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Fascinating character studies at a seaside hotel...
Doylenf16 May 2002
Deborah Kerr and David Niven give stunning performances in this interesting character study of residents of a British seaside hotel forced to examine their feelings and emotions through the revelation of a scandal involving a blustery phony Major Pollock (David Niven. His relationship with the repressed daughter (Deborah Kerr) of a domineering mother (Gladys Cooper) is just one of the interesting aspects of this filming of Terrence Rattigan's stage play.

Rita Hayworth and Burt Lancaster are excellent as ex-lovers forced to examine their pasts. Wendy Hill excels as the keeper of the hotel, herself involved in an affair with Lancaster. Rod Taylor and Audrey Dalton do well as the young lovers caught in the claustrophobic setting dominated by snooping elderly women.

A very worthwhile, sensitive study of people trying to spend quiet days at a resort--very disparate people leading separate lives who must cope with their differences.

Deborah Kerr gives a deeply felt, genuinely moving performance opposite Niven's blustery major and Cooper's exquisitely well-mannered but narrow-minded mother. Niven deserved his Oscar for his moments of quiet desperation and crumbling of character--but Kerr is equally fine and should have had Academy recognition for this role instead of just a nomination.

Wendy Hiller is especially impressive and surely deserved her Best Supporting Actress Oscar as the innkeeper who deals intelligently and sympathetically with the various crises facing her guests. She is a pleasure to watch as she struggles to keep her guests comfortable under trying circumstances.
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Stitched Together Rather Nicely
bkoganbing8 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
As presented in London and on Broadway Separate Tables was two one act plays set in a residential hotel in the seaside resort of Bournemouth. The stories involving Burt Lancaster and Rita Hayworth and the one involving David Niven and Deborah Kerr were presented separately. Fortunately producers Burt Lancaster, Harold Hecht, and James Hill had the good sense to hire Terrence Ratigan to stitch the two acts together into one well done coherent drama. Came out rather nicely.

Burt and Rita's story involve a former married couple who's volatile personalities make it impossible for them to live together and their sexual attraction makes it impossible for them to function without. Lancaster is a working class writer and Hayworth is a chic fashion model. Different temperaments and different worlds. Lancaster in fact is now engaged to Wendy Hiller, the proprietress of the hotel everyone is staying at.

Deborah Kerr is the shy and plain daughter of a domineering Gladys Cooper who is essentially playing the same role she did in Now Voyager. Kerr is attracted to the hale and hearty Major played by David Niven. But Niven is not all he claims to be. He's not a major from Montgomery's Eighth Army, but rather a former lowly supply lieutenant who never saw any combat. And he's got a sexual problem in that he likes to molest women in dark places like movie theaters. In fact he was arrested for it in a nearby town and is panic stricken that the rest of the residents will find out and see through him.

The Major is one of Terrence Rattigan's most personal creations. Rattigan was a gay man living in the pre-Stonewall era when such topics were not talked about. Noel Coward was about as explicit as one could get in British society. The Major was a man playing a role in his whole life and gay people before Stonewall did just that, presenting a facade to the world at large. If Separate Tables were written today, I've no doubt David Niven's character would be explicitly gay.

David Niven had one of the strangest careers in Hollywood. He was a man of acting ability this film certainly proves it. But producers always looked no farther than him as a debonair charming leading man. He carried a host of mediocre films by dint of charm. Separate Tables is one of the few films where he really does create a three dimensional human being.

David Niven was also one of the most popular individuals in Hollywood. As charming in real life as he was on the screen, he was a great raconteur with a host of stories that kept everyone at gatherings entertained. His friends included people of all political persuasions from Humphrey Bogart to William F. Buckley, Jr. That and the fact that Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier split the vote being both nominated for The Defiant Ones got David Niven the Best Actor Oscar in the only time he was ever nominated.

Ironically though the Oscar really did nothing for his career. He went right back to playing the same charming lightweight roles for the most part the rest of his life.

Wendy Hiller got an Oscar in the Best Supporting Actress category. Her's is a subtle understated performance. She's a wise and compassionate woman that Wendy. In love with Burt Lancaster she sees what her duty is in that relationship and she's ready to be a friend to David Niven when Gladys Cooper wants him expelled from the hotel.

What a pity Deborah Kerr never won an Oscar other than an honorary one in the Nineties as a lifetime achievement. Her role as Sybil is about as different from Anna Leonowens in The King and I as from the sluttish Mrs. Holmes in From Here to Eternity. Typecast as prim and proper ladies at first, a backup to Greer Garson at MGM, Kerr broke out with an astonishing range of parts in the Fifties. She never gets the credit due her.

