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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    Something important happened in my life in April last year. After having read rave reviews about Carol Reed's THE FALLEN IDOL (1948) for many years, I finally decided to buy the film on DVD and, when I played it, I was blown away by it. It is the best film I have ever seen in my life (and I’ve seen very many). I think it’s marvelous and totally, totally wonderful. It is best remembered today for the stunning debut performance of eight years old anglo-French boy and first time actor, Bobby Henrey…and no wonder. He is truly brilliant as Phillipe, the lonely and neglected eight years old son of the French ambassador to London. Phillipe is a lonely boy, with no playmates of his own age, who dotes on his small pet grass snake, MacGregor (at one point holding a small mirror in front of it and saying: "Look, you’re very pretty, you know"). His mother has been away ill abroad for eight months and his father, who has little time for him, goes away for the weekend to bring back the boy’s long absent mother. Phillipe idolises, loves and hero worships the embassy butler, Baines (Ralph Richardson), who has become a surrogate father to him and who entertains the impressionable boy with tales of his exciting past adventures in darkest Africa, putting down native rebellions against the white man single handed; killing men in self defence and hunting lions on the great plains, ect. Phillipe, listening intently with a look on his face and in his eyes bordering on rapture, believes every word. "Oh, I wish I could go with you to Africa", he pines, enthusiastically. In reality and unbeknown to Phillipe at this stage, Baines has never been to Africa and is trapped in a loveless and unhappy marriage to his shrewish wife (Sonia Dresdel), whom Phillipe hates because she is very cruel to him.

    Baines has been having an affair with Julie, an embassy typist (Michele Morgan) for the past seven months. When Phillipe accidentally comes across them having a clandestine meeting in an out of the way tea shop, Baines asks Phillipe to keep it a closely guarded secret and lets Phillipe believe that Julie is his neice. It is a secret that will soon change the lives of all of them forever. When Baines is suspected by the police of murdering his shrewish wife, Phillipe, in a mixture of desperation, love and loyalty, tries desperately to defend his idol by telling the police a tissue of lies. But he is not an accomplished liar and soon, the police interrogation breaks down his version of events so dramatically that the screen explodes with an unparalleled verbal violence that only succeeds in getting Baines deeper into trouble. When Phillipe learns, through overhearing the police questioning of Baines, that Baines stories of his heroic past in Africa are just so much hot air, the boy doesn’t know what to think or believe any more. His entire world begins to collapse around him!

    A masterpiece of acting, direction, photography and music that is so well done, it has to be seen to be believed. Told entirely through the child’s eyes, but definitely not a kid’s picture, THE FALLEN IDOL was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (from Graham Greene’s novella "The Basement Room") and won the BAFTA award for Best British Film of 1948, as well as many other international awards. Contrary to what we've all heard in the past about some boys being chosen from hundreds of others to appear in a film, Carol Reed only interviewed Bobby and never saw another child. When he first met Bobby, he knew instinctively that Bobby was it. He didn't want a professional child actor who had been to stage school and picked up bad acting habits there. He wanted a boy who had never acted before and whom he could coax into giving a completely natural performance.

    THE FALLEN IDOL took an incredible eight months to make (September, 1947 to May, 1948)...five months before the cameras and three months in the cutting rooms and being beautifully scored by William Alwyn…a long time by the standards of the day, when most films were shot in six weeks...but Carol Reed's patience and perseverance with Bobby paid off. Ralph Richardson; Michele Morgan and Sonia Dresdel are all superb in their respective roles and the suspense and tension gradually mounts on the film as the reels go by. But words really fail me in describing how marvelous this film is. The film is available in a beautifully restored version on DVD and I urge anyone reading this who has never seen the film to get hold of one.



    Baines and Julie’s clandestine meeting in an out of the way tea shop is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Phillipe.



    "Oh look, there’s your niece again", said Phillipe.



    Barefoot and wearing only his pyjamas, Phillipe, from his vantage point on the fire escape, witnesses a violent struggle between Mr and Mrs Baines…



    …and flees in panic through the rain covered streets of Belgravia!



    "Don’t worry, Baines", Phillipe reassures his idol, "I won’t tell them anything", as they go down the stairs to meet the police.



    "I like Baines, don’t you?", asked the policeman, "Hmmmmm…yes", answered Phillipe, looking at a marble and trying to sound completely disinterested.



    "Oh, Baines", cried Phillipe as he held the man to him desperately, "I didn’t do wrong, did I?"
    Last edited by darrenburnfan; 01-02-12 at 09:06 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: United States torinfan's Avatar
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    This was one of the first DVDs I ever bought because Torin is in it - he has a small but important role.


