Friday, July 08, 2011

John Sweet, star of A Canterbury Tale, has died

One of my very favourite films is Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's A Canterbury Tale. It is that rare thing: an essay in English mysticism.

It is almost impossible to classify or describe - you really have to watch it - but Peter von Bagh makes a brave effort:
There are so many moments of wonderment in this film, many of them extremely simple, and just as many made golden by their deep humanity. How the wind waves the hair of the girl; night scenes where only mysterious sounds seem to exist; how the passage of a train into the shadows of a tunnel produces a short moment of ecstasy; the first sight of Canterbury. 
Or one of the greatest sequences in all of cinema: the organ in Canterbury Cathedral, symbolizing the fulfillment and absolute sameness of the everyday and the sacred.
The film starred Eric Portman, Dennis Price, Sheila Sim and Sgt John Sweet, as he was always billed.

John Sweet died on 5 July at the age of 95. There is a tribute to him on the The Powell and Pressburger Pages, where Steve Crook writes:
He was a real G.I., not a professional actor, working on Eisenhower's staff helping with the preparations for D-Day. He did a bit of amateur theatricals and it was in a Red Cross production for the troops that he was spotted by Michael Powell who realised that he would be perfect for the role of the American in their next film, A Canterbury Tale.

After the film was made, John went with the troops to Europe to do his bit for freedom and democracy.
You can see him and Dennis Price in this brief scene from the film...

1 comment:

Jo Hayes said...

Yes, it is a wonderful film. One of many from that stable.