The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp


2h 43m 1943
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Brief Synopsis

An aging military man looks back on the loves and friends who shaped his life.

Film Details

Also Known As
Colonel Blimp
Genre
Romance
Drama
War
Release Date
1943

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 43m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Synopsis

Clive Candy V.C. has fought in the Boer War and the first world war. He still believes he can win any fight with honour and maintaining "gentlemanly conduct". It takes an old German friend of his to point out how much the rules have been changed when fighting the Nazis. We follow this delightful gentleman through his life and the pursuit of his (various) ideals.

Videos

Movie Clip

Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, The (1943) - Whatever You Shoot Young Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey) returned from the Boer War, welcomed by Aunt Margaret (Muriel Aked, with servant Phyllis Morris) with a suggestion he follows, time flying, trick photography, from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, 1943.
Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, The (1943) - You Are Livingstone, I Presume? Candy (Roger Livesey) meets Edith (Deborah Kerr) in Berlin, just about perfectly cast in her first appearance in her earliest (of three) characters in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, 1943.
Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, The (1943) - Opening, Total War, Isn't It? A variation on the usual "Archers" open (with no arrow!), then a clever embroidery theme for the credits, then the roaring military-musical motorcycling sequence, opening Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's celebrated The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, 1943.
Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, The (1943) - Fighting Positions Candy (Roger Livesey) is obliged to duel a German officer (Anton Walbrook) drawn by lot, advised by Colonel Borg (Theodor Zichy), memorably staged by director Michael Powell, in the Boer War segment of The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, 1943.
Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, The (1943) - Forty Years Ago Part of the opening narrative device, home guard squad led by "Spud" Wilson (James McKechnie) arresting the elder General Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey) at a Turkish bath, from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, 1943.

Film Details

Also Known As
Colonel Blimp
Genre
Romance
Drama
War
Release Date
1943

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 43m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1

Articles

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp


British filmmaker Michael Powell is probably best known in the United States for directing the cherished ballet melodrama, The Red Shoes (1948), a picture that many consider to be his greatest work. But Americans shouldn't be too surprised that Powell and his producing partner, Emeric Pressburger, seldom scored hits in this country. Their other masterpiece, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), was the subject of considerable scorn in England when it was first released, even though Brits were the only viewers who seemed truly capable of grasping its stiff-upper-lip form of satire.

Set over a period of several years, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp follows the exploits of a British Army officer named Clive Candy (Roger Livesey). In a manner that's somewhat reminiscent of Citizen Kane (1941), Powell jumps around in the narrative as he examines Candy's often dismayingly dignified approach to both war and romance. Candy ages from a young participant in the Boer War into a conservative member of the Old Guard, all while pining for his one true love (Deborah Kerr, portraying three different characters). Along the way, Powell also traces Candy's ongoing relationship with a Prussian military officer (Anton Walbrook).

As is so often the case with a Powell-Pressburger film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp boasts stellar production values. Powell shot the picture in glorious color, a genuine rarity during the war years, since color film stock was so hard to come by. Although Colonel Blimp features a terrific cast, cinematographer Georges Perinal's vibrant Technicolor imagery adds greatly to the picture's overall effectiveness. He was a hugely talented visual stylist.

Powell and Pressburger sensed that they were asking for trouble when they first conceived of Colonel Blimp, and they were right. Based on a popular David Low comic strip about a gasbag member of the British military, the picture's critique of gentlemanly warriors seemed too harsh for a public that was under constant attack from Nazi air raids and bombings. In a lot of ways, Colonel Blimp is quite warm-hearted. But who wants to be told that the stoic men who are leading their sons into life-or-death battle are archaic buffoons? Low, not helping matters a bit, actually described the Blimp character as "a symbol of stupidity," but noted that "stupid people are quite nice."

Winston Churchill, who detected a lot of himself in the Powell-Pressburger version of Col. Blimp, was outraged by the film. Given the gentle handling of Walbrook's character, there was even concern that the picture was pro-German! Churchill's Minister of War, Sir James Grigg, tried to nip the entire enterprise in the bud when, after reading the screenplay, he refused to loan Powell and Pressburger any form of military gear for filming.

