The "idol" is Baines (Ralph Richardson), the butler in the French embassy in London and the ambassador's little son, Philippe (Bobby Henrey), is the one who loves and worships him. Baines is devoted to the boy and never tires of spending time him, regaling him with tall tales that Philippe believes, of course. One day, Baines asks Philippe to keep a big secret from the hateful Mrs. Baines and this secret eventually changes all of their lives.
This is a wonderful movie. Richardson is flawless and little Bobby Henrey gives one of the very best child performances ever. He is completely natural, a real boy who dotes on his pet snake and would do anything for Baines, and acts in both English and French. The story is a domestic drama turned homicide investigation and it kept me on the edge of my seat. Heartily recommended.
on August 27, 2008
This is one of my all-time favorite films, right up there with Reed's next film, "The Third Man." The plot is compelling and suspenseful (thanks to Graham Greene's brilliance) but it is the cinematography, perfect casting and, most of all, Reed's direction that makes this film interesting on more levels and in more ways than I can list. This is a subtle, smart film, beautifully shot.
Little Phillipe (Bobby Henrey), the ambassador's son has free rein of the embassy while his father is away. His best friend the butler Baines (Ralph Richardson) and the nasty, gripy, strict, Mrs. Baines (Sonia Dresdel) look after him.
One day he finds that Baines sneaks out to visit his "niece" Julie (Michèle Morgan) who just happens to be an embassy secretary. It becomes a secret. But you know who weasels it out of the boy and replaces it with her secret.
A confrontation peruses and some one is found dead. The boy is pretty sure who did it and decides that is a secret.
The boy decided the Mr. Baines is bad but is told:
Baines "We should be very careful Phil; because we make one another",
Phillipe "I thought god made us?",
Baines "Trouble is we take a hand in the game."
Phillipe now knows the danger in secrets and the departing detective asks "Do you want to know a secret?"
Based on a story by Graham Greene. And directed by Carol Reed the criterion collection has some good 2006 DVD supplements.
on January 13, 2002
Carol Reed, one of Britain's most masterly directors, handled this gem with consummate grace. This was Reed's final film prior to his masterpiece, "The Third Man."
What makes this film so rare is that it is seen through the eyes of a young boy, played by Bobby Hendry. Most of the action takes place in a South London mansion in fashionable Chelsea, which serves as the French Embassy. The youngster's parents are away in France when the wife of his hero, played by Ralph Richardson, slips and falls down the second floor staircase, plunging to her death. Richardson, the Embassy's caretaker, was caught in a loveless marriage with a difficult woman. He is having an affair with Michele Morgan at the time of his wife's death.
A young child's imagination goes to work. Hendry imagines that Richardson actually killed his wife and, when investigating police officers Jack Hawkins and Bernard Lee arrive, he engages in conduct in which, while seeking to help his hero Richardson, mistakenly implicates him.
By the film's conclusion Richardson is finally cleared, but Hendry's activities make things more difficult for him. The imagination of a youngster seeking to help Richardson almost leads to his downfall.
Reed's deft handling of Hendry was reflective of his ability to work with children. It was further demonstrated in "A Kid for Two Farthings" and in the brilliant musical "Oliver!", which resulted in an Academy Award for Reed.