The Fallen Idol

1948, Carol Reed, UK

Director: Carol Reed
Producer: Carol Reed
Screenplay: Graham Greene, based on
  his short story The Basement Room
Cinematography: Georges Perinal
Editor: Oswald Hafenrichter
Music: William Alwyn
Ralph Richardson (Baines)
Michele Morgan (Julie)
Sonia Dresdel (Mrs Baines)
Bobby Henrey (Phillipe)
Denis O’Dea (Inspector Crowe)
Jack Hawkins (Detective Ames)
Walter Fitzgerald (Dr Fenton)


Rating: PG Runtime: 92 minutes

The Fallen Idol marks the first collaboration between a director at the peak of his powers and one of the great novelists. Carol Reed had just won the first inaugural BAFTA for Outstanding British Film for Odd Man Out, which also screens in our 2024 programme. He then repeated that feat twice more in 1948 and 1949 with The Fallen Idol and the iconic Third Man, respectively, both scripted by Graham Greene. (NB: Not all Reed x Greene collabs were successful: The Quiet American (1958) is virtually unwatchable.)

The action is all indoor in this 1940s thriller set in the French Ambassador’s London mansion, told from the perspective of his young son, Philippe, and staged accordingly – think low angles, cavernous walls, the gleaming central staircase. The titular idol is Baines, the unhappily married family butler. The nature of Baines’ relationship with a young woman is lost on Philippe, but its significance is not, as an incident puts a sharp twist in the story and the detectives come in. The Fallen Idol was an instant classic on its release.

“What all [the] honeyed veneration [of the film] fails to describe is just how damn much fun the The Fallen Idol is. And, for all its quality and craft, how little it has lost its power to disturb — and to haunt.” Howard A. Rodman, Criterion


May 13 2024


6:15 pm - 7:50 pm