That, however, didn't stop the producers. As Powell later wrote in his autobiography: "I have often been asked how we managed to obtain military vehicles, military uniforms, weapons and all the fixings after being refused help by the War Office and the Ministry of Information. The answer is quite simple: we stole them." Apparently, Powell and Pressburger had enough friends in high places to scrounge together everything they needed to make the film, Churchill be damned.

Churchill, of course, never gave up. He would refuse to let The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp be exported to other countries until two years after the war ended, at which point it was only shown in a highly edited form. Audiences in the U.S. didn't see the film as Powell intended it until some 40 years later. By then, of course, Churchill was dead, although he may have made one or two rotations in his grave upon Colonel Blimp's glorious reception by the critics.

Producer: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Screenplay: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Cinematography: Georges Perinal
Film Editing: John Seabourne
Art Direction: Alfred Junge
Music: Allan Gray
Cast: James McKechnie (Lt. Spud Wilson), Neville Mapp (Stuffy Graves), Vincent Holman (Club porter), Roger Livesey (Clive Candy), David Hutcheson (Hoppy Hopwell), Spencer Trevor (Period Blimp).
C-163m.

by Paul Tatara
The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

British filmmaker Michael Powell is probably best known in the United States for directing the cherished ballet melodrama, The Red Shoes (1948), a picture that many consider to be his greatest work. But Americans shouldn't be too surprised that Powell and his producing partner, Emeric Pressburger, seldom scored hits in this country. Their other masterpiece, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), was the subject of considerable scorn in England when it was first released, even though Brits were the only viewers who seemed truly capable of grasping its stiff-upper-lip form of satire. Set over a period of several years, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp follows the exploits of a British Army officer named Clive Candy (Roger Livesey). In a manner that's somewhat reminiscent of Citizen Kane (1941), Powell jumps around in the narrative as he examines Candy's often dismayingly dignified approach to both war and romance. Candy ages from a young participant in the Boer War into a conservative member of the Old Guard, all while pining for his one true love (Deborah Kerr, portraying three different characters). Along the way, Powell also traces Candy's ongoing relationship with a Prussian military officer (Anton Walbrook). As is so often the case with a Powell-Pressburger film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp boasts stellar production values. Powell shot the picture in glorious color, a genuine rarity during the war years, since color film stock was so hard to come by. Although Colonel Blimp features a terrific cast, cinematographer Georges Perinal's vibrant Technicolor imagery adds greatly to the picture's overall effectiveness. He was a hugely talented visual stylist. Powell and Pressburger sensed that they were asking for trouble when they first conceived of Colonel Blimp, and they were right. Based on a popular David Low comic strip about a gasbag member of the British military, the picture's critique of gentlemanly warriors seemed too harsh for a public that was under constant attack from Nazi air raids and bombings. In a lot of ways, Colonel Blimp is quite warm-hearted. But who wants to be told that the stoic men who are leading their sons into life-or-death battle are archaic buffoons? Low, not helping matters a bit, actually described the Blimp character as "a symbol of stupidity," but noted that "stupid people are quite nice." Winston Churchill, who detected a lot of himself in the Powell-Pressburger version of Col. Blimp, was outraged by the film. Given the gentle handling of Walbrook's character, there was even concern that the picture was pro-German! Churchill's Minister of War, Sir James Grigg, tried to nip the entire enterprise in the bud when, after reading the screenplay, he refused to loan Powell and Pressburger any form of military gear for filming. That, however, didn't stop the producers. As Powell later wrote in his autobiography: "I have often been asked how we managed to obtain military vehicles, military uniforms, weapons and all the fixings after being refused help by the War Office and the Ministry of Information. The answer is quite simple: we stole them." Apparently, Powell and Pressburger had enough friends in high places to scrounge together everything they needed to make the film, Churchill be damned. Churchill, of course, never gave up. He would refuse to let The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp be exported to other countries until two years after the war ended, at which point it was only shown in a highly edited form. Audiences in the U.S. didn't see the film as Powell intended it until some 40 years later. By then, of course, Churchill was dead, although he may have made one or two rotations in his grave upon Colonel Blimp's glorious reception by the critics. Producer: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger Director: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger Screenplay: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger Cinematography: Georges Perinal Film Editing: John Seabourne Art Direction: Alfred Junge Music: Allan Gray Cast: James McKechnie (Lt. Spud Wilson), Neville Mapp (Stuffy Graves), Vincent Holman (Club porter), Roger Livesey (Clive Candy), David Hutcheson (Hoppy Hopwell), Spencer Trevor (Period Blimp). C-163m. by Paul Tatara

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp


It is hard to overstate the beauty of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's collective cannon. Black Narcissus (1946), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), and The Red Shoes (1948) are wondrous concoctions of light, music, and otherworldly Technicolor. Now, the Criterion Collection's new transfer of one of Powell and Pressburger's relatively unknown masterpieces, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), is finally given its due.

