Michael Latham Powell

Name
Michael Latham Powell
Birth and death
1905 - 1990
Occupation
Profession details
Film Director
Related place
Author
Jonathan Seal

Life in Elmbridge

Michael Powell made his directorial debut in 1931 with a film called 'Two Crowded Hours' which was filmed at Nettlefold Studios in Walton. 'Two Crowded Hours' was a modest success at the box office, starring John Longden and Jerry Verno. The name of the studio derives from its second owner, Archibald Nettlefold, whose ownership succeeded Cecil Hepworth, the original founder of the film studios in Walton. Powell was to use Nettlefold again to direct 'Hotel Splendide' in 1932.

Life outside of Elmbridge

Powell, born near Canterbury, Kent, on 30th September 1905, was educated at King's School in Canterbury, and Dulwich College. Upon completing his education, Powell originally went into the employment of the National Provincial Bank in 1922 before entering the film industry in 1925. Although arguably most famous in his later career for his partnership with Emeric Pressburger with whom he created a series of films under their joint company 'The Archers', Powell began his film career with the Hollywood director Rex Ingram at Victorine Studios in France. He then returned to England in 1928 where he worked for other filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock and Jerry Jackson.
Powell's personal project 'The Edge of the World' (1937) gained him recognition as the best direction of a foreign film at the 1938 Venice film festival. However it was not until a year later when Powell met Pressburger whilst working on the film 'The Spy In Black'. It was the first of twenty-one films that they collaborated on, forming 'The Archers' in 1943. One of their most successful films was 'The Red Shoes' (1948), based on a fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen. His career stalled with the release of psychological thriller 'Peeping Tom' (1959) with critics finding the voyeuristic nature of the film sexually and violently offensive. This subsequently made it difficult for Powell to find both work and more importantly funding.

Powell's rehabilitation within the film industry took him to Australia in the late 1960's and was complete by the 1970's. Directors such as Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, part of the emerging generation of 'New Hollywood' directors, pointed to Powell's work as inspiration, leading to the final decades of Powell's life spent out in America in the company of these men. By now 'Peeping Tom' had won over critics as an important advancement in the horror genre, with Powell's earlier relationship with Pressburger viewed as one of the most important in 20th century cinema. A fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, Powell had been nominated for six Oscars and two BAFTAs by the time of his death from cancer on 19th February 1990.

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