Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 1948. London Film Productions. Screenplay by Graham Greene, additional dialogue by Lesley Storm, William Templeton, based on the story The Basement Room by Graham Greene. Cinematography by Georges Perinal. Produced by Carol Reed. Music by William Alwyn. Production Design by Vincent Korda, James Sawyer. Costume Design by Ivy Baker. Film Editing by Oswald Hafenrichter.
Carol Reed directed three screenplays by Graham Greene, the first being this devastasting classic followed by the masterpiece The Third Man and ending with Our Man In Havana. While not as tricky or exciting as the Orson Welles thriller, The Fallen Idol is a brilliant character piece with much to recommend it. Bobby Henrey is excellent as the son of the French ambassador living in London, who absolutely idolizes his butler Baines (Ralph Richardson) while avoiding the mean, heardhearted housekeeper Mrs. Baines (Sonia Dresdel). When Mrs. Baines falls in a fatal accident down the house’s giant staircase, the boy immediately suspects his dear friend of murder but tells lies to the police to help him out all the same. He’s also been asked by Baines to help keep his mistress Julie (Michèle Morgan) as much out of the story as possible. Fascinating character study that features a slow momentum of suspense that grows to a boil by the fantastic climax, this is sort of like Henry James’s What Maisie Knew involving murder instead of divorce. Delightful and intense, and Richardson is marvelous.
The Criterion Collection: #357
Academy Award Nominations: Best Director (Carol Reed); Best Screenplay
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Foreign Film
Venice Film Festival: In Competition