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Trivia / Black Narcissus

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     1947 Film 
  • 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
  • Billing Displacement: Sabu is given second billing in the trailer, even though the Young General is more of a supporting character. The Oscar nominated character actress Flora Robson is given third billing, despite playing the small supporting role of Sister Phillipa. Sister Ruth is probably the second most prominent character after Clodagh, but Kathleen Byron is only billed fifth.
  • 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. After the film came out, they received many letters from Indian residents who claimed to recognise the filming locations.
  • Dawson Casting:
    • Averted. Jean Simmons was the same age as Kanchi, who was described as "about seventeen".
    • Joseph Anthony makes a joke that he thinks he's six but could be as old as ten. Eddie Whaley Jr was seven.
  • Enforced Method Acting: The scene of Sister Ruth trying to murder Sister Clodagh was set to a piece that was already composed, so the actions were choreographed to the music.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Joseph was played by Eddie Whaley Jr, who was Brighton born and of mixed African ancestry.
  • Old Shame: Mild example. Eddie Whaley Jr joked about his "limited acting abilities" as a seven-year-old years later.
  • Playing Against Type: Jean Simmons, usually demure and mildly rebellious types, as an exotic seductress.
  • Production Posse:
  • 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.
    • Subverted with Kathleen Byron. The film got her the attention of Hollywood, and she got a part in Young Bess. But she was dissatisfied with the experience and returned to the UK, opting for roles in smaller films and television work.
  • 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.
  • Unbuilt Casting Type: Deborah Kerr's first role as a Proper Lady - or at least Hollywood's first experience of her that way - is of a young woman trying to hold onto her purity and chastity as she is tempted by her exotic environment.
  • Underage Casting: Michael Powell was reluctant to cast Deborah Kerr, fearing she was too young at twenty-five to play a sister superior. Emeric Pressberger pushed for her to be given the role, which ended up becoming her breakout and getting her the attention of Hollywood.
  • 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.
    • Greta Garbo at one point was considered for the part of Sister Clodagh. Deborah Kerr in fact almost wasn't cast because Michael Powell felt she was too young - but Emeric Pressburger lobbied for her.
  • 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".

     2020 Miniseries 
  • Posthumous Credit: The miniseries premiered two months after the passing of Diana Rigg, who played Mother Dorothea. Diana's final role, meanwhile, is in Last Night in Soho, to be released in 2021.


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