Intelligent and literate, Separate Tables is old fashioned considering the times it was written in. But the characters absorb you in their problems and you leave it with the fervent wish that they all find some healing together or apart.
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Do Check Into The Beauregard Hotel!
ferbs544 December 2007
"Separate Tables" (1958) is a movie that I'd been wanting to see for many years, and it was worth the wait. A "Grand Hotel"-type of story that takes place at a quaint English inn by the sea, it features any number of interesting characters, marvelously depicted by a host of great talents. Thus, we get a love triangle between Burt Lancaster, his ex-wife Rita Hayworth (40 years old in this film and still looking very pulchritudinous) and the charming hotel owner Wendy Hiller, who really did earn her Best Supporting Actress Oscar here. We meet the repressed mess of a spinster played by Deborah Kerr, as well as her impossibly overbearing mother (Gladys Cooper, doing here what she did to Bette Davis in 1942's "Now, Voyager"). We get to know retired Army major David Niven, and learn his dark secrets. (Niven, too, earned his Oscar for this fine portrayal; he also costarred with Kerr in another 1958 film, "Bonjour Tristesse.") And finally, we encounter a pair of young lovers, Rod Taylor and the yummy Audrey Dalton, who can't decide if they should marry or not. Many dramatic encounters abound (some of them sexually frank for 1958), and Hayworth's mature and adult performance might come as the pleasantest surprise of the bunch. Personally, I would say that big Burt picks the wrong gal to go off with at the film's conclusion, but I suppose that this is a matter of personal taste. The bottom line here is that this classic film is a wonderful treat for viewers who appreciate good screen writing and who relish deliciously served acting by a bunch of real pros. And this nice, crisp-looking DVD only adds to the pleasure. So do yourself a favor and check into the Beauregard Hotel!
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A Skillful Blending of Two One Act Plays
theowinthrop9 April 2006
I visited London in 1993, and saw a west end revival of Terrance Rattigan's "Separate Tables" that starred Peter Bowles. It was very odd watching Bowles, whom I have seen playing so many upper crust comic types as in "The Irish R.M." on television, here playing two serious parts: a recovering alcoholic who meets his ex-wife at a hotel he is staying at, and a bluff, good natured military man who disgraces himself - and is facing ostracism as a result - in the same hotel. But these were separate plays, and each well done. Rattigan was a master (possibly the last one) of the "well made play" that Shaw condemned as artificial and fake. The "well made play" Bernard Shaw talked about was the type championed by the French dramatists Planche and Victorien Sardou. Structurally they were perfect, with the concentration on plot mechanism so strong as to diminish everything else. Shaw felt the play should say something. He failed to admit that some of his own plays (among his early ones) like "Caesar And Cleopatra" and "Arms And The Man" were "well made plays", with his own wit added. He also failed to notice that in the hands of a good dramatist (like Rattigan) a well made play could be very strong: "The Winslow Boy", "The Browning Version", "Separate Tables" - the credits prove the point.

As has been pointed out in another of these reviews Rattigan rewrote the plays as one play. This was not too difficult, as the only character in the two who was the same was the hotel manager (Wendy Hiller). Her part was built up a little (in the original she is a close friend of the Burt Lancaster character - here they have a relationship). Frequently people recall David Niven's dramatic triumph and Oscar in "Separate Tables" as the disgraced military man, but Hiller won her best supporting Oscar here (she did not win it for her lead performances in "Pygmalion", "Major Barbara", or "I Know Where I'm Going"). She deserved it, as a woman who sadly sees her chance for happiness swept away, but pulls herself together because she is a grown-up with responsibilities.

Lancaster and Rita Hayworth were formerly married (he a rising Labor Party politician, she a wealthy woman) only to find the tensions of his political career and their tempestuous relationship led to an act of violence that ended the marriage. But Hayworth finds she can't live without Lancaster, and he is willing to consider it again - as their play continues. Will they do it or not?

Niven is a bluff, hail-fellow-well-met type, who claims he was a Major in the army. He happens to be very close to Deborah Kerr, the daughter of autocratic Gladys Cooper. Kerr is quite brow-beaten, but Niven encourages her to try to think for herself. Then it turns out he has committed a sin - he broke the law by performing a dirty act, and was caught. Cooper, who hates anyone who stands up against her, learns of it, and uses it to cause Kerr to break with Niven, and to then try to get the hotel to force him out. Will she succeed or not?

Niven played his role with a degree of regret and humiliation rarely seen by his fans in three decades of film comedies. I have mentioned that he had a dark side, but this was one of the few times it was given full strength. It was worth waiting for, as he was superb.

So too were Hayworth, Kerr, Cooper, and the supporting cast. Rod Taylor and Audrey Dalton were good as the young married couple. But typically good was old Felix Aylmer. As the mild mannered professor who is willing to listen to Cooper's arguments about the need to get rid of that "pervert" for the sake of the hotel's reputation, and then gradually gets fed up with her self-righteous egotism until he starts leading a reaction against it he gave a terrific performance. He too deserved some recognition, but only his fans can give it to him now.
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A Masterpiece Of Loneliness
dencar_14 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I make it a point to watch SEPARATE TABLES at least once a year. It is a masterpiece of an intimate portrait of lonely people who reside at an English seaside hotel and how their lives are crisscrossed by destructive cruelty when they pretend to be what they are not.

David Niven won the Acadamy Award--and rightfully so--for his portrayal of the lonely Major Pollack who embellishes his military past in an attempt to garner the adulation of the overly protected and withdrawn Sybil played superbly by Deborah Kerr. Gladys Cooper turns in a powerful performance as Sybil's mother, the hotel's matriarch and controlling force. Obsessed with stifling her daughter's independence, she refuses to allow Sybil any freedoms and snuffs out every one of her attempts to gain her own life. It is out of this twisted control that she poisons her daughter's respect and friendship with Pollack by attempting to destroy his reputation.

The romance between Burt Lancaster and ex-lover Rita Hayworth weaves through the story as an excellent subplot. When Hayworth, a glamorous but lonely cover girl, shows up unexpectedly to get Lancaster, the pair thrash out their past failed relationship. The only negatives are Rod Taylor and his fiancée who are pretty much an afterthought in the film and do little more than provide a scandalous intermission for the Niven--Cooper confrontation. And Wendy Hiller, The manager and owner of the hotel, towers as the one character who stands up to Cooper and her poisoning of Niven. When Lancaster passes her up for Hayworth, she accepts it with dignity and character.

