The Fallen Idol

 (188)
7.71 h 35 min1948ALL
Carol Reed’s Graham Greene adaptation tells the dark but touching story of a young child’s relationship to his friendly, complicated butler.
Directors
Carol Reed
Starring
Ralph RichardsonSonia DresdelBobby Henrey
Genres
Drama
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
English
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Studio
London Film Productions
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Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

188 global ratings

  1. 60% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 15% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 15% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 6% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Mindo'ermatterReviewed in the United States on January 7, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Excellent Graham Greene Collaboration Worth Seeing!
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Seeing the adult world through the eyes of a child creates an impressionable film. Set in 1930's London, the story highlights the wide swings in human relationships.

Strong points:
• Well-written story and screenplay (Graham Greene)
• Excellent casting, especially the energetic boy
• Great direction and B&W cinematography (Carol Reed)

Camera angles and lighting effects made this movie engaging and provoking, effectively adding drama and tension to create memorable images. The script storyline focuses on a child's perception of the world amid expectation conflicts among adults and a lone child. The young boy grows up fast, struggling with contrasting trivial and serious situations.

The plot for this movie comes from Graham Greene's short story, "The Basement Room," which he adapted into the "Fallen Idol" novella that he adapted into the screenplay. The focused storyline is well suited for a movie by creating a child-centered psychodrama.

The film is representative of the classic B&W movies of post World War II that emphasized stark realities and human challenges, while raising questions, often unanswered, of social issues. Although the film is about a small child, this movie is not for children. Although it is not explicitly traumatic, the lead character boy suffers from several traumatic situations.

The star of this film is the boy, Philipe, of whom the director, Carol Reed describes as having "the attention span of a demented flea," the energies and actions so often shown in the movie.

Regardless of whether or not your a Graham Greene follower, this is a worthwhile film and the prelude to the author's and director's joining up shortly afterward to produce "The Third Man," one of the best films of the 20th century.
6 people found this helpful
Elvin OrtizReviewed in the United States on March 9, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
A Simple but Intriguing Film
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Unhappiness among the servants of the upper-middle classes (diplomats) in this case leads to a romantic triangle, jealousy, and suspicion that the unhappy husband is the culprit of his wife's death. The main character is the diplomat’s son who is emotionally connected to the butler, that is, the real father seems to be disconnected from his child’s upbringing. As a result, the butler pampers the child and feeds his imagination with heroic tales in Africa and having killed a black man in self-defense. When the child is a witness of a heated argument between his beloved butler and cruel wife (who has also killed the boy’s pet snake), and has seen the women lying dead on the floor after a fall from the second floor, he imagines that the butler has killed his wife. After this, the child’s behavior during an investigation of the woman’s death leads officials to suspect the butler. Ironically, the more he tries to help the butler, the more the cops suspect the butler of murdering his wife during the marital dispute. It seems as if appearances are deceptive, and people, in an attempt to cover these, may often get into deep trouble. The tension is built first, by the affair between the butler and a secretary working at the embassy; and later by the investigation and the role played by the child in this investigation. Not as intense as the previous political and crime dramas (Odd Man Out and The Third Man), but still quite entertaining and suspenseful, and revealing about the human drama.
4 people found this helpful
Chris BReviewed in the United States on March 26, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
The Fallen Idol - 1948 - A Carol Reed Thriller
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Ralph Richardson shines as, Baines, the butler who is in charge of the home of a foreign Diplomat and, who has a secret or two he'd like to keep from his wife. Bobby Henrey, as Phillipe, is the son of the Diplomat and a boy who simply idolizes Baines who stumbles onto the information Baines is desperately hiding from his wife. Denis O'Dea, Jack Hawkins and Torin Thatcher head up a group of police officials who are trying to piece together the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of Mrs. Baines. Did she fall to her death or was she pushed? Phillipe is the only witness to what really happened! Does the answer lie in that well kept secret and does Phillipe understand the consequences of his own lies as they pertain to Baines? What has Julie, the Embassy secretary, to do with any of this? Carol Reed directs this wonderful Graham Greene mystery that I know you will place among your favorite films..
6 people found this helpful
Mr. David RaynerReviewed in the United States on June 18, 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Truly Classic and Wonderful Drama. Highly Recommended!
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Having heard a lot of good things about it over the years, I only recently got to see "The Fallen Idol" when I finally purchased the DVD from amazon and I was both amazed and enthralled by it. Superbly directed by Carol Reed, it is a wonderfully acted; photographed and scripted adaptation of Graham Greene's short story, "The Basement Room". It takes place over a weekend at the French embassy in London, while both the ambassador and his wife are away. Their eight years old son, Phillipe (Bobby Henrey), is a lonely little boy with no friends of his own age to play with, who dotes on his small grass snake, MacGregor (at one point, holding a mirror in front of it and telling it "Look, you're very pretty, you know.") and idolises the embassy butler, Baines (Ralph Richardson) who entertains the impressionable boy with stories of his past heroics in Africa, putting down a rebellion single handed and so on. Unbeknown to the boy at this stage, Baines has never been to Africa. Baines wife (Sonia Dresdel) whom Phillipe hates and is afraid of because she is very cruel to him, is the housekeeper with whom Baines is locked into an unhappy and fruitless marriage. Mrs Baines discovers that her husband is having an illicit love affair with Julie (Michele Morgan), a secretary at the embassy. She confronts her husband about this and Phillipe witnesses a violent row between them at the top of the stairs that seems to end in Baines pushing his wife down the stairs and murdering her. Phillipe, terrified, barefoot and dressed only in his pajamas, runs out in panic into the rain-soaked streets of night time London and is eventually confronted by a uniformed policeman patrolling his beat...!

