The Fallen Idol (PG)

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The Independent Culture

The Fallen Idol, made in 1948, a year before The Third Man and also scripted by Graham Greene, is one of Carol Reed's most satisfying films.

Ralph Richardson stars as Baines, a butler in the Belgravia residence of the French ambassador, whose touching friendship with his employer's young son - to whom he is a virtual father figure - is compromised when the boy stumbles on his adulterous affair.

It is, in part, a thriller, as Baines's abominable wife also gets wind of the fling. Yet the film succeeds most of all as a study of trust and deception, and of how a child's grasp of truth and lies is at odds with the adult world's altogether different understanding. It's a lovely film, with a terrifically nuanced performance by Richardson that conveys the conflict between genuine care and self-interest.