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Scorsese salutes British film duo


Martin Scorsese paid tribute to film-making greats Powell and Pressburger as he helped to unveil a plaque in their honour.

Following his visit to the Bafta Film Awards, the director attended a ceremony launching the English Heritage blue plaque on the duo's London office.

Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were behind some of the most celebrated British films of their era such as The Life And Death Of Colonel Blimp, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes and A Matter Of Life And Death.

The plaque has been placed outside the office at Dorset House in Gloucester Place, Marylebone, which served as a base for their production company, The Archers, from 1942 to 1947.

In keeping with the austerity of those days, their office was sparsely decorated with camp beds in case of air-raid warnings and it remained barely furnished with little in the way of pictures or posters.

The Wolf Of Wall Street director Scorsese - long an admirer of their work - said he was "very moved" when he was told their work was to be celebrated.

"I was about 10 years old when I first saw The Red Shoes - my father took me to see it in 1949. To realise that the riches came out of this building was extraordinary.

"It had to be rediscovered because we never saw the films in their complete form until the first retrospective in the 1970s. So over the years it was always a search mission to find out who they were.

"At one point we couldn't find anything written on them and we thought they were pseudonyms.

"I did meet Michael Powell in London in 1975 and we became friends for the last 15 years of his life."

He was accompanied by Powell's widow Thelma Schoonmaker at the launch.

She said: "When Michael first brought me to London, it gave him enormous pleasure to point out the English Heritage blue plaques as we drove through the city - 'Here the ballerina Taglioni once lived ... there Karl Marx worked on Das Kapital... here Arthur Conan Doyle crafted his Sherlock Holmes stories...' - s o to have a plaque on the place where his great partnership with Emeric Pressburger flourished during World War Two would have thrilled him.

"On behalf of his two sons, Kevin and Columba, and myself we thank English Heritage for honouring the place from which emerged what Martin Scorsese has called with envy 'the longest period of subversive filmmaking in a major studio ever'."

Sir Christopher Frayling, a member of the English Heritage blue plaque panel, said: "The Powell and Pressburger partnership was one of the most important in the history of British cinema, responsible for some of our most cherished films. Our blue plaque celebrates both their art and the building where they conjured their cinematic magic."

Pressburger's grandson, the director Kevin Macdonald, said: "As a Hungarian who ended up more English than the English, Emeric Pressburger would have been delighted to see his name alongside his friend and collaborator Michael Powell's on such a lovely London street."

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