Select Page

The Fallen Idol.

Directed by Carol Reed (1906-1976).

UK, 1948.


British film director Carol Reed was at his creative peak with a series of three post-War films:  Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol (1948), and The Third Man (1949).  A last hurrah came in 1968 with Oliver!, which was a huge popular hit and won him the Oscar for Best Director.


There is a sub-genre of film that deals with the clash between the innocent world of childhood and the more jaded, corrupt adult world.  The Fallen Idol falls into that category.  Eventually, we will be looking at several such films in the Film Series, including Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Réne Clément’s Forbidden Games (1952), and Víctor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive (1973).  Film-makers have found that telling a story through the wide-eyed innocence of childhood can reveal truths that adults, with all their preconceived notions and narrowmindedness, will miss.


Ralph Richardson (1902-1983) was one of the three great Shakespearian actors who dominated British stage and screen through a large swathe of the 20th Century, the other two being Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud. One of the reasons that Carol Reed’s remarkable post-War run of films is so great is in giving a forum to some of the greatest actors of the time.  James Mason in Odd Man Out;  Ralph Richardson in The Fallen Idol; and Orson Welles & Joseph Cotton in The Third Man.  Richardson can be overlooked, because in some of his more famous films, he was not the star, but a very important supporting character.  Memorable performances we’ve seen lately are his turn as a petty tyrant in a post-holocaust village in Things to Come (1936) and his walk-on as The Supreme Being in Time Bandits (1981).


Bobby Henrey, the boy in the film, 8 years old when the movie was shot, is an Anglo-French former child actor who only made two films, but this one profoundly influenced his life, because it made him a star.  Carol Reed selected him from a picture, taken at age 3, on the dustjacket of a book that Bobby’s father had published.  After interviewing the boy, Reed never auditioned another child for the role.  Mr. Henrey is still alive, living in Connecticut, having emigrated to the U.S. at age 25.  He worked most of his life as an accountant for Price Waterhouse, and after retirement became ordained and served as a chaplain at a hospital.  He published a small press book in 2013 titled “Through Grown-Up Eyes: Living with Childhood Fame.”