The Fallen Idol (film)

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The Fallen Idol
U.S. theatrical release poster
Directed byCarol Reed
Produced byCarol Reed
Philip Brandon (associate)
Written byWilliam Templeton
Lesley Storm
Graham Greene
Based on"The Basement Room"
by Graham Greene
StarringRalph Richardson
Bobby Henrey
Michèle Morgan
Denis O'Dea
Jack Hawkins
Music byWilliam Alwyn
CinematographyGeorges Périnal
Edited byOswald Hafenrichter
Distributed byBritish Lion Films
Release date
  • 30 September 1948 (1948-09-30)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£215,823 (UK)[1]

The Fallen Idol (also known as The Lost Illusion) is a 1948 British film directed by Carol Reed and based on the 1936 short story "The Basement Room", by Graham Greene. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director (Carol Reed) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Graham Greene), and won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film.


The film is told through the naive eyes of a diplomat's young son, Philippe, who idolises his father's butler, Baines. Baines has invented a heroic persona to keep the boy entertained, and often tells him stories of his exotic and daring adventures in Africa and elsewhere, stories such as putting down a native uprising single-handedly, killing a man in self-defence, shooting lions and so on.

In reality, the butler has never been to Africa and is stuck in a loveless marriage, while dreaming of happiness with a younger woman (who he tells Philippe is his niece after the boy finds them together). After Baines has an argument with his betrayed wife, she accidentally falls from a landing to her death. However, Philippe believes that he has seen Baines murder her. The boy desperately and clumsily attempts to protect his hero when the police investigate, but his efforts only lead Baines deeper into trouble.



The cameras began turning on the film on the bright, sunny morning of Wednesday, 17 September 1947, with the first location scene to be filmed being that of Philippe running across Belgrave Square in London.

The Fallen Idol marks the first notable film Carol Reed made at Grosvenor Crescent, Belgravia, in London as a filming location — the other being Reed's acclaimed movie Oliver!, filmed 20 years later at the same site. Coincidentally, it was a film featuring a similar seven-year-old precocious boy.


The Monthly Film Bulletin called the film "outstanding."[2]

It was one of the most popular movies at the British box office in 1948.[3][4] According to Kinematograph Weekly the 'biggest winner' at the box office in 1948 Britain was The Best Years of Our Lives with Spring in Park Lane being the best British film and "runners up" being It Always Rains on Sunday, My Brother Jonathan, Road to Rio, Miranda, An Ideal Husband, Naked City, The Red Shoes, Green Dolphin Street, Forever Amber, Life with Father, The Weaker Sex, Oliver Twist, The Fallen Idol and The Winslow Boy.[5]

The Fallen Idol was included at number 48 on Time Out magazine's list of the "100 best British films", which polled critics and members of the film industry. It was described as "one of the finest British films about children, about the ways they can be manipulated and betrayed, their loyalties misplaced and their emotions toyed with."[6]



  1. ^ Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p486
  2. ^ "Monthly Film Bulletin review".
  3. ^ "THE STARRY WAY". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 8 January 1949. p. 2. Retrieved 11 July 2012.
  4. ^ Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32 no. 3. p. 258.
  5. ^ Lant, Antonia (1991). Blackout : reinventing women for wartime British cinema. Princeton University Press. p. 232.
  6. ^ "100 Best British Films (numbers 41-50)". Time Out. Retrieved 26 January 2014.


  • The Great British Films, pp 125–127, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 0-8065-0661-X
  • A Film Star in Belgrave Square, a book about the making of the film by Mrs. Robert Henrey, mother of Bobby Henrey.

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