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Powell and Pressburger

Creators of some Britain's most vivid and imaginative cinema

Main image of Powell and Pressburger

The partnership of English director Michael Powell (1905-1990) and Hungarian-born writer Emeric Pressburger (1902-1988) was one of the most inspired in the history of British cinema, producing a body of films notable for their passion and fantasy and quite unlike anything produced in a national cinema traditionally dominated by 'realism'.

The pair quickly distinguished themselves with their well executed propaganda films, including 49th Parallel (1941) and ...One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942), but the spectacular Arabian Nights fantasy Thief of Bagdad (1940), co-directed by Powell without Pressburger, was an early taste of the fantasy which would increasingly inform their films.

In 1943 they established their own production company, Archers Film Productions, and began their most distinctive and personal phase, producing a run of vivid, passionate and beautiful films, including The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), A Canterbury Tale (1944), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948).

The partners separated in 1957, and Powell went on to make the intense psychological horror Peeping Tom (1960), the critical backlash against which all but finished his career. Fortunately, the pair lived long enough to see their work gain new fans in the late 1970s and '80s.

Mark Duguid

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Battle of the River Plate, The (1956)Battle of the River Plate, The (1956)

Last of the Powell/Pressburger partnership - a WWII naval drama

Thumbnail image of Black Narcissus (1947)Black Narcissus (1947)

Remarkably passionate melodrama set in a Himalayan convent

Thumbnail image of Canterbury Tale, A (1944)Canterbury Tale, A (1944)

Weird and fascinating tale of modern-day pilgrims in WWII

Thumbnail image of Gone to Earth (1950)Gone to Earth (1950)

Rural melodrama of a young woman pursued by predatory men.

Thumbnail image of Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The (1943)Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The (1943)

Ambitious wartime saga which infuriated Churchill

Thumbnail image of Matter of Life and Death, A (1946)Matter of Life and Death, A (1946)

Romance fantasy bridging the gap between two worlds

Thumbnail image of Red Shoes, The (1948)Red Shoes, The (1948)

Powell and Pressburger's beautiful and delirious ballet film

Thumbnail image of Thief of Bagdad, The (1940)Thief of Bagdad, The (1940)

Michael Powell co-directed Korda's lavish Arabian Nights fantasy

Related Collections

Thumbnail image of Classic Powell and PressburgerClassic Powell and Pressburger

The golden years of the Archers partnership

Thumbnail image of Early Michael PowellEarly Michael Powell

The early career of a master filmmaker.

Thumbnail image of Late Powell and PressburgerLate Powell and Pressburger

The last years of the Archers - and beyond

Thumbnail image of Powell and LandscapePowell and Landscape

Michael Powell's spiritual fascination with British landscape

Thumbnail image of Powell and Pressburger: The War YearsPowell and Pressburger: The War Years

The work that cemented The Archers partnership

Related People and Organisations

Thumbnail image of Challis, Christopher (1919-)Challis, Christopher (1919-)


Thumbnail image of Powell, Michael (1905-1990)Powell, Michael (1905-1990)

Director, Writer, Producer