It is, however, the final scene in which Niven enters the breakfast room after being shamed by Cooper's calumny that serves as the film's shimmering jewel. Kerr acknowledges Niven, the others follow suit and reocognize Pollack humanely, and you practically hear the audience applaud when Sybil stands up to her twisted mother. It is the supreme moment; for the characters have established a humane connection among "separate tables." What a powerful finale as the camera draws back through the breakfast room window, the theme song tugs at your heart, and the guests resume their lonely lives.

SEPARATE TABLES is a powerful drama and a fantastic study of the pain that springs from human alienation and distrust.

Dennis Caracciolo
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Comfort Film
martindonovanitaly27 February 2018
I don't know why, sometimes I think it may have to do with previous lives, otherwise why do I feel so comfortable within the discomforts of this English seaside hotel. But the fact is that, often, I want to put it on and sit at one of the tables myself. I believe that Terence Rattigan is the main reason. What a wonderful writer. Then, Gladys Cooper of course, how can such a perfidious mother be such a pleasure to watch? Maybe is that explosive combination of Rattigan/Cooper. Wendy Hiller in one of her few meaty roles in movies, she won an Oscar for it and every nuance, every look is worth pages and pages of exposition. Exquisite. Cathleen Nesbitt is a joy to behold. Deborah Kerr, David Niven who also won the Oscar for his sad impostor, Burt Lancaster and Rita Hayworth bring a dash of Hollywood to the grayness of Bournemouth. Okay, now, dinner is served. Don't let it get cold.
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This is David Niven's movie...
Elizabeth-3285 December 2002
David Niven, who was never given the credit he deserved for his enormous talent, gives the performance of his career in "Separate Tables." Instead of playing the perpetual nice guy, he is a definite shady character. He deceives everyone into believing that he's a reputable person, especially shy Deborah Kerr. But soon, it is revealed that he's not the person he appears to be, with possible disastrous outcomes...

Featuring a fantastic all-star cast, including Burt Lancaster, Rita Hayworth, and Rod Taylor, "Separate Tables" seems to be a forgotten masterpiece. It was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress, and won two...including one for the magnificent David Niven. I highly recommend this movie!
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What a pity most of today's cinemagoers will never see this very moving film
yorky7 January 1999
This is without doubt one of the best films I have ever seen. The fact that it all takes place in one small Bournemouth (England) hotel, no violence, no special effects, no thousands of extras, or vast expenditure says it all. Excellent performances from a star studded cast, especially David Niven. It is gripping from start to finish, but by modern standards in a gentle way. A movie possibly mainly for women, but as a man I can only say that I found it very moving. A film I will always watch whenever it comes around as it always will. A classic.
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Intriguing and well-written drama
FilmOtaku11 April 2004
This film came highly recommended to me by my parents, so I was anxious to watch it. Again, I realized that my impression of Burt Lancaster is completely different from what he actually is as an actor. His portrayal of an alcoholic man who gets a visit from his ex-wife (Hayworth) at the hotel he resides is again different from the boisterous, oafish guy that I always believed him to be when I was younger. Also at the hotel are a varied group of characters – including an oppressive woman who lords over her timid spinster daughter (Kerr) and a retired Army officer with some secrets, (Niven) who are all taken care of by the distant, yet sincere proprietress, Pat Cooper (the amazing Wendy Hiller). The film encompasses all of their separate plot lines, and interweaves them gradually until the climatic ending. There was no action in this film, just wonderful, straight melodrama and some great writing and acting. A year later, Lancaster and Hecht, the producers behind this film, went on to produce `Sweet Smell of Success', which is infinitely more searing and dark, but it was interesting to see the precursor to that film. I recommend this film for anyone who appreciates solid classic melodramas.

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Loneliness and desperation at its most heartfelt
TheLittleSongbird8 August 2017
After watching the Terence Rattigan DVD collection (with most of the adaptations being from the 70s and 80s) when staying with family friends last year, Rattigan very quickly became one of my favourite playwrights and he still is. His dialogue is so intelligent, witty and meaty, his characterisation so dynamic, complex and real and the storytelling so beautifully constructed.

'Separate Tables' for all those reasons and how Rattigan brings emotional and psychological complexities to real life situations is classic Rattigan, to me one of his best. This 1958 film does it justice. Other adaptations of Rattigan did better jobs at opening out the source material, notable examples being 1951's 'The Browning Version' and 1948's 'The Winslow Boy', but keeping things confined here in 'Separate Tables' was in keeping with the characters' situations without being too stagy.

The weakest element of 'Separate Tables' is that while Rod Taylor and Audrey Dalton are appealing their material isn't as interesting or as meaty as that for the rest of the characters. Otherwise there is little to complain about.

Rattigan's writing shines brilliantly in 'Separate Tables', to me he was one of the great playwrights/writers of the 20th century who didn't deserve to go out of fashion (or so that seems to be the case). It has so much intelligence, insight, meaty complexity, emotional impact and the odd bit of humour (though much of the play bases itself around a serious subject). Is the film talky? Sure. Then again as was said for 1948's 'The Winslow Boy', the play is talky and Rattigan in general is talky.

As well as clever, consummate storytelling, it's melodramatic but in an incredibly insightful, intricately intimate, honest and poignant way that tells so much about the characters and their situations, the film doesn't get overwrought or overheated and the ending is one particularly powerful scene.

