"The Fallen Idol," an English production based on a short story by Graham Greone, was chosen as England's best film of 1948, and has been collecting rave reviews here. Most of the praise is deserved. The photography is subtle and brilliant, a fresh realistic idiom for the moviegoer lulled by the stylized American technique, that, together with masterful directing, (by Carol Reed, director of Odd Man Out), and superb acting, raise a weaker plot to excellent drama.
The scene is set at the French embassy in London. The ambassador is away, and his seven-year-old son Felipe is living there in care of the butler, Baines, and his wife. Thanks to the skillful acting and directing, one sees the whole first part of the film from Felipe's point of view: his idolization of Baines and their comradeship, the ceaseless tension between Baines and his paranoid wife, Baines' subsequent affair with one of the secretaries at the embassy.
What saves the film is the production-even the "thriller" section is handled with subtlety and fine acting. More important, the film was done with a skillful sense of humor. The dialogue is bright and witty, the comic relief sophisticated and highly effective. Throughout the tenseness of the investigation, one of the policemen persists in talking to the embassy in lumbering French, although they always reply in perfect English. And the come logic of a child's mind is played for its full charm. Bobby Henrey as Felipe gives the top performance of a well-acted movie. There is none of the sentimental cuteness about him that makes some child stars so objectionable; he acts like an authentic small boy. All through the film, there are glimpses of the "small boy" world.
As Baines, the butler, Ralph Richardson does a very capable job of acting the part of a man over-whelmed by the misery of his marriage, and not strong enough to fight his way out of it. Sonia Dresdel, as his wife, is adequately hateful.
There are two morals to be drawn from all this. One, for the movie producers, is "Go, and do thou likewise." The other, for laymen, is "Go."