Monday, January 19, 2009

RIP Kathleen Byron

Once seen, never forgotten as the most troubled of the nuns in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's great Black Narcissus, Byron also appeared in their 1949 film The Small Back Room, a gem I only recently discovered, and 1946's A Matter of Life and Death, as a spooky "other world" emissary in filmy black-and-white. (It's the opposite of her startling Technicolor appearance in Narcissus, pictured, particularly when her nun abandons her habit for more sensual dress and blood-red lipstick.) It was Ian Christie's commentary track on Matter (newly released to DVD) that reminded me that she played the wife of the now-elderly rescued soldier in the framing scenes of Saving Private Ryan--I guess she'll always be Sister Ruth to me. Byron also appeared in Burn Witch Burn (1962), Twins of Evil (1971), The Elephant Man (1980), and Emma (1996), and lots of TV across the pond.

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