This Friday, the New-York Historical Society will present a free screening of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, the 1943 classic that follows the life of the titular character through the Second Boer War, WWI and the beginning of WWII. However, Colonel Blimp actually began life as a cartoon character.
Created by cartoonist David Low in 1934, the Colonel Blimp cartoons appeared in the Evening Standard, making “confused and childlike pronouncements on current events” from the saunas in a Turkish bath, according to Low’s biography. He was a lovable dope, and a satire on the reactionary opinions of many British politicians at the time.
The film, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, sees the Colonel captured in that same Turkish bath, and flashes back to over forty years of his life and service. As Roger Ebert summed up:
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp has four story threads. It mourns the passing of a time when professional soldiers observed a code of honor. It argues to the young that the old were young once, too, and contain within them all that the young know, and more. It marks the General’s lonely romantic passage through life, in which he seeks the double of the first woman he loved. And it records a friendship between a British officer and a German officer, which spans the crucial years from 1902 to 1942.
Introductory remarks to the film will be made by Thelma Schoonmaker, the Academy Award-winning film editor. Schoonmaker was married to director Michael Powell from 1984 until his death in 1990.