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

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood June 29, 2012 at 2:20PM

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...
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Deborah Kerr as Angela "Johnny" Cannon in "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp"
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
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."

This article is related to: Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Digital Future, Classics, Martin Scorsese, Martin Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.