Production values are handsome, and wisely kept simple rather than going for big, grand, lavish spectacle that would most likely have been overblown and swamped the drama and characterisation which would have wrecked things completely. Didn't think that Delbert Mann's direction was bland at all, it's restrained and low-key but always assured.

One cannot not mention the wonderful casting. Although not having the strongest characters, Taylor and Dalton are still good, but the more well-known names in more interesting roles dominate. David Niven received an Oscar for his performance here, despite his screen time not being long judging from his moving performance of a seemingly blustery character who darkens vastly in demeanour it was deserved. Deborah Kerr's performance as a meek, mousy character is deeply felt, she avoids too being too meek to be bland. Wendy Hiller is understated and sympathetic.

Burt Lancaster has fun while also bringing intensity and vulnerability. Rita Hayworth, one of Hollywood's most glamorous beauties, has rarely been more heart-wrenching. One can't forget the superbly domineering Gladys Cooper either.

Overall, a beautiful film and as good a film adaptation of 'Separate Tables' as one would find anywhere. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Loneliness, Secrets and Revelations in a Hotel in Bournemouth
claudio_carvalho12 August 2012
In Bournemouth, England, the Beauregard Hotel is located three minutes from the sea and managed by Pat Cooper (Wendy Hiller). It is off-season and only the resident guests are lodged in the hotel.

The timid Sibyl (Deborah Kerr) is a spinster and hysterical woman totally controlled by her arrogant and snobbish mother Mrs. Maud Railton-Bell (Gladys Cooper) that does not want that she works. Sybil is secretly in love with the reformed Major David Angus Pollock (David Niven) and she enjoys listening to his stories about his life. Lady Gladys Matheson (Gladys Cooper) is the only friend of Mrs. Railton-Bell. The medical student Charles (Rod Taylor) wants to marry his fiancée Jean (Audrey Dalton) but she refuses. Miss Meacham (May Hallatt) and Mr. Fowler (Felix Aylmer) like to play billiards and she always wins the game. The American John Malcolm (Burt Lancaster) is an alcoholic writer that is secretly engaged of Pat.

When the elegant and gorgeous Ann Shankland (Rita Hayworth) checks in the hotel, John is affected by her presence and Pat learns that Ann is his ex-wife that he had tried to kill five years ago. Meanwhile Major Pollock unsuccessfully tries to steal the newspaper West Hampshire Weekly News from the reception. However, Mrs. Railton-Bell arrives and finds an infamous article about him and she tries to expel him from the hotel. These events will affect the lives of the residents.

"Separated Tables" is a film based on a play with a story of loneliness, secrets and revelations in a hotel in Bournemouth. The theatrical plot is developed in slow pace inside the hotel and the lives of the lonely guests are entwined with the arrival of a beautiful woman and the discovery of a secret about the behavior of one guest, changing the relationship of them.

This film won the Oscars of Best Actor in a Leading Role (David Niven) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Wendy Hiller), and was nominated to five other Oscars (Best Actress in a Leading Role (Deborah Kerr); Best Cinematography in Black-and-White; Best Music Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture; Best Picture; and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium). In addition, "Separated Tables" has another five wins and seven nominations. The number of prizes (7) and nominations (12) is the best indication of how great this film is. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Vidas Separadas" ("Separated Lives")
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A Classic to Rival 'Close Encounter'
robert-temple-113 October 2009
I have just seen this for the third time, and it gets better every time. What anyone under the age of 30 would make of it, I cannot imagine. But for people old enough to remember having met or known people like the characters in this film (which is also a classic play by Terence Rattigan, revived from time to time on stage), this is a harrowing, searing examination of the interior recesses of fossilised people in a formal society of manners such as England was before the 1960s. The play/film is set in a seaside hotel at Bournemouth in England in the 1950s. It is peopled by lonely, stiff upper lip people who sit at separate tables in the communal dining room. The performances by numerous famous actors are absolutely staggering. David Niven gives certainly his finest performance in any film, well deserving his Oscar. Deborah Kerr leaves our jaws agape at her wholly convincing portrayal of a cringeing, crushed daughter of a tyrant mother who despite having entered middle age still says simperingly: 'Yes Mummy, No Mummy' and is afraid of her own shadow. The film is actually dominated by two older women: on the one hand, Gladys Cooper tyrannizes over the entire cast of characters with her Olympian certainties, pernicious control freakery, destructive and sadistic cruelty, all masked by 'proper manners', a 'concern for morality', and a view of herself as representative of a superior class of being, not to mention the upper class of society. She is one of those elegantly dressed older women who used to dominate all around them, gave themselves the airs of duchesses, or at least of the duchesses they imagined (since they had probably never met one), and who carried snobbery to its greatest heights. Cooper absolutely dominates the screen in every shot, and her arched brow or wrinkled nose of disapproval is enough to terrify a pontiff. And then there is the calm, emotionally ravaged, but practical and efficient hotelier, played by Wendy Hiller. She dominates her own scenes in turn, with her unique charm, and she well deserved her Oscar too. Poor Wendy has been in love with Burt Lancaster for years. But then his ex-wife Rita Hayworth turns up, whose cold glamour casts an arctic spell, and the intensity of her needs and her egotism threaten to turn the proceedings to ice, which will shatter into shards and leave everyone chilled at the heart. It is all done to perfection. Delbert Mann, who was such a brilliant director, here outdoes himself. The stagey 'set' of the hotel suggests a large, rambling stage set through which the camera relentlessly prowls. There is no attempt made to show 'the world outside', or to achieve realism beyond the walls of the Hotel Beauregard where the multiple dramas unfold. We all somehow understand that this is a play, but there is nothing uncinematic about it, quite the reverse. The underlying theme of all the stories in this film can be summed up in one word: self-control. All of the characters' feelings are suppressed, all of their upper lips are as stiff as boards, all of their hearts are breaking, everything is appearance, but beneath the appearance there are the unheard screams, the cries, the agonies, the concealed feelings, and the sobs that are never heard because never uttered. The days when people could control themselves (albeit so often too much so, as we see here) are long gone. Nowadays it all hangs out, every last bit of it. Nothing is concealed any longer. And yet here we see a tableau of self-control presented to our eyes to remind us what everything was like just a short time ago, well within the living memories of half the people on the planet. And yet, as I said, no one under 30 could possibly comprehend even one iota of what is meant or represented by this study of a lost society, this museum of morals and manners that have all gone as completely as the dodo. There is such pathos in this film, as we suffer with these people whose torn hearts are pinned behind their backs, and who go through life helpless, flailing, and nearly lost. What a step back in time this is, so strongly and unforgettably portrayed. When the fossils are all inspected in the natural history museums of the future, will this one be amongst them? And will it inspire more awe than the triceratops? As an example of magnificent ensemble playing it is difficult to imagine this film being surpassed. It is an absolute masterpiece.
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If you like human nature you'll love this movie.
braggs12313 February 2007
I enjoyed this movie immensely. I went back and watched parts of it over because it was done so well.

