BRITISH CLASSIC CINEMA 1940’S: THE ARCHERS

March 22, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Posted in Art, Film, History, United Kingdom | Leave a comment

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The Archers

Film production company

Founded 1943

Defunct 1957

Fate Partnership ended

Headquarters United Kingdom

Key people Michael Powell Emeric Pressburger

Industry Film production company

The British film-making partnership of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, also known as The Archers, made a series of influential films in the 1940s and 1950s, and in 1983 were recognized for their contributions to British cinema with the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award, the most prestigious award given by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Their collaborations were mainly written by Pressburger, with Powell directing. Unusually, the pair shared a writerdirectorproducer credit for most of their films.

The Archers: The collaboration

Generally, Pressburger would create the original story (for all their films from 1940–1946 plus The Red Shoes) and write the first draft of the script. They would then pass the script back and forth a few times – they could never work on it together in the same room. For the actual dialogue, Pressburger would know what he wanted the characters to say but Powell would often supply some of the actual words.

They would both act as producers, perhaps Pressburger slightly more so than Powell, since he could sooth the feathers ruffled by Powell’s forthright manner. They became their own producers mainly to stop anyone else poking their noses in, since they had a considerable degree of freedom, especially under Rank, to make just about any film they wanted.

The direction was nearly all done by Powell, but even so The Archers generally worked as a team, with the cast and crew often making suggestions. Pressburger was always on hand, usually on the studio floor, to make sure that these late changes fitted seamlessly into the story.

Once the filming was finished, Powell would usually go off for a walk in the hills of Scotland to clear his head, but Pressburger was often closely involved in the editing, especially of the way the music was used. Pressburger was a musician himself and played the violin in an orchestra in Hungary.

When the film was finally ready and Powell was back from the Highlands, it would usually be Powell that would be the front man in any promotional work, such as interviews for the trade papers or fan magazines.

Because collaborative efforts such as Powell’s and Pressburger’s were, and continue to be, unusual in the film industry, and because of the influence of the auteur theory, which elevates the director as a film’s primary creator, Pressburger has sometimes been dismissed as “Michael Powell’s scriptwriter”, but Powell himself was the first to say, in many interviews, that he couldn’t have done most of what he did without Pressburger.

In the early 1950s the Powell and Pressburger began to produce fewer films, with notably less success. This may have been because they switched from making films for the British Rank Organisation to the Hollywood-led Alexander Korda.

The Archers’ productions officially came to an end in 1957, and the pair separated to pursue their individual careers. The separation was quite amicable and they remained devoted friends for the rest of their lives.

The Archers Production Company – filmography:

  1. The Battle of the River Plate (1956) … Production Company (as Arcturus Productions)

  2. Oh… Rosalinda!! (1955) … Production Company

  3. The Wild Heart (1952) … Production Company (for)

  4. The Tales of Hoffmann (1951) … Production Company

  5. Gone to Earth (1950) … Production Company (in association with)

  6. The Elusive Pimpernel (1950) … Production Company (in association with)

  7. The Small Back Room (1949) … Production Company

  8. The Red Shoes (1948) … Production Company

  9. The End of the River (1947) … Production Company

  10. Black Narcissus (1947) … Production Company

  11. A Matter of Life and Death (1946) … Production Company

  12. ‘I Know Where I’m Going!’ (1945) … Production Company

  13. A Canterbury Tale (1944) … Production Company (as A Production of the Archers)

  14. The Volunteer (1943) … Production Company

  15. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) … Production Company

  16. The Silver Fleet (1943) … Production Company (as A Production of the Archers)

  17. One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942) … Production Company

The Archers

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