Friday, February 3, 2017

The Fallen Idol (1948) Kid Noir

Directed by Carol Reed (Odd Man Out (1947), The Third Man (1949), The Man Between (1953)) and based on the short story "The Basement Room", by Graham Greene. The Screenplay was by Graham Greene with additional dialogue by Lesley Storm and William Templeton. The excellent cinematography was by Georges Périnal (Blood Of A Poet (1932), and the music was by William Alwyn (The Long Memory (1953), A Night To Remember (1958).

The film stars Ralph Richardson (Our Man in Havana (1959)) as Baines, Michèle Morgan (Port of Shadows (1938) Le quai des brumes (original title)) as Julie, Sonia Dresdel (The Clouded Yellow (1950)) as Mrs. Baines, Bobby Henrey as Philippe, Denis O'Dea (Odd Man Out (1947), Niagara (1953)), as Chief Inspector Crowe, and Jack Hawkins (The Cruel Sea (1953)), as Detective Ames.

Philippe (Henrey)
The Fallen Idol tells its story through Philippe, the nine year old son of a French diplomat. His mother has been very sick and with his father's diplomatic duties keeping him often away, Philippe has the run of a huge diplomatic embassy in the off hours.  His fantasy world consists of a pet snake named MacGregor, which he carries with him in the private living area above the palatial great rooms.

Putting MacGregor in his pocket

His playhouse is the whole of the embassy with its many levels, rooms, and passageways. Philippe spies down upon all, from behind shadowy staircase banisters, through room high windows, and the private resident balconies. Secrets are learned from bits of conversations eavesdropped on phone calls and staying up past his bedtime.

Philippe idolizes Baines his father's butler. Baines keeps the boy entertained with tall tales of his harrowing exploits in Africa, shooting lions in hunting safaris, quelling restless natives, etc., etc. However, Baines is just a fanciful story teller who is unhappily married to a shrew of a wife who keeps the embassy household staff terrorised.

Julie (Morgan ) and Baines (Richardson)

Julie (Morgan)

Mrs. Baines (Dredsel) and Baines
Baines is in love with Julie another member of the embassy staff, and when Philippe follows Baines to a cafe after work and finds Baines and Julie together, Baines tells him that Julie is his niece. After Baines has a fight with his wife over Julie, she accidentally falls two stories to her death from a window sill at the end of a landing where she went to spy on Baines and Julie. Her body lays near the bottom of a staircase. Philippe witnessed the beginning of the fight at the top of the stairs, and assumes that Baines has murdered her by pushing her down the stairway. Philippe runs off into Noirsville




Chief Inspector Crowe (Denis O'Dea) Detective Ames (Jack Hawkins)
When the police investigations begin, Baines tries to keep Julie out of it, and Philippe attempts to help Baines, but all these clumsy evasions and lies only get Baines into hot water with Scotland Yard. It looks like murder.

Richardson's Baine is great as the likeable, efficient, head of the household staff, and he's sort of a surrogate father figure for Philippe. Dresdel as the jealous sourpuss wife is truly vile. Morgan plays Julie both sweet and weepy. Henrey plays the impressionable Philippe to perfection, he is both innocent and trusting, there are no false notes. The rest of the cast are equally enjoyable to watch, the two washer women of the household staff, a London bobby, a lady of the night, and the detectives of Scotland Yard.

The cinematography of the flee in the night through the cobblestone streets of London will remind you of similar sequences in Vienna in The Third Man.

The only other Kids Noir that readily comes to mind is The Window (1949), these two films would make great introductions to children to the Noir style. 8/10

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