The actors show the greatness and degradation of human nature under the duress of great personal obstacles and non-ideal circumstances.

Burt Lancaster is both bold and vulnerable, directly honest and compassionately understanding.

One person exhibits unsurpassed understanding with unselfish love. To me, this is a love story on many levels; manipulative love, selfish, lonely love, the love of people's opinion, love battling fear and finally... well, you need to watch it and see.
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This is now my favorite movie
deexsocalygal6 August 2020
It's 2020 I'm 59 & I just finished watching this for the first time. I immediately had to watch it over again it was so good. This is one of those movies that you'll want to see over & over. The acting was superb. I was so touched by the personalities dynamics of every single character in this film. My favorite genre is drama & I prefer black and white so this was right up my alley. At the end I held my breath & when The End came up on the screen I started crying. I had to watch the whole thing a second time & I will be purchasing the DVD for sure. There wasn't a boring moment and the ending was the best part. I wish there was a sequel! I would of loved to of seen the Major and the shy gal get together slowly as they talk and share moments at the hotel. It would have made a great romance!
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Fantastically acted classic
HotToastyRag22 February 2018
Based off of Terence Rattigan's plays, Separate Tables is one of the few stage adaptations that transfers extremely well to the big screen. Most play-to-film adaptations are woody and wordy, and the dialogue is extremely artificial. If you've seen a Tennessee Williams movie, you know what I mean. William Inge's plays usually translate well, as does this film, which was nominated for seven Oscars and won two in the 1959 ceremony.

The entire film takes place in an English hotel that's like a permanent bed and breakfast. Wendy Hiller, who won Best Supporting Actress, gives an excellent strong, subdued, and conflicted performance as the hotel proprietress. She's romantically involved with one of her tenants, Burt Lancaster, a tortured soul with a violent temper who drowns his sorrows in alcohol. What will happen when Rita Hayworth, Burt's old flame, comes to town? Gladys Cooper virtually reprises her role from Now, Voyager and plays a controlling, judgmental mother to Deborah Kerr. Deborah gives one of her finest performances; on the surface she's frightened, meek, and obedient, but underneath it all is a ticking time bomb, ready to explode with hatred of her life.

David Niven is another resident, an old, retired Major, always full of entertaining war stories and a kind word for the sheltered Deborah Kerr. Niven won Best Actor for his performance, and while I am probably one of his biggest fans, it always seemed odd to me that he was up for Best Actor rather than Best Supporting Actor. His character is the central crux of the plot, but the screen time is pretty equally split among the main characters. It's hard to pick out one actor or actress as "the lead". Niven is aged up for the role, and puts on a blustering persona to fit his character. He ends his sentences with a "what, what?" as a proverbial English Major would, but it's clear from the first scene he's hiding something. His constant covering is subtle and layered superbly. He doesn't act like he's "acting", and his performance certainly couldn't have been seen from the back row of the theater, but if you're on the lookout for every flinch on his face and slight pause of his words, you'll see a remarkable performance.

The worst part of the movie is Rita Hayworth. I've never been a fan of hers, and she brings nothing special to this role. Her mediocrity might not have been felt on its own, but she was surrounded by such fantastic performances and was showed up constantly. Still, Rita aside, this movie is definitely worth watching. It's a fantastic classic, with a tense, judgmental plot, but one that will keep you on the edge of your seat all the same. For a great double feature, rent Come Back, Little Sheba and Separate Tables-and don't be surprised if you get a lump in your throat more than once.
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great cast
SnoopyStyle24 October 2018
It's the off season for Hotel Beauregard at a seaside English town of Bournemouth run by Pat Cooper. She's having a secret fling with alcoholic John Malcolm (Burt Lancaster). He's surprised by the new guest, his estranged ex-wife Ann Shankland (Rita Hayworth) who left him 5 years ago. Long time resident Major David Angus Pollock (David Niven) tries to hide unsavory allegations against him in the papers. After it comes out, Mrs Railton-Bell leads the drive to expel him although her spinster daughter Sibyl (Deborah Kerr) is taken with Pollock.

