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Eric Cawthorne

Date of Birth: December 1931
Country of Birth: UK



When, in 'A Matter of Life and Death', Carter (David Niven) is washed ashore, after having bailed from his crashing Lancaster Bomber, he is greeted by a beautiful and ethereal landscape of golden sands and dazzling blue skies, and he is unsure whether he is in this world or the next. When he stumbles upon a naked boy playing his penny whistle and herding his goats, he is convinced that he is in the afterlife. This moment, however, is rudely shattered when an American plane screeches overhead. But who, exactly, played the part of the Naked Goatherd? In 2010, a national newspaper published a letter from a man who had been a boyhood friend of one Eric Cawthorne. Although he and Eric had drifted a little apart by the time the movie was first shown in cinemas, nevertheless, he knew the moment he first saw the movie that the boy was Eric. Five years later, in 2015, Eric was tracked down and was able to confirm his role in the film. Surprised that anyone could be interested in a minor role in an old movie from decades back, he was nevertheless able to provide details about how it came about. In 1945, Eric Cawthorne, whose own parents had died some time before, was living with his aunt in the farm labourers' cottages connected with Pickwell Manor, where Powell, Niven and Kim Hunter were staying. When Powell asked around whether anyone knew of a local boy with a proper Devonian accent, someone had suggested Eric. The filming for Eric's role as the Naked Goatherd in Powell and Pressburger's classic movie was conducted at nearby Saunton Sands in the first half of September of 1945. At the time of filming, Eric was thirteen-and-three-quarters years old. For his services, Eric was paid what was then the truly princely sum of £14 Sterling; though, to put this a little in perspective, the total cost of production for the whole movie was in the region of £320,000. In later life, Eric went on to become a successful local businessman. As of November of 2020 he was still alive and living in Devon.

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Page Last Modified: 27th November 2020
Page Added: 12th August 2017

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