Phillipe (Bobby Henrey) is an innocent but slightly mischievous young man. His father is a French ambassador, and his mother has been away from home for many years, hospitalized. Phillippe barely remembers her, in fact.
With both of his parents being distant absentees, Phillipe spends much of his time with Baines (Ralph Richardson), the family butler. They share conversations, go for walks together, play games, and even care for Phillipe’s pet snake. Baines’ wife (Sonia Dresdel) also works for the family, though Phillippe doesn’t get along quite so well with her.
One afternoon, Phillipe hopes to go for a walk with Baines, but Mrs. Baines won’t allow it, instead sending the boy to his room. Phillipe manages to sneak out, though, following Baines to a tea shop, where he is dining with a woman named Julie (Michele Morgan). It’s a secret that Phillipe has stumbled upon, and complications follow.
Carol Reed directs 1948’s The Fallen Idol, written by Graham Greene.
I had very high hopes for this film, which aired in Ralph Richardson’s TCM Summer Under the Stars line-up, because of the talent behind the camera as well as in front of it. Classic movie buffs will recognize the names “Carol Reed” and “Graham Greene” as two of the minds behind The Third Man (1949).
I’m happy to report that The Fallen Idol lived up to every bit of my expectation! Top-notch cinematography and direction contribute to a fascinating watch, and the script is very engrossing, too. Even the later scenes of interrogation and investigation, so easily made dull in many other films, are absolutely riveting — full of tension, and with several very powerful moments. Reed, Greene, and cinematographer Georges Perinal all earn marks of “A+++” from me.
The cast is fantastic as well. Sonia Dresdel and Michele Morgan are equally strong in their supporting roles, Dresdel offering a few very menacing moments.
Bobby Henrey is good, youthful and plenty curious but without falling into that territory of obnoxiousness that child actors sometimes occupy. The seemingly endless web of lies he wraps himself up in keeps the viewer gripped throughout the film’s second half, and Henrey does very well with the material. Just around nine years of age at the time of the film’s released, I was very impressed by the young fellow, and sad to learn that this was one of only two films he appeared in.
But the film aired on TCM’s Ralph Richardson day, and the film certain belongs to Ralph Richardson as much as to young Bobby! His performance is stellar, at times suspicious, but also likable thanks to his companionship with Phillipe. In many ways, his character and performance echo the film’s mood, a blend of fun and suspense.
The Fallen Idol is such a good watch. I can’t sing its praises loudly enough! A must-see for fans of black and white crime dramas.