Colonel Blimp is a satirical comedy/drama that is far removed from the exotic and the fantastic milieus Powell and Pressburger would explore in their later color films, which is ironic since the film is based on a popular black and white political cartoon character, Colonel Blimp. Regardless of the film's newsprint origins, Powell and Pressburger's take did not start as a straight adaptation of David Low's cartoonish creation. The idea actually took root in a discarded scene in one of their earlier films One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942), where an elderly bomber crew member reminds a younger soldier that he too was once young.

Criterion pays tribute to the film's newsprint heritage with "David Low's Colonel Blimp." This excellent supplement delves into Low's creation, with textual information that gives the history of the character overlapped with a gallery of noteworthy cartoons. Colonel Blimp first appeared on April 21, 1934, in London's Evening Standard, and within eighteen months, according to The Times, "passed into the mythology of our country, to share the timeless existence of beings like Sherlock Holmes." No doubt, Low himself may have been amused with the comparison to the gentleman thinker-sleuth. Low said he "conceived Colonel Blimp as a symbol of stupidity. Not of colonels, nor of stupid colonels in particular. Not of Authority, nor especially of stupid Authority. Not exclusively of the Right Wing nor the Left. Stupidity has no frontiers, domestic or foreign, partly, professional or social."

Stupid may be as stupid does, but Powell and Pressburger's interpretation of the character was satirically smart and biting enough to give even the highest of UK VIPs some pause, as is revealed in an exchange of memos and letters between the producers and leaders in the British government. When the film was ready for distribution, Winston Churchill himself, no small critic of the film, attempted to block its disbursement to the public and to the Army, thinking it "detrimental" to morale. But producer Arthur Rank stood up to the old lion by showing it in his Odeon cinema circuit and even advertising it with the headline, "See the banned film!" Naturally, the controversy only engendered more curiosity, which translated into record ticket sales at the British box office. But some censorship edits were imposed by an arguably well meaning British wartime government. This truncated version was released in America in 1945. Colonel Blimp was restored to its original length in 1983, forty years after its original release in Great Britain.

As is usually the case with a Criterion production, supplemental materials are plentiful for Colonel Blimp, including a 1988 audio commentary featuring Michael Powell and Powell & Pressburger champion Martin Scorsese; a 24-minute video documentary, A Profile of the Life and Death of Colonel Blimp; and rare behind the scenes production stills from Michael Powell's private collection. To purchase the DVD visit TCM Shopping.



by Scott McGee

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

It is hard to overstate the beauty of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's collective cannon. Black Narcissus (1946), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), and The Red Shoes (1948) are wondrous concoctions of light, music, and otherworldly Technicolor. Now, the Criterion Collection's new transfer of one of Powell and Pressburger's relatively unknown masterpieces, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), is finally given its due. Colonel Blimp is a satirical comedy/drama that is far removed from the exotic and the fantastic milieus Powell and Pressburger would explore in their later color films, which is ironic since the film is based on a popular black and white political cartoon character, Colonel Blimp. Regardless of the film's newsprint origins, Powell and Pressburger's take did not start as a straight adaptation of David Low's cartoonish creation. The idea actually took root in a discarded scene in one of their earlier films One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942), where an elderly bomber crew member reminds a younger soldier that he too was once young. Criterion pays tribute to the film's newsprint heritage with "David Low's Colonel Blimp." This excellent supplement delves into Low's creation, with textual information that gives the history of the character overlapped with a gallery of noteworthy cartoons. Colonel Blimp first appeared on April 21, 1934, in London's Evening Standard, and within eighteen months, according to The Times, "passed into the mythology of our country, to share the timeless existence of beings like Sherlock Holmes." No doubt, Low himself may have been amused with the comparison to the gentleman thinker-sleuth. Low said he "conceived Colonel Blimp as a symbol of stupidity. Not of colonels, nor of stupid colonels in particular. Not of Authority, nor especially of stupid Authority. Not exclusively of the Right Wing nor the Left. Stupidity has no frontiers, domestic or foreign, partly, professional or social." Stupid may be as stupid does, but Powell and Pressburger's interpretation of the character was satirically smart and biting enough to give even the highest of UK VIPs some pause, as is revealed in an exchange of memos and letters between the producers and leaders in the British government. When the film was ready for distribution, Winston Churchill himself, no small critic of the film, attempted to block its disbursement to the public and to the Army, thinking it "detrimental" to morale. But producer Arthur Rank stood up to the old lion by showing it in his Odeon cinema circuit and even advertising it with the headline, "See the banned film!" Naturally, the controversy only engendered more curiosity, which translated into record ticket sales at the British box office. But some censorship edits were imposed by an arguably well meaning British wartime government. This truncated version was released in America in 1945. Colonel Blimp was restored to its original length in 1983, forty years after its original release in Great Britain. As is usually the case with a Criterion production, supplemental materials are plentiful for Colonel Blimp, including a 1988 audio commentary featuring Michael Powell and Powell & Pressburger champion Martin Scorsese; a 24-minute video documentary, A Profile of the Life and Death of Colonel Blimp; and rare behind the scenes production stills from Michael Powell's private collection. To purchase the DVD visit TCM Shopping. by Scott McGee

