Film Review

Separate Tables.

1958

The quiet days of The Hotel Beauregard, are disturbed when circumstances compel guests to face their passions, values  and conflicts

Repression and lust dress carefully for meals at ‘Separate Tables’ at the Bournemouth seaside boarding house; the title is the metaphor for keeping every ‘nice’ and orderly. And minding your own business.

Fearsomely strong cast playing powerfully weak characters.

Rita Hayworth and Burt Lancaster wrestle through their individual and collective angst oscillating between passionate clinches to desperate runs for freedom. Exhilaration juxtaposed with despair.

John’s (Lancaster) new love, the owner of the hotel, Miss Cooper tells him, ‘When you’re together, you slash each other to pieces. When you are alone you slash yourselves to pieces’.

David Nivan is  Major Angus Pollock,  (he won the 1959 OSCAR for his portrayal )  a stereotypical cad, played with originality, his deep seated inhibitions and repressed anxieties are displayed with agonising detail.  An item in the local newspaper reveals his moral weakness.  He is the catalyst of Sybil’s disgusted breakdown and justifications for her mother ‘taking a stand’.

Deborah Kerr plays Sybil Railton-Bell, with a  fine authenticity. The object of the Major’s attention, she is ever clutching her handkerchief or frumpy cardigan; all trace of beauty repressed and held back with Bobbie pins.  She is appalled when The Major tells her he thinks they are alike.

Sybil is ruled over by her mother; played with sharp correctness by Gladys Cooper. Hers is the moral tone all must rise to, the setter of an intolerant correctness.

The Major, having fallen short is given his marching orders. He is to vacate by lunchtime tomorrow. This is the instruction Mrs Railton-Bell (Cooper) gives the owner.

A night of high drama, passion, rejection and reconciliation brings us to the final scene: breakfast at the Hotel Beauregard.  All guests sitting at their separate Tables.

Cooper is reigning, as usual. But this is her last hour.

In the light of day one by one each character finds the strength to stand up to her and reaches out to the Major. Unable to condone this charity Mrs R-B stands to leave, and instructs her daughter to come with her.

Sybil rebels.

The message is everyone deserves a second chance.

Everyone needs forgiveness.

Everyone needs to be loved.  Everyone needs a friend.

Though this film is in black and white, it lacks nothing. Actually I think it adds to the production.

10/10

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About Jane

Living through writing and Writing through life.
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One Response to Film Review

  1. I have seen this film, and was caught totally off guard by everyone’s performance. Each star is playing against type. And every supporting actor is a force to be reckoned with. Niven moved me. Truly moved me. He put a lump in my throat. Hayworth – the fragile woman who could embody such strength and sensuality on screen – broke my heart. Really, she’s the tragic figure in the film. Lancaster, like Niven, plays a man tortured by his demons….and Kerr is, well, a master. When she explodes against her mother’s oppression – I cheered. Wendy Hiller is another master. As an actor myself, I always remember the moment when Hiller takes a stance against Lancaster’s physical abuse. And the list of unforgettable performances goes on and on. The film is subdued – like a small theater piece. But it’s a monster of a cast doing the most mature work of their era.

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