Sunday, March 25, 2012
Michael Powell and Me
In 1985, my wife and I organized a celebrity auction as a fundraising event for a non-profit film society we founded in Kentucky. Most celebrities don't contribute items for such auctions, which is understandable since they probably get thousands of requests each year. When you do receive an item, such as a Dennis the Menace sketch by Hank Ketcham, the response is typically from the celebrity's agent or assistant. However, once in a while, a famous person takes the time to write a personal note. I've always loved the letter and annotated photo below from Michael Powell, which accompanied an autographed paperback of The Red Shoes.
Michael Powell was not only a great filmmaker, but--like Truffaut and Scorsese--he promoted the history and the craft of making films. When I hear people comment that "they don't make movies like they used to," I think of a Powell quote: "Seventy years ago, there were men like D.W. Griffith. And seventy years later, now, there are not many men like Martin Scorsese. But so long as there is one, there will be others, and the art of the cinema will survive."
As for Powell's love affair with the cinema, it began at an early age and ended only with his death in 1990. In the first of his two autobiographies, A Life in Movies (a must for any film buff), Powell describes when he was offered his first job in the industry, as an assistant to director Harry Lachman: "I didn't know what to say. I only knew that I stood on the threshold of a new and wonderful life, half in and half out, and that I must, must, cross that threshold."
Fortunately for us, Powll crossed that threshold and enjoyed an amazing career, making films alone and with his frequent collaborator Emeric Pressberger (they formed a production company called The Archers). Over the next four days, the Classic Film & TV Cafe is delighted to host A Tribute to The Archers: A Powell & Pressberger Movie Blogathon. Ten films will be reviewed by 14 classic movie bloggers. We encourage you to check them out and share your affection for some of the greatest films ever made.
Oh, and about that copy of The Red Shoes that Michael Powell sent for the celebrity auction. Even though we had items from Ray Bradbury, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, the President, and even a dress worn by Vanna White on Wheel of Fortune, none matched the bidding war for that Red Shoes book. And, sadly, I didn't get it!