The cast is stacked and this movie was a heavy hitting during its Oscars. I would have liked Mrs Railton-Bell to be more likeable. It's obvious what the movie is pushing the audience towards. Whatever the arrogant broad advocates, it is the wrong way. I want a real conflict between two equally reasonable sides. If the same story comes out today, there would be more weight on her side. A real debate could be more compelling. This is a generally good old style melodrama. Hayworth's acting has never been her biggest assets. Lancaster is tapping into his great acting powers. The rest are all great actors doing solid work in their characters. This may not have aged into an iconic classic but its quality is never in doubt.
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Separate Tables
Prismark1012 February 2020
Terence Rattigan's play was turned into a melodrama of manners and repression.

Set in a dowdy seaside guest house in Bournemouth. The Hotel Beauregard is facing scandal with one of its guests. Major David Angus Pollock (David Niven) has been named in the local newspaper for his unsavoury behaviour towards some ladies in the cinema.

The allegations reduce the bluster from the Major and make him face some truths and his inadequacies to the meek spinster Sibyl (Deborah Kerr) whose mother wants him out of the guest house and is hell bent on turning the other guests against him.

Pat Cooper (Wendy Hiller) who runs the Hotel Beauregard is having an affair with another guest. John Malcolm (Burt Lancaster) is a drunk who has fled the United States and his ex wife Ann Shankland (Rita Hayworth.) Now she has turned up to reconcile with him and Pat quitely wants to give John the chance.

The drama works as a story of misfits in a post war Britain. The theatrical roots are hard to get away from this small scale drama. If the movie came out a few years later with the new wave of British cinema and the angry young men of British theatre. Separate Tables would had displayed more thunder and drama.

It is hard to believe that this rather staid British film was filmed in America and is all but an American film. Lancaster was one of the producers.

The best part of the movie is regarding Pollock and his scenes with Sibyl. Niven won an Oscar and would later play another charming but fraudulent soldier in Paper Tiger. I do think what Pollock is accused of is rather confusing. Rattigan might have been better to keep his original intentions of Polock being arrested for homosexual importuning.

Kerr so tempestuous with Burt Lancaster in the movie, From Here to Eternity glams herself down considerably here as the shy and dram Sibyl.

The John Malcolm story did not work for me as the American in England. Maybe he should had remained as an ex Labour politician and played by a British actor. Poor Wendy Hiller. Her character Pat had no chance with Rita Hayworth.

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Beautiful adaptation of Terrence Rattigan's play
blanche-210 July 2008
David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancaster, Rita Hayworth, Wendy Hiller, Rod Taylor and Gladys Cooper sit literally or figuratively at "Separate Tables" in this 1958 film also starring Cathleen Nesbitt and Felix Aylmer and directed by Delbert Mann.

The story concerns characters at a British seaside resort: Major Pollock (Niven), a phony with a secret; an overbearing mother and her shy, fearful daughter (Cooper and Kerr), a man (Lancaster) involved with the woman who runs the hotel (Hiller), his ex-wife (Hayworth) and a med student and his girlfriend (Rod Taylor and Audrey Dalton), and a few assorted other characters. Lancaster plays John Malcolm, who is engaged to Hiller's character Cooper. When his ex-wife shows up unexpectedly, he needs to deal with the intense feelings he still has for her. Cooper has to face it as well. Major Pollock has become friendly with the almost childlike Sibyl (Kerr) who is terrified of life; when his secret is revealed by Sibyl's mother, the effect on Sibyl is traumatic.

These are all top-notch actors playing rich characters, but in the end, the most poignant performances belong to Niven and Kerr. Niven finally gets a chance in this film to prove his greatness as an actor, and his change from blustering braggart to timid man is awesome. His scene with Kerr as he attempts to explain himself is gut-wrenching. Kerr's Sibyl, who sees her one chance at happiness and independence from her mother fading away, gives a devastating performance. Those roles are flashier than the others; Wendy Hiller's strong and honest portrayal may not be as showy, but it is just as good. Lancaster, who coproduced, does a great job as the tormented Malcolm, who, despite their rotten marriage, can't help loving Ann (Hayworth), an aging beauty facing loneliness.

Some characters in "Separate Tables" are resigned to their lives and have come to accept and enjoy the quiet solitude of the hotel; one couple, Charles and Jean (Taylor and Dalton) are in a transition, and this will take them out of the hotel and into a new life; Pat Cooper and Sibyl's mother, two very different women, face very different losses; and John, Ann, Major Pollock and Sibyl attempt to reach across their separate tables, take a risk and make a connection. And the assorted residents of the hotel, Lady Matheson (Nesbitt), Mr. Fowler (Aylmer) and Miss Meacham (May Hallatt) take a risk by being nonjudgmental and making a connection as well.

A beautiful film that left this viewer reaching for the Kleenex. "Separate Tables" is about loneliness, reality vs. fantasy, hope and redemption. Don't miss it.
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Oddly, while I really liked this film, the weakest element ended up winning an Oscar!
planktonrules22 June 2010
"Separate Tables" is a very good film--the sort of movie they just don't make anymore because it lacks explosions, topless bimbos and 3-D! It's well worth watching if you want a good film that doesn't rely on these plot devices. However, before I get to the film in general, there is one odd thing I noticed early in the film. I knew that David Niven had been given the Oscar for Best Actor for this film, but I was bowled over by how incredibly broad and transparent his character was in the first five minutes of the film. To put it bluntly, he was the worst part of the film because I knew one of his big, dark secrets almost immediately--he simply came on too strong to possibly really be who he claimed to be! While 1959 was a pretty poor year for this Oscar category, to me Paul Newman clearly had a better performance of the nominees--clearly.

