Erik and Spangle in A Matter of Life and Death (film still from A Matter of Life and Death)

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

Michael Powell’s two cocker spaniels made canine cameo appearances in four of the Powell & Pressburger films. They turn up in Contraband, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and I Know Where I’m Going! Their last appearance is in Dr Reeves’ camera obscura in 1946′s A Matter of Life and Death.

The following letter regarding the dogs’ acting careers appeared in David McGillivray’s ‘Now You Know’ column in the magazine Films and Filming (June 1983), as a response to a reader enquiry:

My thanks to Michael Powell for passing on to me the following communication.

“Our names are Erik and Spangle and your letter has been dropped in on our celestial kennel by a passing astronaut. Our dear owner on earth was Mr Michael Powell, who had something to do with films – we never found exactly what. Erik is named for Erik the Red and Spangle’s name comes from a film in which Wallace Beery says to Jean Harlow ‘I don’t like all those spangles on your dress’, a remark which prompts Robert Benchley’s ‘I had a spangle once, a cocker spangle’. Mr Pressburger wrote us into the scripts of the films you mention, but the camera obscura scene was our own idea.

P.S. If you see Colonel Blimp again, watch when we arrive in the house in London Square. Erik was so excited that he cocked his leg on a piece of Chippendale.

(The film referred to is probably China Seas, which featured all three actors and was released in 1935, so about the right time to have inspired the name of a thespian dog working in the early forties.)

Erik and Spangle in the Camera Obscura in A Matter of Life and Death

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