (voice)
Actress (uncredited)
Richard Neilson ...
Minor Role (uncredited)
Wally Patch ...
ARP Warden (uncredited)
Prosecuting Council (uncredited)
Robert Rietty ...
Man on Stairway (uncredited)
Roger Snowdon ...
James Monahan (uncredited)
Spangle ...
Spaniel (uncredited)
Wendy Thompson ...
Nurse (uncredited)
Frederick Valk ...
RAF Chaplain (uncredited)
Geoff van Rijssel ...
Extra in Celestial Courtroom (uncredited)
Joan Verney ...
Girl (uncredited)

Directed by

Michael Powell
Emeric Pressburger

Written by

Michael Powell ... (written by) and
Emeric Pressburger ... (written by)

Produced by

George R. Busby ... assistant producer (as George Busby)
Michael Powell ... producer
Emeric Pressburger ... producer

Music by

Allan Gray

Cinematography by

Jack Cardiff ... (photographed by)

Film Editing by

Reginald Mills

Editorial Department

David Powell ... assistant editor (uncredited)

Casting By

Pat MacDonnell ... (uncredited)
Adele Raymond ... (uncredited)

Production Design by

Alfred Junge

Costume Design by

Hein Heckroth ... (costumes)
Joseph Bato ... (uncredited)

Makeup Department

George Blackler ... makeup artist
Ida Mills ... hair stylist

Production Management

Robert C. Foord ... unit manager

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director

Parry Jones Jr. ... assistant director
Paul Kelly ... second assistant director (uncredited)
Laurie Knight ... third assistant director (uncredited)
Pat Marsden ... third assistant director (uncredited)

Art Department

Arthur Lawson ... assistant art director
Joseph Bato ... assistant painter (uncredited)
William Hutchinson ... draughtsman (uncredited)
William Kellner ... draughtsman (uncredited)
Terence Morgan II ... assistant property maker (uncredited)
Don Picton ... draughtsman (uncredited)
Roger Ramsdell ... assistant art director (uncredited)

Sound Department

C.C. Stevens ... sound recorder
Michael Colomb ... assistant boom operator (uncredited)
Peter Davies ... dubbing sound camera (uncredited)
Roy Day ... sound maintenance (uncredited)
John Dennis ... pre-dubbing (uncredited)
Desmond Dew ... dubbing crew (uncredited)
David Hildyard ... boom operator (uncredited)
Harold Rowland ... sound camera operator (uncredited)
G. Saunders ... assistant boom operator (uncredited)
Alan Whatley ... dubbing crew (uncredited)

Special Effects by

W. Percy Day ... additional effects (as Percy Day)
Henry Harris ... special effects
Douglas Woolsey ... special effects
William C. Andrews ... special effects (uncredited)
George Blackwell ... additional effects (uncredited)
Stanley Grant ... additional effects (uncredited)

Visual Effects by

Peter Ellenshaw ... assistant matte artist (uncredited)
Stanley Grant ... special photographic effects (uncredited)
Jack Whitehead ... back projection (uncredited)

Camera and Electrical Department

Geoffrey Unsworth ... camera operator
Bill Wall ... chief electrician (as William Wall)
Dick Allport ... clapper loader (uncredited)
Eric Besche ... focus puller (uncredited)
Jim Body ... focus puller (uncredited)
Christopher Challis ... second assistant camera (uncredited)
Fred Daniels ... still photographer: portraits (uncredited)
Eric Gray ... still photographer (uncredited)
George Minassian ... assistant camera (uncredited)
Johnnie von Klotze ... assistant camera (uncredited)

Music Department

Walter Goehr ... conductor
Lambert Williamson ... assistant conductor (as W.L. Williamson)

Other crew

Joan Bridge ... associate colour control
Michael C. Chorlton ... motor-bike shots (as Michael Chorlton)
Natalie Kalmus ... colour control
J. Arthur Rank ... presenter (as J.Arthur Rank)
John Seabourne Jr. ... liaison editor
Alan Brook ... advisor: table tennis (uncredited) / trainer: table tennis (uncredited)
Andrew Donally ... support team (uncredited)
Bernard Kaplan ... technical advisor: operating theatre (uncredited)
Vivienne Knight ... publicist (uncredited)
Ainslie L'evine ... assistant continuity (uncredited)
Bunny Parsons ... continuity (uncredited)
Bill Paton ... assistant: Mr Powell (uncredited)
Maggie Unsworth ... continuity (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

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Special Effects


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Plot Summary

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

Plot Keywords
Taglines Neither Heaven nor Earth could keep them apart! See more »
Parents Guide View content advisory »

Additional Details

Also Known As
  • Stairway to Heaven (United States)
  • Une question de vie ou de mort (France)
  • Irrtum im Jenseits (Germany)
  • A vida o muerte (Spain)
  • Escalera al cielo (Uruguay)
  • See more »
  • 104 min
Aspect Ratio
Sound Mix
Filming Locations

Box Office

Budget GBP320,000 (estimated)

Did You Know?

Trivia The huge escalator linking this World with the Other, called "Operation Ethel" by the firm of engineers who constructed her under the aegis of the London Passenger Transport Board, took three months to make, and cost three thousand pounds sterling (in 1946). "Ethel" had one hundred six steps, each twenty feet wide, and was driven by a twelve horsepower engine. The full shot was completed by hanging miniatures. See more »
Goofs After Peter's second encounter with the Heavenly Messenger, this time in Frank's library, the doctor and June desperately attend to Peter's condition. June kneels in front of Peter and begins to giggle uncontrollably, then expertly hides herself behind Frank to avoid the camera. See more »
Movie Connections Featured in The Story of Making the Film They're a Weird Mob (1966). See more »
Soundtracks Scherzo 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 »
Quotes Doctor Frank Reeves: A weak mind isn't strong enough to hurt itself. Stupidity has saved many a man from going mad.
See more »

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