Quotes

What is your first name, Miss Cannon?
- Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff
Angela.
- 'Johnny' Cannon
What a lovely name. It comes from Angel, doesn't it?
- Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff
I think it stinks. My friends call me Johnny.
- 'Johnny' Cannon
You know that, after the war, we had very bad years in germany. We got poorer and poorer. Every day retired officers or schoolteachers were caught shoplifting. Money lost its value, the price of everything rose except of human beings. We read in the newspapers that the after-war years were bad everywhere, that crime was increasing and that honest citizens were having a hard job to put the gangsters in jail. Well in Germany, the gangsters finally succeeded in putting the honest citizens in jail.
- Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff
Are you mad? I know what war is!
- Clive Candy
I don't agree. I read your broadcast up to the point where you describe the collapse of France. You commented on Nazi methods, foul fighting, bombing refugees, machine-gunning hospitals, lifeboats, lightships, bailed-out pilots, by saying that you despised them, that you would be ashamed to fight on their side and that you would sooner accept defeat than victory if it could only be won by those methods.
- Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff
So I would.
- Clive Candy
Clive! If you let yourself be defeated by them, just because you are too fair to hit back the same way they hit at you, there won't be any methods BUT Nazi methods! If you preach the Rules of the Game while they use every foul and filthy trick against you, they will laugh at you! They think you're weak, decadent! And if you lose there won't be a return match next year, perhaps not even for a hundred years!
- Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff
You mustn't mind me, an old alien, saying all this. But who can describe hydrophobia better than one who has been bitten - and is now immune.
- Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff
Do you remember, Clive, we used to say: "Our army is fighting for our homes, our women, and our children"? Now the women are fighting beside the men. The children are trained to shoot. What's left is the "home." But what is the "home" without women and children?
- Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff
I was awfully sorry to hear about your leg.
- Hoppy
Jumping Jehosaphat! They're both there!
- Hoppy
What the hell did you think I was standing on?
- Clive Candy
They told me in Bloemfontein that they cut off your left leg.
- Hoppy
Can't have, old boy. I'd have known about it.
- Clive Candy

Trivia

Director 'Powell, Michael' originally wanted Wendy Hiller to play Blimp's "ideal woman", but she was unavailable, so the part was given to Deborah Kerr.

'Powell, Michael' 's golden cocker spaniels Erik and Spangle make their second appearance on film as Clive and Barbara return from their honeymoon.

The tapestry seen in the opening credits was made by the members of The Royal College of Needlework.

Winston Churchill hated the film and wanted it banned.

Director 'Powell, Michael' was intrigued by how second unit cameraman Jack Cardiff was filming the animal heads and gave Jack his first big break as the cinematographer on his next film Matter of Life and Death, A (1946).

Three-quarters of the Germans in the crowd at the POW camp are "carefully painted and positioned" plaster models.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1943

Released in United States 1983

Released in United States 1943

Released in United States 1983 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (British Film Institute: A 50th Anniversary Tribute) April 13 - May 1, 1983.)