The film is sort of like a slower paced and more subtle ensemble soap opera--kind of like what you might have seen if "The Love Boat" or "Peyton Place" had been written better and with less of the hysteria. And, instead of a small town or cruise ship, the location for this film is a rooming house in England. The concoction is very agreeable due to excellent writing and acting (aside from the one mentioned above). Burt Lancaster and Rita Hayworth were very agreeable and worth seeing--and it's odd Lancaster wasn't nominated for the Oscar instead of Niven (who, incidentally, seemed to have a lot less screen time!). However, my favorite in the cast was Gladys Cooper. This elderly actress was simply superb as the puritanical and overbearing resident. She was thoroughly hateful and this visceral reaction was why I liked her in the film so much.

The film is so well done that it would a great film for young film makers to see (along with great 50s films like "Marty" and "12 Angry Men"). It shows that writing and acting are still THE keys to a good film--no matter what Hollywood seems to be saying to the contrary these days!
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Single room occupancy
jotix10029 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The small resort hotels in England were the home of impoverished aristocracy as well as people of a certain status in that society. This was typical of the era where the action takes place. Lonely individuals dwelt in these establishments because they couldn't, perhaps, afford other living arrangements. It is one of these seaside places where we are taken to observe how people lived and behaved in a civilized manner and formed friendships out of necessity to calm their own loneliness.

The people one meets at the Beauregard Hotel are a motley crew indeed. There's the aging retired Major Pollock, who comes under scrutiny as the rest of the residents discover he is a man that loves to prey on unaccompanied ladies at the local cinema. The mere idea of having this sort of person among their midst sends an uptight Mrs. Roilton-Bell to ask the other guests to side with her in getting rid of this pathetic man. Little does she realize her own daughter, Sibyl, a spinster dominated by her mother, loves the Major secretly. His absence will be sadly missed by her because she has developed a fondness for the man in spite of all the faults and the lies this man tells everyone.

The manager of the hotel, Ms. Cooper, has her own problems. She's in love with John Malcolm, a minor writer, that appreciates his whiskey much more than making a commitment to her. When his former wife, Ann Shankland appears one day, sends John over the edge. Secretly, he is still in love with her.

At the end, things change quite a bit in favor of the disgraced Major Pollock, who heeds Ms. Cooper's advice and decides to stay after all. Where else could he live for what he is paying here? And the fact that he would have to stop seeing Sibyl, also weighs heavily in his decision, for he realizes he also likes the shy and sheltered woman.

Terence Rattigan had written two one act plays which were adapted for the screen by himself and John Gay. The film was directed by Delbert Mann who showed an uncanny understanding for the material, loosely constructed to add the acting styles of Burt Lancaster, who was involved in the project and one of its stars, Rita Hayworth.

David Niven, who plays Major Pollock, steals the film. He had one of the best roles of his career getting under the skin of this creepy old man who lies about himself to the other residents. He might be sexually starved and has to resort to chase unsuspecting women in movie theaters. Deborah Kerr, also gives a marvelous performance as Sibyl, the repressed woman who loves the Major.

Burt Lancaster appears as John Malcolm, the weakest of all the actors in the film. Rita Hayworth is seen as Mrs. Shankland, John's ex-wife who clearly can't get him out of her mind. This is one of her best work in the cinema. The three English ladies, Wendy Hiller, Gladys Cooper, and Cathleen Nesbitt, do a wonderful job with their parts. It's a joy to see them in action.

Although a bit dated, "Separate Tables" still is interesting to watch because of the excellent work of Mr. Niven.
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Separate Tables - Double Delight
writers_reign20 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone who has seen - as I have, in several productions - and admires the original two one-act plays by Terence Rattigan which he himself adapted for the screen will spot and perhaps miss the abridged roles of the supporting players. In the original plays the four leading roles were played by the same two actors allowing them to display their versatility to the full given that 1) John Malcolm and Major Pollock and 2) Ann Shankland and Sybil Railton-Bell are poles apart. For reasons perhaps best known to himself and Hecht-Hill-Lancaster the Production company, Rattigan's adaptation calls for four actors and it's interesting if not fascinating to speculate that Burt Lancaster, the honcho at Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, recognised his limitations and knew he couldn't hack the Major whilst he was able to phone it in as the coiled-spring Malcolm. In the stage version the craftsman Rattigan allowed much more space to the other residents but viewers who see only the film will not miss this. Presumably Hecht-Hill-Lancaster tapped Delbert Mann as helmer mindful of their recent joint Oscar Winner Marty and for an American Mann does a workmanlike job with a quintessentially English story. The weakest links are Rod Taylor and Audrey Dalton and this is one instance where truncation is a positive given these mediocre actors. Otherwise the residents give solid support though more could have been made (as in the play) of Felix Aylmer's classics master waiting pathetically for the visit from an old pupil that never materialises. Cathleen Nesbitt and May Mallet are outstanding as is Gladys Cooper as the control-freak mother from Hell. I was never quite able to see Wendy Hiller as a love object, especially for someone as virile as Lancaster, though her acting is beyond criticism. Rita Hayworth was luminous as always but even she wouldn't have claimed to be taken seriously as a dramatic actress. This leaves Deborah Kerr and Oscar Winner David Niven. Both gave fine performances and if Niven's, seen today, seems a tad mannered, it certainly wouldn't have in 1958. Kerr, of course, excelled in tightly-wound spinsters. Though it can't quite match Rattigan's 'The Browning Version' - written for the stage some six year's before 'Separate Tables' and adapted some seven years earlier - it is an honourable second. Rattigan was not only one of the finest playrights of the twentieth century but also one of the finest screenrights both as adapter of his own and other writers (Graham Greene: Brighton Rock, etc) and 'Original' screenplays (The Sound Barrier, The Way To The Stars) and this represents him at the top of his game.
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Outstanding Series of Character Studies
l_rawjalaurence20 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This star-laden adaptation is awash with great performances. From.Burt Lancaster's melancholy journalist to Rita Hayworth's lonely socialite, from Wendy Hiller's frustrated hotel-keeper to Felix Aylmer's lonely teacher, this is a study in frustration, of people not achieving their ambitions and settling for compromises instead. At the center of the drama are David Niven and Deborah Kerr, the former as a false major.arrested for interfering with women in a movie theatre, the latter a dominated daughter with little or no power to express herself. Niven is quitebrilliant in an understated performance which shows him trying to come to terms with his inadequacies, even lf that means shedding the pretence of being a major and acknowledging that he was only a lieutenant. Kerr is virtually unrecognisable as the heroine of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY; here she plays Sybil as a mousy character, totally ruled by her Gorgon-like mother (Gladys Cooper). At the end Sybil asserts herself, much to her mother's embarrassment, and supports thr former Major at the time he most needs lt. It does not seem much, but in Rattigan,storms Sybil's move represents a radical move towards self-belief.

