Friday, September 30, 2011

Black Narcissus(1947).

Black Narcissus(1947). British director-writer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, based on the novel of the same name by Rumer Godden. It is a psychological drama about the emotional problems that happen within a convent of nuns in a Himalayan valley. Cast: Deborah Kerr, Sabu, David Farrar and Flora Robson, and features Esmond Knight, Jean Simmons and Kathleen Byron.

A group of nuns, headed by the young and inexperienced Sister Clodagh, is sent to the Himalayas to open a convent with a school and a clinic. They live in a beautiful palace.

Sister Clodagh arrives with Sister Briony, picked for her strength; Sister Philippa, for her gardening skills; Sister Honey, the most popular nun; and Sister Ruth, who is in poor health and wants a challenge. Having trouble communicating with the people, the Sisters must rely on the manager, Mr. Dean, an Englishman. Sister Clodagh takes in Kanchi, an Indian girl turned away from her family, and the Young General, looking for an education. The high altitude has ill effects on their memories and even for one nun, madness.

This film is one of the most beautifully photographed color movies I have seen. The most stunning scenes happens near the end of the movie. Ruth's mental disintegration is very sad and her change in appearance will take your breath away. (bottom picture).

Kathleen Byron (11 January 1921 – 18 January 2009). She trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. She made her film debut in Carol Reed's The Young Mr Pitt (1942), in which she had two lines as a maid.

She was best known for her roles in the films: A Matter of Life and Death (1946), The Small Back Room (1949)and Black Narcissus (1947). Byron was romantically linked with Michael Powell around the time the film was made; he was named as co-respondent when she was divorced in 1950.

Her success in Black Narcissus led her to Hollywood, which resulted with a supporting role in Young Bess (1953). Her later roles were mostly in B-movies.


  1. Nice post! Black Narcissus is such a great film.

  2. Dawn,
    You know I've never seen a film featuring Sabu? I've been wanting to correct that and this film looks like the perfect choice. You're right about the scenery..from your screen shots it does look stunning, visually.
    Thanks for making me aware of this film.
    Another great review!

  3. Dawn, just think that most of this film was not shot on location , but on an English soundstage makes it all the more amazing.
    Page ,you should try Sabu in the following films:Drums, Jungle Book, and of course The Thief of Bagdad, all worth yor time

  4. Great post Dawn. I just recently saw this film a few months ago on TCM and thought it was just amazing.

  5. Dawn - I'm so glad you put your daily spotlight on this incredible film. Even though I have the DVD, I watched it on TCM this morning, thanks to your post. There is something about "Black Narcissus" that is so magical - it's as if from another world - a beautiful yet alien world. It's one of my own very favorites and one of the great masterpieces, along with "The Red Shoes," of Powell and Pressburger. Stunning, brilliant, haunting - there aren't enough glowing adjectives in the dictionary for "Black Narcissus"...

  6. Meredith, Thank you and thank you for stopping by.

    Page, Thank you. This is one of those films that will grab you from the start and not turn you loose until the very end.

    Paul 2, That is amazing...

    monty, I saw this film for the first time yesterday. I could not believe how much I enjoyed watching it..

    The Lady Eve, I can not believe that you mentioned the film "The Red Shoes,". Kathleen Byron, reminded me so much of the lead actress in "The Red Shoes,". To the point that it creeped me out..

  7. Dawn - That was Moira Shearer in "The Red Shoes," an actual ballerina - and a fine actress, too. There is a high-strung emotional in the two characters, I think, and both actresses embodied their roles exquisitely. I wonder if Michael Powell, who was one of the writers on "The Red Shoes," had Kathleen Byron in mind as the character of Vicky was being developed on the page.


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