The Fallen Idol 1948
Made a couple of years before his masterpiece “The Third Man”, Carol Reed's “The Fallen Idol” for most of its running time is a beguiling fairy tale of childhood magic and angst. The film covers a few days in the life of the privileged nine year old Phillipe who is the son of a foreign ambassador based in London. He’s a lonely child, spending most of his time by himself in the huge Embassy while his father is either busy or away. His mother who is never seen has been away for months being treated for an untold illness, and Phillipe's only two friends are his small pet garden snake McGregor and his beloved Baines the majestic butler played by the great Ralph Richardson. There is terror and danger in the young boy’s life mostly caused by the housekeeper and wife Of Baines who is straight out of a Grimm fairytale. Mrs. Baine played with rich nasty gusto by Sonia Dresdel is always on her husband or Phillipe's case running the beautiful embassy like a Nazi storm trooper. The story hinges on an affair that Richardson is having with the light, lovely and beautiful Julie a secretary at the embassy played by the very beautiful and appealing Michèle Morgan. One day Phile (that is what he is called) sees the couple in a tea shop having a romantic rendezvous and soon the deception and deceit is upon them and even though we know no good can come from this, we still hold out hope that our fairy tale will have a happy ending, (it actually does). Phile adores Baines and Baines adores Julie and they all hate Mrs. Baines, who of course finds out about the affair. There are two superb sequences in the film that I love, one is a beautiful nighttime game of hide and seek, played after a day at the zoo among the white sheet covered furniture in the temporary closed embassy that Phile, Baines and Julie play while the dreaded wife is supposedly away for a few days taking care of a sick relative. This game of our childhood is scary and threatening anyway and in this sequence we hold our breath because we know the evil that lurks. The other great sequence which follows the hide and seek scene is a brilliantly filmed nighttime escape by Phile in his pajamas and bare feet through the glistering cold London night. Reed shoots the sequence like a nightmare (and indeed that's what it feels like) as the young boy is finally rescued by a policeman and brought to the station where he is befriended by the local kind prostitute who seems to spend a lot of time there. This is the only comical and very British scene in the film. The cast of course is great, and special mention should be made of Bobby Henrey the young unprofessional child who plays the pivotal role of Phile, who is both charming and annoying and who by all accounts drove the director crazy during the filming. Filling out the cast is a bevy of wonderful British actors, Jack Hawkins Denis O Dea, Torin Thatcher and Bernard Lee as members of the police force who arrive late in the film. My only problem with this marvelous film is that it ends too abruptly and seems a little rushed. The screenplay which is tight and minimal is by Graham Greene who based it on his short story. With beautiful cinematography by the great Georges Périnal. Also of note is the elaborate embassy set designed by Vincent Korda.