Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Fallen Idol

Another wonderful movie I've been meaning to blog about each time it shows up on TCM, but never got around to doing before, is The Fallen Idol. It's received a DVD release courtesy of the Criterion Collection several years ago, but it seems to be out of print and ridiculously overpriced. It's coming up again tonight at midnight (ET; that's late this evening for those of ou in North America's more westerly time zones), so this would be a good chance to get it.

Philippe (Bobby Henrey) is the son of an Ambassador to the UK, living in the embassy quarters on one of the upper floors in what looks like rather luxurious circumstances. But, it's really more of a gilded cage. Mother is ill; and father has all his duties to carry out while also returning home to see to his wife. So Philippe has been left, more or less, in the care of the butler Baines (Ralph Richardson) and his wife (Sonia Dresdel). Mr. Baines is wonderful to Philippe, and Philippe in his turn idolizes Baines. Mrs. Baines, on the other hand, is the disciplinarian of the pair, not letting Philippe have any joy in life, or so he thinks.

The Bainses also have a complicated relationship. It's not a very happy marriage, and Mr. Baines has met and fallen for Julie (Michèle Morgan), who is one of the secretaries at the embassy. Mrs. Baines suspects that there's something untoward that her husband is doing, and dammit, she's going to prove it. She even goes so far as to stand on what is more or less an inside ledge to try to spy on her husband. Unfortunately for her, this results in an accident that results in her falling down the grand staircase to her death.

Mr. Baines and Julie don't know the truth of what happened, and fear that the police are going to conclude that he pushed his wife to her death. Philippe, meanwhile, saw Mrs. Baines' fall, but believes that perhaps Baines did it. The two adults try to come up with an alibi for themselves, and try to get Philippe in on their alibi as well. But this presents another problem in that Philippe is such a liar (reminiscent of Bobby Driscoll's character in The Window) that his lies to the police only serve to get Mr. Baines in deeper trouble. Will the real truth come out?

Ralph Richardson is quite good as always. Supposedly Bobby Henrey couldn't act well, to the point that director Carol Reed had to shot lots of footage of his character, until he got the reaction that he wanted, at which point he'd use the best reaction in the final edit. If that's the case, Reed and his editor did a fantastic job, as it never really intruded upon the movie the first time I saw it, leaving the story to develop naturally.

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