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A man occupies a position of trust with a merchant in an East Asian port. He's sacked when he's caught stealing, but he pretends to commit suicide and a captain he befriended agrees to take him to a secret trading post.
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Philippe, a diplomat's son and good friend of Baines the butler, is confused by the complexities and evasions of adult life. He tries to keep secrets but ends up telling them. He lies to protect his friends, even though he knows he should tell the truth. He resolves not to listen to adults' stories any more when Baines is suspected of murdering his wife and no-one will listen to Philippe's vital information. Written by
The key to getting a performance from Bobby Henrey was the remarkable relationship between the young actor and his director. Carol Reed welcomed the challenge, knowing that if he worked well with Bobby he would get something not always easily achieved with an adult actor, the sense of uninhibited connection with a role, without any self-consciousness. "But with the right sort of child such as Bobby, there is nothing in the way," Reed said. "There is absolutely no resistance. He will do everything you tell him." See more »
When Julie leaves the tea shop and closes the shop door, there is an Open / Closed sign hanging on the glass pane of the door. But when Baines and Phillipe leave the tea shop a minute or so later, the sign is no longer there. See more »
Good day, sir... In his office there, miss.
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Just saw "The Fallen Idol" at the Nu-Art in West Los Angeles on the last day of its one week run, with a new crystal clear 35 mm print. The meaning of the title only becomes clear at the film's conclusion, so I won't say much more on that score. From a Graham Greene novella which I have never read, the author drafted the screenplay, so presumably the film remains faithful to Greene's perennial themes: loyalty and betrayal; faith and faithlessness; marriage and divorce. What makes these issues intriguing is that the film largely revolves around the point of view of an innocent, charming young boy called Phillipe, played to perfection by Bobby Henrey. He lives in the London embassy of a French speaking country, which is a sort of purgatory (always the Catholic themes with Greene) which is both in England and not subject to its laws. He is taken care of by a kind valet/ chef de maison called Baines (understatedly played by Ralph Richardson) and his Cruella De Ville of a wife (played as the personification of small-minded evil by Sonia Dresdel). Phillipe has no mother (she has been unwell and away for a long time), and no memory of her. Insteads, he has the run of his own Garden of Eden-the huge Embassy with its lovely views over London, great rooms and sweeping staircases. He even has his own snake- a pet that he hides behind a brick on the balcony and carries around in his pocket. He hero-worships Baines, who indulges him and talk to him and hates Mrs Baines who orders him around, hectors him and threatens him at every turn. The story of the film occurs over a week-end, where Phillippe and the Baines' are left alone in the Embassy as the ambassador has gone to bring back his wife from her convalescence, and revolves how Phillipe understands the love triangle between Mr Baines and Mrs Baines and the lovely Julie (played with cheek-bones high) by Michele Morgan, speaking both French and English.
Look out for some terrific performances by the main cast (especially Bobby Henrey as Phillipe), but also by a series of supporting characters : two washerwomen, a sharp tongued lady of the night, a kindly bobby, several detectives and a perceptive doctor. The photography bears mentioning. There are shades of the "Third Man", as well as a great hide and seek game in darkness under the furniture in the empty Embassy, and a truly memorable run through the empty streets of London in the dark. From a personal point of view I enjoyed several scenes shot on location at the London Zoo, which was all very familiar even from a fifty year vantage point.
The film won a British Academy award so it's not exactly undiscovered, but it's not been easy to find at revival theaters or on DVD, but it deserves to be. As I said at the top, a minor masterpiece which operates on many levels. (Los Angeles-April 2006).
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