SEPARATE TABLES is not an action movie; it is a study in characters learning something about themselves and finding ways to cope with their lives. What they discover might not seem much, but it is highly significant for the characters themselves.
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Stands the test of time
drjgardner22 March 2019
Few films from the 50s stand up today. When you view them you have to take into account the time difference. Even such well regarded classics as "The 10 Commandments", "Vertigo", "Teahouse of the August Moon", etc. This film is one of the rare ones that stands up. It's due to the marvelous performances of everyone in the cast, especially Rita Hayworth and David Niven.
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the most marvellous presentation of a beautifully written piece of work.
christopher-underwood4 February 2020
It appears that this film is the result of several re-writes and collaborations all derived from the original and most controversial Terence Rattigan stage play, which was itself a sublimation of (mainly homosexual) unspeakable sexual affairs. Nevertheless the result is stunning, even today. Perhaps more so today as we can appreciate how things have changed and yet still recognise some of the attitudes and beliefs made clear here. Burt Lancaster, who did so much to get this project off the ground, is fantastic. I winced at his grotesque 'drunken' entrance but from there on he is a joy to watch. And to listen to for the dialogue here is a dream. Strangely enough this only seems 'theatrical' when we step outside, but for the most part the action is inside the modest Bournemouth hotel and the script produces tingling on the spine. Wendy Hiller as the proprietor weaves in and out the various guests and their horrors as we feature most prominently on David Niven and Deborah Kerr, two broken souls who just might make it. Burt Lancaster and Rita Hayworth play the more glamorous couple but are clearly in no less a fragile state. Gladys Cooper plays mother to the poor wretched and virtually destroyed young girl played by Kerr and acts as the conscious of the hotel. Or so she would have them believe. Riveting, with many of the actors giving one of their greatest performances, although in the end, with the help of very sure footed direction from Delbert Mann this is the most marvellous presentation of a beautifully written piece of work.
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Bitter suite
Lejink10 June 2010
About as far removed from his American playwright contemporary Tennessee Williams as you could get, yet there's a place in my heart for English dramatist Terence Rattigan and his perhaps subtler expositions of motive, need, weakness and ultimately dignity in the human condition.

Interestingly, this movie adaptation of his mid 50's play, slightly improbably makes prominent use of American actors, although fortuitously possibly, this helps to elevates its status to a wider and higher level and almost certainly helped it to get noticed by the Academy at the awards round.

Director Mann doesn't try too hard to "open out" the play for the cinema, realising its strength lies in depicting the enclosed stultifying world of the not-quite "Grand Hotel", it acting as a metaphor for the trapped existences of its various inhabitants. That said, none of the main characters hardly seem drawn from reality, but once you concede the writer's dramatic licence, you have to admire his skill in their interplay and the well-managed conclusion which works too as an indictment against narrow-minded intolerance as the fellow-guests at last react against flinty old Lady Matheson (Cathleen Nesbitt) and her petty-minded outrage at and desired expulsion of David Niven's disgraced "Major" character. Niven won the Oscar for his performance and you can see why, moving from blustery, caddish bonhomie (his "what what" refrain really gets on your nerves as he himself honestly admits) to his awkward embarrassed demeanour at the end. In support, I also enjoyed the playing of Wendy Hiller as the school-marmy hotelier, Deborah Kerr as Nesbitt's sexually repressed daughter and Gladys Cooper as her put-upon friend who like the daughter rises up but gently to overturn the Major's victimisation and rehabilitate him.

It doesn't all work, Lancaster and Hayworth's story seems to belong in a different play / film and the minor parts are too sketchily drawn (Rod Taylor and his randy girlfriend too obviously counterpointing the sexual gaucheness of Kerr's Sibyl) and a too obvious Margaret Rutherford type inserted no doubt to add some humour.

I'm pretty sure it would have made for a better night out at the theatre than the cinema, but I wouldn't deny the play's elevation to a wider audience and certainly didn't regret checking in on this occasion.
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