The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, May 25-31

Bobby Henrey, Sonia Dresdel, and Ralph Richardson in Carol Reed’s THE FALLEN IDOL (1948). Courtesy Film Forum. Playing Friday, May 27 through Thursday, June 2. The Fallen Idol (1948)
Directed by Carol Reed
The Fallen Idol is the offspring of that exotic animal: a happy writer/director partnership. Graham Greene reworked his 1936 short story “The Basement Room” into a screenplay (with some additional dialogue by Lesley Storm and William Templeton); the following year, Greene & Reed would go on to make The Third Man. Cinematographer Georges Périnal is responsible for all those shots of a little blonde boy careening up, down, and through elaborate staircases, railings, palings, and bars. The boy is Phil (Bobby Henrey), the ambassador’s son. With his father gone from London to fetch his mother—a woman Phil barely remembers—from a long hospital stay, the boy is left in the care of the butler, Baines, & his wife. Baines (Ralph Richardson) is a dedicated professional, but an unwilling husband and occasional fibber: he tells Phil tall tales about Africa, and about the exact nature of his relationship with a sad young woman employed at the embassy (Michèle Morgan). Long at war with Mrs. Baines (Sonia Dresdel), Baines comes to count on the boy’s diplomacy—but Phil’s not a professional, only a naïve and frightened child. Though his sympathies are entirely with the patriarchy, as more and more adult-level prevarications are demanded of him, he seeks maternal refuge in the lap of a friendly neighborhood prostitute (Dora Bryan). She’s used to it—she knows his dad. Elina Mishuris (May 27-June 2 at Film Forum, showtimes daily; with The Third Man and Odd Man Out as part of “Carol Reed’s Noir Trilogy” on May 29)

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