Tuesday, August 06, 2013

"The Fallen Idol": When a personal "ocelot" has clay feet

I was a hero-worshipper myself as a boy – I remember my heart jumping at around age 9 when getting a postcard from a local TV host.  I’ve written a lot about the psychological aspects of “upward affiliation” on my GLBT-related blogs.

My tendency toward this process attracted some attention when I was in the Army, especially at Fort Eustis, where some of us in the barracks invented animal names for our “heroes”, and one buddy, who called himself “Rado Suhl”, would say to me that my favorite “ocelot” would be found to have “clay feet”.

So it is with Carol Reed’s 1948 British Lion (essentially British MGM) film “The Fallen Idol” (1948).  Philippe (Bobby Henrey), a diplomat’s son, idolizes the butler  Baines (Ralph Richardson), who has entertained the boy with all kinds of stories about overseas adventures in Africa and other exotic places in the old British empire.  When the butler has a fight with his wife, she falls to her death, and Baines is suspected of a crime because he could have wanted the diplomat’s wife.  The boy wants to defend his “idol” but no one believes him because of his childish ways and tendency to tell fibs. 

There’s a critical scene near the end where a police inspector asks the boy why he uses the word “murder”.

The black-and-white film is based on a short story “The Basement Room” by Graham Greene. The film had another title, “The Lost Illusion”.

The music score is by William Alwyn, known for his brazen symphonies on Chandos.

The DVD from Criterion includes an extended short “A Sense of Carol Reed” (2006), which includes a lot of discussion of “The Third Man” (which I rented a few years ago for a screenwriting class -- a writer layers his work on top of an undercover investigation in a black market of defective medication) and “Odd Man Out”, which I have not seen.  

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