The Fallen Idol (1948) | Carol Reed’s child’s eye view thriller belongs alongside his greatest masterpieces

The Fallen Idol (1948)Now restored to its former glory, and out on DVD and Blu-ray from StudioCanal comes 1948’s The Fallen Idol. This gripping thriller was the first collaboration between British director Carol Reed and novelist Graham Greene who, following the success of this film, would go on to work together on the celebrated classics, The Third Man (1949) and Our Man in Havana (1959).

Based on Greene’s short story, The Basement Room, The Fallen Idol centres on eight-year-old Phillipe (Bobby Henrey), the lonely son of the French ambassador to London, who is left in the care of story-telling butler Baines (Ralph Richardson), whom he looks up to, and Baines’ stern housekeeper wife (Sonia Dresdel).

When Mrs Baines falls to her death while trying to catch her husband out over his affair with a typing pool secretary (Michèle Morgan), Phillipe is convinced Baines murdered his wife. But in lying to the investigating detectives in a bid to protect his hero, only puts Baines in further trouble…

The Fallen Idol (1948)

Told almost entirely from Philipe’s perspective, Carol Reed’s engrossing thriller (which hasn’t dated at all) makes the most of its enormous opulent staircase setting (courtesy of Vincent Korda’s talented emigré-populated art department), the natural, awkward charms of its young non-actor star (Henrey), and the magnetic presence of Richardson, who gives a wonderfully sympathetic portrayal.

The Fallen Idol (1948)

Carol’s direction shows great understanding of character (even the minor ones like Dora Bryan’s streetwalker Rose); while the cinematography and editing from Georges Périnal (who worked with Rene Clair and Jean Cocteau) and Oswald Hafenrichter is a masterclass in those cinematic crafts. This is a true cinematic masterpiece that got a well deserved Bafta for Best British Film and should be treated with the same respect as Reed’s better known classics.

Watch out for future Bond stars Bernard Lee and Geoffrey Keen as the detectives, alongisde genre heavyweights Torin Thatcher and Jack Hawkins…

The Fallen Idol (1948)

• Interview with Robert Henrey (interesting to hear his side on making the film)
• Interview with director Guy Hamilton (who learn’t his craft as an assistant director)
• Locations featurette (which revisits Grosvenor Crescent in Belgrave Square and takes a pub crawl around the nearby streets used for Philippe’s night-time escape)
• Interview with film historian Charles Drazin (quite informative)
• Interview with fan Richard Ayoade (who is very passionate, but does goes on a bit)
• Restoration comparison (quite amazing the difference)

The Fallen Idol also screens tonight in the UK on True Entertainment (Sky 184, Virgin 189, Freeview 61, Freesat 142) at 11pm

Part of the Vintage Classics collection – showcasing iconic, fully restored, British films. For more information, check out:


About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on December 11, 2015, in British Film, Classic, Must See, Must-See, Thriller and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. The Fallen Idol is one of my all time favourite films. I have had the pleasure of actually meeting Bobby Henrey at the Regal cinema, Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire on Friday, September 6th, 2013. Bobby (now known as Robert) had flown over from Connecticut to attend there the launch of his autobiography Through Grown-up Eyes – Living with Childhood Fame. I was a special guest at the event because I had helped him with information and stills for his book and he presented me with a hardback copy of it, dedicated to me in his own hand. As I was the first to arrive of a large number who attended the do, which included a digital screening of his famous film, I was able to have a long talk with him and we got on famously. He is as utterly charming now as he was as a child star and a number of photos were taken of us together, shaking hands, ect. One of these can be sent to your email address (whatever that is) if required. Ribert is still with us and will be an incredible 79 years of age in June, 2018. David Rayner, Stoke on Trent.

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