Academy Unveils Breathtaking Restoration of 'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp'; Schoonmaker Talks Michael Powell & Scorsese

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by Beth Hanna
June 29, 2012 2:20 PM
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Deborah Kerr as Angela "Johnny" Cannon in "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp"
The Academy unveiled its breathtaking restoration of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's epic masterpiece "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" on June 27. Seven-time Oscar nominated editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who was married to Powell from 1984 until his death in 1990, gave an eloquent introduction on the making of the film and its profound influence on her longtime filmmaking partner Martin Scorsese.

The reputation of "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" precedes it. In her introduction, Schoonmaker noted that film critic Andrew Sarris preferred the prospect of repeatedly watching "Colonel Blimp" over "Citizen Kane," and that "many consider this film to be the English 'Citizen Kane.'" She added that Michael Powell would introduce the film to an audience by saying, "Oh, you lucky people."

Roger Livesey as General Wynne-Candy
The film follows General Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey) from his hard-headed, cocky younger days as a soldier immediately following the Boers War through the dark hours of World War II, where he serves as an aging homefront general in bombed-out London. Candy's tragedy is that he agreeably loses the woman he loves (Deborah Kerr) to his unlikely best friend (Anton Walbrook), a German soldier. These are the two people who mean the most to him, and they appear and reappear -- in various forms -- throughout his life.

The wonderful Livesey plays Candy with humor, yearning and his signature rumbling register. He believably ages forty years throughout the course of the film. Schoonmaker noted that the British actor "is Michael's alter-ego, just as John Wayne was for John Ford."

Walbrook is incredible in the role of Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff, a twinkly-eyed, soft-voiced Viennese who must flee to England when the Nazis rise to power. Schoonmaker told the audience that the character is based on Pressburger, who co-wrote and co-produced the film. 

"Emeric was classified as an enemy alien because he had fled from Germany... Throughout the war, while he and Michael Powell were making masterpiece after masterpiece -- films that were supporting the war effort -- [Emeric] was forced to report to the police once a week, obey a curfew, and unable sometimes to go on location where the unit was filming. The beautiful speech he wrote for Anton Walbrook when he is pleading to be allowed to stay in England in the film is very much based on Emeric's life."

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