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A Matter of Life and Death

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A Matter of Life and Death, aka. Stairway to Heaven, starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, Roger Livesy

A Matter of Life and Death (1946), aka. Stairway to Heaven — starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, Marius Goring, Roger Livesy, Raymond Massey

A Matter of Life and Death (1946), aka. Stairway to Heaven – starring David Niven, Kim Hunter – a truly great movie that everyone should watch

A Matter of Life and Death is an excellent movie, with both a compelling story and frankly excellent acting. The basic plot has an RAF pilot (David Niven) being shot down during World War II, spending his final minutes talking with an American military radio operator (Kim Hunter).  But despite his parachute having been ruined by enemy gunfire, he miraculously survives the crash. The two begin falling in love with each other, as David Niven begins having fantastic visions of being summoned to the afterlife — since he shouldn’t have survived, after all. But David Niven’s character now has something to live for and requests the opportunity to present his case. Is the heavenly summons real, or a result of a concussion from two years prior, combined with his near-death experience?

The movie never tells, and in a real sense, it doesn’t matter. There’s a growing problem, with Niven getting physically worse, and a caring psychiatrist (Roger Livesy) seems to be his only hope. Until the psychiatrist dies the night before Niven’s brain operation …

In short,  A Matter of Life and Death (known as  Stairway to Heaven in the U.S.A.) is an excellently acted, directed performance that’s absolutely riveting, and highly recommended. I rate it (a very rare) 5 stars, and hope that you enjoy it as well.

Cast of characters

  • David Niven (Separate Tables) … Peter Carter
  • Kim Hunter (Planet of the Apes) … June
  • Robert Coote (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) … Bob Trubshaw
  • Kathleen Byron (Saving Private Ryan) … An Angel
  • Richard Attenborough (The Great Escape) … An English Pilot
  • Bonar Colleano … An American Pilot
  • Joan Maude (Hobson’s Choice) … Chief Recorder
  • Marius Goring (The Red Shoes) … Conductor 71
  • Roger Livesey … Dr. Frank Reeves
  • Robert Atkins (Black Magic) … The Vicar
  • Bob Roberts … Dr. Gaertler
  • Edwin Max … Dr. McEwen
  • Betty Potter … Mrs. Tucker
  • Abraham Sofaer (Quo Vadis) … The Judge
  • Raymond Massey (The Fountainhead) … Abraham Farlan

Updated January 5, 2022

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