  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by torinfan View Post
    This was one of the first DVDs I ever bought because Torin is in it - he has a small but important role.

    Yes, he was excellent as the policeman on the beat at night time whom Phillipe runs into while fleeing the embassy in panic and persuades the frightened boy to come back to the police station with him for "a nice warm cup of tea".
    Last edited by darrenburnfan; 01-02-12 at 10:03 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: United States torinfan's Avatar
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    Torin always had an unmistakable air of authority and dependability about him and could play policemen, army officers and even Roman senators convincingly.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    Last edited by darrenburnfan; 02-02-12 at 11:35 AM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member moonfleet's Avatar
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    Thanks for your comments Darrenburnfan , I got the Optimum DVD and haven't watch it yet...

  8. #8
    Senior Member Country: United States torinfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by darrenburnfan View Post
    Torin always had an unmistakable air of authority and dependability about him and could play policemen, army officers and even Roman senators convincingly.
    I've always attributed that to his background, being in the RAF as a lieutenant-colonel; maybe also because in real life, his father was in the military and a policeman, too.


  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moonfleet View Post
    Thanks for your comments Darrenburnfan , I got the Optimum DVD and haven't watch it yet...
    Glad you like my comments, moonfleet. The Criterion Region 1 DVD and the Optimim Region 2 DVD are transferred from the same source, a brand new 35mm print struck from the original negative beautifully and expensively restored by the BFI. However, the Criterion release has some superb extras on it, plus an informative glossy booklet about the making of the film, while as usual, the Optimum release is bare bones with no extras. The transfer is complete and contains the original British Board of Film Censors "A" certificate on the beginning signifying that the film had been passed for exhibition to adult audiences.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    BELOW: Shepperton Studios, 1947: Carol Reed discusses the next scene with Bobby Henrey on the set of THE FALLEN IDOL; Bobby with some of the cast and crew and Bobby looking through the viewfinder of the huge 35mm movie camera.





    Contemporary Review.

    "The Monthly Film Bulletin
    Published by
    The British Film Institute
    Volume 15, No.177, September 1948, page 125
    The Fallen Idol (1948)

    Child Drama. Phillipe, eight-year-old son of an ambassador, is left at the embassy for a week-end in the charge of Baines, the butler, and his shrewish wife. Phillipe hero-worships Baines, and it is through the boy's eyes that the happenings of the two days are seen. During the week-end, seeing Baines, in relation to other people - the police, his girl friend, and his wife - Phillipe realises that Baines is but another man - the idol has fallen. The cold light of Monday morning finds the boy a little older and sadder but turning to new interests as he welcomes back his mother and father.

    This film is outstanding, if only for the clever direction by Carol Reed of Bobby Henrey as Phillipe. In every scene, as, for instance, when Phillipe is talking to his pet snake, lying to save Baines, or piteously telling the truth in the same cause, the boy is beautifully handled. Bobby Henrey is a pleasant child with an attractive French accent, and plenty of acting ability. The photography is excellent and the screen play is a good one, dramatic, and at times extremely witty; again, direction makes the most of it. Ralph Richardson is excellent as Baines, but Sonia Dresdel is inclined to over-act, though this perhaps is only by comparison with the cool competence of Michele Morgan's performance. The film is first-class entertainment."
    Last edited by darrenburnfan; 02-02-12 at 04:33 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    All the exterior location scenes on THE FALLEN IDOL were filmed first. The first scene to be filmed (above), on Wednesday, September 17th, 1947, was Bobby Henrey running across the road outside the embassy as he runs after Baines. The scenes of Bobby dodging the traffic as he runs across various roads in that area of Belgravia isn’t as dangerous as it looks. For these scenes, the roads were closed off by the police for a few hours and diversions were posted while the scenes were filmed and the vehicles seen on the film are driven by special drivers employed by the film company who were very careful not to knock Bobby down as he ran across various roads. In other words, it was all carefully rehearsed. All Bobby had to do was run across the roads and ignore the cars, as they wouldn’t touch him. At the start of the filming, Carol Reed blew a whistle which was a signal to the police that filming was about to begin and, at the end of the filming, the whistle was blown again and the roads were opened up and the normal traffic flow resumed.

