Well that was great. In the last blog I wrote I hoped to get to meet Thelma Schoonmaker last weekend. Not only did I so, but I was also invited for a chat and a cup of tea over in Thelma's cottage accompagnied by Michael Powell's son Columba. The cottage was bought by Thelma when Michael died in 1990 to preserve the history and memory of her late husband. I was struck by the hospitality and indeed the energy of Mrs. Schoonmaker. She arrived only Sunday afternoon as the filming of HUGO CABRET at the Shepperton Studios took up all Saturday. Apparently the production is a bit over schedule. Surely she must have been quite tired.
She talked about the pitfalls of 3D and digital filmmaking as well as how difficult it is to find funding for restoration projects and how overjoyed she and Martin Scorsese, who has been Michael Powell's champion for decades, were about the tremendous reception of the restored RED SHOES (1948) in Cannes last year. Here are two stills from that movie with stars Marius Goring, Moira Shearer and Anton Walbrook .
She also talked about the cottage itself. Michael Powell moved in here with his love of his life then Pamela Brown. To be accurate they moved into two adjacent cottages as they were not married and did not want to attract too much attention. The sixties may have been a liberating period, but living together not in wedlock was still not one for the option.
I don't have a suitable still in my collection of Pamela Brown, so this time only I've added a lobby card from I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING (1945). Miss Brown is the actress in the middle.
Hey! I tell a lie, here she is in ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING (1942).
The cottage itself is quite small, Michael Powell was in dire financial straits at the time. He wanted it to look like a boat, so he had the woodpanelling darkened, the floor painted black and a huge desk positioned at the end of the living room as a captain's table. Mr Powell of course had a thing with boats. He made his mark with the documentary styled EDGE OF THE WORLD (sorry, no stills) in 1937 in which the way of the life of the fishing communities on a small Shetland island is depicted. His next movie, The SPY IN BLACK (1939), his first movie with long-time collaborator EMERIC PRESSBURGER was an international commercial success starring the indomitable Conrad Veidt and Valerie Hobson and feature a submarine as vehicle for the plot. Boats and water were to be a recurrent theme in lots of P&P movies.
Powell and Pressburger's last commercial success chronicled the major naval battle in World War II: THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE (1956). To conclude this entry here's a fantastic behind the scene still from that particular movie. It features an artist whose work was hugely important for the films of Powell and Pressburger. How poignant that two works of art of HEIN HECKROTH feature so prominently still in Michael Powell's cottage now.
This encapsules the romantic value of a still as I discussed earlier in What Oh What. Here's a moment gone forever, caught in time with light-sensitive materials.
This particular still has the bonus that it has a snipe on the back. Paper snipes are very useful to date a still and give information on what is supposed to be represented.
The snipe informs;
290.Pub.36 INFORMAL GROUP pictured on the set at Pinewood during filming of "THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE" are left to right:
Designer Hein Heckroth, Director Michael Powell with his 4-year-old son Columba, Mrs. Michael Powell [Frankie Reidy], and Emeric Pressburger, Heckroth acted as "guest" designer for the Manolo's Bar set.
"THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER PLATE" is written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. A Michael Powell - Emeric Pressburger Production in VistaVision and Eastman Colour amde for the J. Arthur Rank Organisation at Pinewood Studios; starring John Gregson, Anthony Quayle and Peter Finch as Captain Langsdorf.
Still by Ian Jeayes
Thanks again Thelma and Columba for a wonderful visit!