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Trivia / Black Narcissus

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  • Actor-Inspired Element: Michael Powell wanted Sister Ruth to act crazier when she enters Mr Dean's house. Kathleen Byron however insisted that she should be happy at finally being in the house of the man she loves.
  • BFI Top 100 British Films: #44
  • Beauty Inversion: Kathleen Byron is one of the Trope Makers here. Sister Ruth undergoes Sanity Slippage and her make-up gets steadily creepier, to the point where she looks like she's wearing a corpselike mask in the finale.
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  • Big Name Fan: Martin Scorsese loves the film and has said he's used it for inspiration on many of his projects.
  • California Doubling: The entire film was shot at Pinewood Studios in England, with lots of visual tricks to disguise the sets to make them look Indian.
  • Dawson Casting: Averted. Jean Simmons was the same age as Kanchi, who was described as "about seventeen".
  • Executive Meddling: The film had to be heavily censored when it was exported to America. Sister Clodagh's memories of Ireland, the close-up of Sister Ruth applying lipstick and Mr Dean's innuendos were all cut. There was also a disclaimer stressing that the nuns were Anglican and not Roman Catholic.
  • Fake Irish: Sister Clodagh is Irish played by the Scottish born Deborah Kerr, who uses her own I Am Very British accent. It's unknown if Clodagh's accent faded from her years in the convent or not - though her voice remains the same in flashbacks.
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  • Fake Nationality: Esmond Knight and Jean Simmons perform in Brownface to play Indians. The extras playing the locals were a bunch of Asian refugees from different countries who were "floating around the docks" in post-war London.
  • Playing Against Type: Jean Simmons, usually demure and mildly rebellious types, as an exotic seductress.
  • Production Posse: Deborah Kerr, David Ferrar, Kathleen Byron and Esmond Knight (the Old General) appear in several other Powell/Pressburger films.
  • Romance on the Set: Deborah Kerr was briefly involved with Michael Powell, as was Kathleen Byron. This leads Reality Subtext to the fact that the former was the director's ex, while the latter was his current lover.
  • Star-Making Role: For Deborah Kerr as far as Hollywood goes. The film was a hit over in America, and she was brought to the attention of major producers. It also had the effect of Typecasting her as various Proper Lady characters for a while.
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  • Those Two Actors: Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons and Kathleen Byron all starred together in the film Young Bess as well.
  • Throw It In!:
    • Sister Ruth briefly kisses Mr Dean's hand as he puts a coat around her shoulders. That was unscripted and Kathleen Byron did it on the spur of the moment.
    • The shot of the raindrops falling on the leaves as Sister Clodagh leaves the village was thought up there on set by the cinematographer Jack Cardiff.
  • Wag the Director: Kathleen Byron got into an argument with Michael Powell during the shooting of the scene in Mr Dean's house. The director wanted Sister Ruth to dart all over the place like a lunatic. The actress however wanted to show that Ruth was happy to be in there. Unhappy with this, he walked off the set. When Jack Cardiff asked if they were ready to shoot the scene, he said "ask her". They shot the scene the way Kathleen suggested and he later said that while it wasn't what he wanted, it was still good.
  • What Could Have Been: The film was supposed to end with a scene between Sister Clodagh and the Reverend Mother, where Clodagh apologises and expects a reprimand, but Reverend Mother comforts her. It was filmed but not used, as Michael Powell loved the shot of the rainstorm as Clodagh leaves the village - which was only going to be the penultimate scene.
  • Word of Saint Paul: Kathleen Byron felt that Sister Ruth thought herself to be sane and could have been helped, had the other nuns been "more understanding".
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