    Among scenes that were filmed, but that never made it to the final version, were Bobby riding on a camel at London Zoo and a scene where Bobby, after running out of the embassy in panic at night time dressed in only his pajamas, hides in the hollowed out trunk of a large tree in a nearby park and is found there by the policeman (Torin Thatcher). This was later changed so that, for further dramatic effect, Bobby’s run would include many more cobblestoned alleyways and side streets before he ran into Torin. Westminster Council was employed to use a water tanker to pour water over Bobby’s route so that he would have plenty of puddles to splash in as he was running.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    Sir Carol Reed (1906 – 1976).




    "Carol Reed is up there with the masters of the cinema. Those three films that he made at the peak of his powers, Odd Man Out; The Fallen Idol and The Third Man, are enormously powerful. And they have this sense of doom, a sense of lost love. In all his films, was an aesthetic and a sense of composition, structure and space in which he set the films and, within that, was this very warm humanity that came from the actors."

    John Boorman, Film Director, 2006.

    "He must be in the top group of world class directors. He was wonderful with children…I mean Bobby Henrey’s performance in The Fallen Idol was brilliant!"

    Oswald Morris, Cinematographer, 2006.


    BELOW: Before a take on the scene where Phillipe finds that MacGregor is missing, Carol Reed directs Bobby Henrey, as Michele Morgan looks on.

    Last edited by darrenburnfan; 04-02-12 at 02:25 PM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    BELOW, TOP TO BOTTOM: Sir Ralph Richardson as Baines filming The Fallen Idol on location in Belgrave Square, London, in 1947. Director Carol Reed can be seen squatting at the side of the camera; Bobby Henrey studio portrait as Phillipe; A scene from the film where Mrs Baines (Sonia Dresdel) tricks Phillipe (Bobby Henrey) into revealing the secret concerning Baines and Julie that Baines entrusted to him; Julie (Michele Morgan) asks Phillipe (Bobby Henrey) why Mrs Baines hates her. More images coming soon.






    As someone once said, Bobby Henrey's performance as Phillipe is truly outstanding.
    Even to this day, its naturalism remains unparalleled.
    It's the great unpolished child performance of all time!




    Last edited by darrenburnfan; 05-02-12 at 02:33 PM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Country: United States torinfan's Avatar
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    "Before there was 'Home Alone', there was 'The Fallen Idol'."

    Think Mr. and I will watch this again tonight (plus I need some new screencaps for my collection).

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    Yes, the DVD transfer is very clear and some excellent screen captures can be made from it. However, 64 years old promotional press photos like those above are getting very rare and expensive now, but do turn up on eBay occasionally. I have a couple of them on their way to me and they should be here sometime during the coming week. Watch for the humorous scene at London Zoo, where Phillipe, left to wander the zoo alone because Baines and Julie want to be left alone together, goes up to what he thinks is an animal cage and pokes a piece of bread through the bars, hoping to entice it to come out and take it. Instead of an animal, though, a man comes out and looks oddly at Phillipe and his piece of bread and walks out of "the cage". The camera then pans to the left and we see that the cage is actually a men's toilet. Phillipe shrugs at his mistake and goes off to feed the birds.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Country: Great Britain Mark O's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the info on this interesting sounding film David, not heard of it before but I'm sure I'll enjoy seeing it, I like old London location films, just ordered the Graham Greene box-set with this on, the stern faced lady looking at Bobby on the stairs reminds me of Sarah Lancashire!

  17. #17
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O View Post
    Thanks for all the info on this interesting sounding film David, not heard of it before but I'm sure I'll enjoy seeing it, I like old London location films, just ordered the Graham Greene box-set with this on, the stern faced lady looking at Bobby on the stairs reminds me of Sarah Lancashire!
    It's a real British classic, Mark and I'm sure you'll enjoy it. The ending has a real twist, too. Although very famous in its day, its lack of showings on television have led people who have never seen it to wonder if it's as good as they've heard. Well, it definitely is!

  18. #18
    Senior Member Country: United States torinfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark O View Post
    Thanks for all the info on this interesting sounding film David, not heard of it before but I'm sure I'll enjoy seeing it, I like old London location films, just ordered the Graham Greene box-set with this on, the stern faced lady looking at Bobby on the stairs reminds me of Sarah Lancashire!

    You will enjoy it, Mark.

    I was quite young when I first saw this - remember watching it with my Mom - still in grade school and learning all of the names of the great British actors. To be fair, I know I have been watching Torin's movies for a very long time now, bu it has only been very recently I got to know him by name (5 years now!) That calls for a celebration. :)

  19. #19
    Senior Member Country: United States torinfan's Avatar
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    As promised, more screencaps:









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  20. #20
    Senior Member Country: England darrenburnfan's Avatar
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    Excellent screen captures there, torinfan. How quaint the police uniforms looked in the 1940s compared with today.

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