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The Fallen Idol (1948).

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  • The Fallen Idol (1948).

    The Fallen Idol Picturegoer review, October 23rd, 1948.

    Originally titled "The Lost Illusion", "The Fallen Idol" was directed by Carol Reed at Shepperton.
    It stars Ralph Richardson; Michele Morgan and Bobby Henrey and is already being called "the film of the year".

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    **** THE FALLEN IDOL (certificate 'A').

    It’s always a rather dangerous thing to say that such and such is a "picture of the year", but for once in a way I have no hesitation in saying that this picturization of Graham Greene’s short story, "The Basement Room" is the best to date. Whether another even better will come before the end of the year I am not able to conjecture, but I doubt it. Briefly, it’s the story of a small boy, the son of a foreign ambassador, whose hero is his father’s butler. He is left alone in the embassy with him and his wife while the father goes abroad to bring back his wife who has been ill. The boy hates the tyrannical wife of the butler, and the butler himself is in love with a French secretary. There are several ramifications to the plot, which ends in the wife being killed in an accident which Scotland Yard for a while believes is a murder case. The point is that the boy is disillusioned with his butler hero. Firstly, because he believes he has murdered his wife because she ill-treated him, and secondly because the butler had lied to him about his adventurous career in Africa – a country which he had never visited. It’s the boy’s lies to help to protect his friend which nearly bring him near to the gallows.

    Finely conceived, brilliantly scripted and concisely directed, this is a picture which makes one proud of British production. The acting all round is superb. Ralph Richardson as the butler is natural and wholly sympathetic, as is Michele Morgan as the woman he loves. Sonia Dresdel as his wife is insinuatingly unpleasant. A completely well-timed role. Then there is Bobby Henrey as the small boy. Quite, I consider, one of the outstanding performances of this or any year. He is comparable to Robert Lynen, who created such a sensation in "Poil de Carotte", and was later killed in the war. Some of the eulogies for his acting must, I think, be apportioned to his producer and director, Carol Reed. I cannot advise you too strongly not to miss this picture. It has everything a really good picture should have.
    Last edited by darrenburnfan; 3rd July 2017, 06:36 PM.

  • #2
    Funnily enough I never took to this film,just personal taste I guess but it just didn't hold my interest.


    • #3
      Well, everyone's different, BVS and we all have our own tastes. There are some films that people I've met think are marvelous, but they just don't appeal to me. All I can say about The Fallen Idol is that it's regarded by many as a classic of British cinema and one of Sir Carol Reed's best films. I've read many reviews of it and none of the critics (especially at the time of its original release) have anything but praise for it. .


      • #4
        If Witness For The Prosecution (1957) were classed as British then for me there would be no competition. I do however have a hard job deciding between Reach For The Sky, The Dambusters and my first choice which has to be The Blue Lamp (1950) . I have two favourite scenes. When the police are told to stop their tea break and "get out there" Taff complains only to be told "they're on to the bastard that shot George Dixon" his facial expression is priceless. The other is when Tom Reilly (Bogarde) is spotted at White City Dog Track and the Tic Tac man is asked to signal "100/30 the seven dog".Love it.


        • #5
          There is a remarkable scene in the film where Phillipe (Bobby Henrey), woken up in the middle of the night and attacked by the demented Mrs Baines and watching a violent row between Mr and Mrs Baines, is clinging onto the bannister railings and shaking and shivering with fear. It looks totally real. I wonder how on earth Carol Reed got him to do that. That was real acting! And Guy Hamilton said Bobby Henrey couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. If that wasn't acting, I don't know what was.


          • #6
            I watched Oliver! the other day and the number of occasions where Mark Lester looks like he's trembling and clumsy through fear is striking. The other lads in Fagin's gang are older, but so much more confident and mature in every way. Worldly wise and battle-hardened. I recall reading that while the gang were encouraged to hang out together on set and on breaks, Mark was kept away from them, to keep his character intact. The innocence and, perhaps. fear, were crucial to the role and were better if achieved naturally.

            Coaxing a child actor to appear scared - and capturing the moment -without cruelty, must be a special skill indeed.
            Last edited by StoneAgeMan; 21st May 2017, 05:10 PM. Reason: tidied up the last sentence to avoid ambiguity


            • #7
              Originally posted by StoneAgeMan View Post
              Getting a child to be scared - and capturing the moment -without cruelty, must be a special skill indeed.
              Very well put, StoneAgeMan. Carol Reed was a remarkable director indeed and very good with child actors.


              • #8
                I just changed my last sentence, then read DBF's reply to it. Yes, I needed to clarify that getting a child scared is not a good thing. Filmmakers sometimes have to achieve the illusion of horrible things. We hope that no animals, children, actors, etc. are really harmed or put under conditions of real distress. They sometimes are, but we don't really want that.


                • #9
                  I can't think how he could have got Bobby to shiver like that, unless all the heating in the studio was turned off and, wearing only flimsy pajamas, he was shivering with the cold. But that can't have been it, as there is no vapour coming from his mouth in the scene. I reckon Bobby Henrey was just a good little actor. Incidentally, both he and Mark Lester were eight years old when they made their respective films, twenty years apart.


                  • #10
                    This short item about filming "Stand By Me" may have some clues.


                    • #11
                      I recently found this rare and unusual photo in a late 1940s French double page magazine article on Bobby Henrey. According to my Google translation of the caption underneath the photo, it shows Bobby seeing himself for the first time on the screen as he views the first days rushes on THE FALLEN IDOL inside the small projection theatre at Shepperton Studios. The picture was spread over two pages, hence the join in the middle. I'd never seen this photo before. I'd like to come across the original of it as an 8 x 10 glossy photo.

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                      Last edited by darrenburnfan; 7th June 2017, 08:36 PM.