Monday, December 14, 2009

The Fallen Idol

I recently watched "The Fallen Idol" again. I'd seen it years ago, and I used to have the paperback of Graham Greene's The Fallen Idol (originally entitled "The Basement Room" and "The Third Man" (basically, the movie treatment). I remembered that I liked it, but I'd forgotten how good it is. Greene and Reed was a wonderful combination. This film is driven by Ralph Richardson's performance, aided by Bobby Henry as the little boy, Philippe. It takes place over two days, and Richardson is accused of his wife's murder. All of Greene's guilt-though-nominally innocent work is in full form. It also features a young Jack Hawkins as Detective Ames. As a child, I had nightmares about being trapped in the movie of "Kidnapped," with Jack Hawkins after me. There is one egregiously racist moment, in which Richardson is telling the child about killing a black man in Africa. But thinking about it, I'm not sure that isn't Greene making a stab at the evils of the Empire.
I'd been talking to my dad about Reed a few weeks ago, and we both wondered after those three fantastic movies in the 19 40s ("The Third Man", "The Fallen Idol", and "Odd Mann Out") why he'd made movies for another 20 years, but the later films never reached the level of those three. The documentary accompanying "The Fallen Idol" suggests that the partnership with Alexander Korda gave Reed a basis to take a range of projects and run with them. But after Korda's death, Reed continued to work on a range of projects but not with the same effect. It also talks briefly about Reed's childhood, and how he used to watch his father, Sir Herbert Beerbohm-Tree, in rehearsal (his father was the pre-eminent Victorian actor-manager).

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