Seen through the eyes of a child, but definitely not a kid's picture, the acting of all the cast is excellent. But, above all, we realise just how crucial eight years old Bobby Henrey was to Carol Reed's realisation of this film. Bobby had initially been chosen for the film both for his good looks after Reed had seen a photo of him peering out of the window of his London apartment on the dust jacket of one of his parents books and because he was bi-lingual, having been born in France and spending his childhood in both France and England and spoke English with a French accent, which was called for in the script. Bobby had never acted before, but this was just the kind of boy that Reed wanted. He didn't want a professional child actor who had picked up bad acting habits at stage school, he wanted a boy whom he could coax into giving a completely natural performance. He persevered with Bobby over a shooting schedule of an incredible eight months (a long time for those days), shooting numerous takes of the same scene and the same dialogue, which paid off handsomely, as he managed to coax out of the boy the most incredible and natural performance by a child actor ever seen on the screen and certainly not bettered since.

No better example of this can be found than in the scene where Phillipe, having told one lie after another to protect his beloved Baines, but only making things worse for his idol, is convinced that Baines is going to be sent to the gallows for a murder he did not commit. At this point, with all the passion in his heart and soul, Phillipe pleads with the police to listen to him as he finally decides to tell the truth about what happened in the desperate hope that this will save his friend. "Oh, please, you must listen to me! I have something to tell you! It will only take a moment and it will make everything right! Oh, you must listen to me! Please, please, listen to me!" But to his utter despair, the police completely ignore him. This scene is so gut-wrenchingly heart-breaking, that it's almost too upsetting to watch and you become totally involved in it and feel very deeply for this increasingly desperate little boy. It is an incredible performance that is so perfect, it has to be seen to be believed. I cannot recommend this film highly enough. It is one of the finest films ever made in the history of the cinema.

There are two DVD's of the film available. The Criterion Region 1 release and the Optimum Releasing Region 2 release. Both use the same 35mm print as their source, which is of a beautifully restored version of the film and both feature at the beginning the original British Board of Film Censors "A" certificate (showing that the film has been passed for exhibition to Adult Audiences)from 1948. The Criterion release has an excellent booklet about Carol Reed and this film, as well as a couple of extras in the form of a 24 minute documentary about Reed and his films and a page by page look at the original press book. The Optimum DVD has no booklet and no extras. Picture and sound quality on both DVD's are excellent, considering that the film is now (in 2011) 63 years old.
5 people found this helpful
JaneWillisReviewed in the United States on May 10, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
This UK product does not match U.S.A. dvd format and is expensive to return.
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Heads up: The tiny "B" that indicates the UK DVD format will not play on a USA DVD format is on the back, in a corner of the box. There's no indication on the front of the box that this format will not play on a USA DVD player. The BLUERAY text is misleading and indicates it is a universal format. In trying to return this product to the seller, I printed out the return address and postage with barcode displayed. I packed it up carefully, following instructions - Took it to the post office and was told that I would need to fill out a Customs sheet, and, pay $66.00 postage. What a lot of trouble for nothing.
FBReviewed in the United States on March 25, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Falling for the reality of 'Fallen Idol.'
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A fine early British movie. Centered on the consciousness & life of a small child. And the house butler who, in the end,
disappoints him terribly. Will he come of age? Or descend into depression? From a Graham Greene novel.
EvaneReviewed in the United States on June 23, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
THE BOY/AWESOME
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I SIMPLY LOVED THIS MOVIE. EVEN THOUGH THE GROWNUP ACTORS WERE SEASONED ACTORS, I SIMPLY FELL IN LOVE WITH THE CHILD STAR IN THIS MOVIE. HE WAS EXCELLENT IN HIS ROLE, AND HAD SO MANY LINES TO REMBMBER, AND TO 'COIN' AN OLD PHRASE: "AS CUTE AS A BUTTON". TO BE SO YOUNG AND "CARRY' THE MOVIE, WELL IT'S SIMPLY ASTOUNDING. THE MOVIE HAS A INTERESTING STORY LINE, THE 'BUTLER' SO TO SPEAK (WHOM THE BOY SIMPLY ADORES) IS IN LOVE WITH A YOUNGER WOMAN (NOT HIS OWN WIFE), THE BOY SIMPLE GET'S CAUGHT UP IN IT ALL, THE ACCIDENTLAY DEATH OF THE BUTLER'S WIFE,THAT THE POLICE THINK IS MURDER, AND SO DOES THE BOY AFTER HE THINKS HE'S SEEN THE BUTLER/HIS IDOL,PUSH HER DOWN THE STAIRS. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO SEE THIS MOVIE, IT'S CUTE AND ENTERTAINING. YOU WON'T BE SORRY, AND YOU WILL BE TOTALLY IMPRESSED
Ronald Chase Sf FilmReviewed in the United States on February 22, 2007
4.0 out of 5 stars
THE NATURE OF TRUTH GETS TWISTED AROUND IN THIS THRILLER
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THE FALLEN IDOL fits between ODD MAN OUT and the THIRD MAN, considered by some as Carol Reed's trilogy. It's filled with clever plot turns, terrific understated performances and contains one of the most brilliant child performances in film. Lots to recommend it--atmosphere (a palatial French embassy in London), intrigue (a dreary marraige and secret love affair), and an accidental death that could be murder. All of this is seen through the eyes of a child who must translate what he sees and hears as he desperately tries to save his "idol"--the man who runs the embassy while his father is away--from being arrested for murder. Charming, playful, and romantic in the beginning, the film becomes increasingly tense and nerve wracking. It holds you on the edge until the last moment. Highly recommended for teenagers who need to think and discuss issues like the shifting nature of truth.
4 people found this helpful
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