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THE FALLEN IDOL

Director: CAROL REED

U.K.| 1948. BLACK AND WHITE. 95 MIN.


ADAPTED BY GRAHAM GREENE FROM HIS SHORT STORY ‘THE BASEMENT ROOM’, ‘THE FALLEN IDOL’ WAS DIRECTOR CAROL REED’S FIRST COLLABORATION WITH THE AUTHOR.

The film concerns the young son (Bobby Henrey) of the French Ambassador in London who idolises the Embassy’s butler Baines (Ralph Richardson) but hates the abrasive, embittered Mrs Baines (Sonia Dresdel). His loyalty is to be tested when he inadvertently blunders into Baines’s affair with another woman (Michele Morgan) and then mistakenly believes Baines has pushed his wife to her death.

Greene was later to salute Reed for his ‘warmth of human sympathy, exactitude of cutting, and extraordinary feeling for the right face for the right part.’ All of those qualities are evident in ‘The Fallen Idol’, as Greene’s original tale of childhood trauma is transformed into a scintillating tragic-comedy of non-communication. Reed was a superb director of children, Greene a fascinated observer of lethal innocence: it makes a potent combination here, as a boy tries to navigate his way through a world of secrets and lies and only succeeds in incriminating someone he is trying to protect. In a fine cast, Dora Bryan’s good-hearted tart is a delightful cameo that skilfully signals a shift of tone; and Sonia Dresdel is both hateful and harrowing as Mrs Baines, particularly in a terrifying moment when the character both literally and metaphorically loses her grip. Suddenly a child’s game of ‘Hide and Seek in the Dark’ summons up grown-up spectres of sexual anguish and jealousy from out of the shadows.—Neil Sinyard.

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