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During the Rif War in Morocco, the French Foreign Legion's outpost of Tarfa is threatened by Khalif Hussein's tribes but Sergeant Mike Kincaid devises a plan of survival until the arrival of French reinforcements.
Three navy men run into a shady producer who convinces them to invest into his new show. When they meet the show's female star attraction, they're sold. Have they become the latest showbiz players or just three more suckers?
It's the off-season at the lonely Beauregard Hotel in Bournemoth, and only the long-term tenants are still in residence. Life at the Beauregard is stirred up, however, when the beautiful Ann Shankland arrives to see her alcoholic ex-husband, John Malcolm, who is secretly engaged to Pat Cooper, the woman who runs the hotel. Meanwhile, snobbish Mrs Railton-Bell discovers that the kindly if rather doddering Major Pollock is not what he appears to be. The news is particularly shocking for her frail daughter, Sibyl, who is secretly in love with the Major. Written by
Shannon Patrick Sullivan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I visited London in 1993, and saw a west end revival of Terrance Rattigan's "Separate Tables" that starred Peter Bowles. It was very odd watching Bowles, whom I have seen playing so many upper crust comic types as in "The Irish R.M." on television, here playing two serious parts: a recovering alcoholic who meets his ex-wife at a hotel he is staying at, and a bluff, good natured military man who disgraces himself - and is facing ostracism as a result - in the same hotel. But these were separate plays, and each well done. Rattigan was a master (possibly the last one) of the "well made play" that Shaw condemned as artificial and fake. The "well made play" Bernard Shaw talked about was the type championed by the French dramatists Planche and Victorien Sardou. Structurally they were perfect, with the concentration on plot mechanism so strong as to diminish everything else. Shaw felt the play should say something. He failed to admit that some of his own plays (among his early ones) like "Caesar And Cleopatra" and "Arms And The Man" were "well made plays", with his own wit added. He also failed to notice that in the hands of a good dramatist (like Rattigan) a well made play could be very strong: "The Winslow Boy", "The Browning Version", "Separate Tables" - the credits prove the point.
As has been pointed out in another of these reviews Rattigan rewrote the plays as one play. This was not too difficult, as the only character in the two who was the same was the hotel manager (Wendy Hiller). Her part was built up a little (in the original she is a close friend of the Burt Lancaster character - here they have a relationship). Frequently people recall David Niven's dramatic triumph and Oscar in "Separate Tables" as the disgraced military man, but Hiller won her best supporting Oscar here (she did not win it for her lead performances in "Pygmalion", "Major Barbara", or "I Know Where I'm Going"). She deserved it, as a woman who sadly sees her chance for happiness swept away, but pulls herself together because she is a grown-up with responsibilities.
Lancaster and Rita Hayworth were formerly married (he a rising Labor Party politician, she a wealthy woman) only to find the tensions of his political career and their tempestuous relationship led to an act of violence that ended the marriage. But Hayworth finds she can't live without Lancaster, and he is willing to consider it again - as their play continues. Will they do it or not?
Niven is a bluff, hail-fellow-well-met type, who claims he was a Major in the army. He happens to be very close to Deborah Kerr, the daughter of autocratic Gladys Cooper. Kerr is quite brow-beaten, but Niven encourages her to try to think for herself. Then it turns out he has committed a sin - he broke the law by performing a dirty act, and was caught. Cooper, who hates anyone who stands up against her, learns of it, and uses it to cause Kerr to break with Niven, and to then try to get the hotel to force him out. Will she succeed or not?
Niven played his role with a degree of regret and humiliation rarely seen by his fans in three decades of film comedies. I have mentioned that he had a dark side, but this was one of the few times it was given full strength. It was worth waiting for, as he was superb.
So too were Hayworth, Kerr, Cooper, and the supporting cast. Rod Taylor and Audrey Dalton were good as the young married couple. But typically good was old Felix Aylmer. As the mild mannered professor who is willing to listen to Cooper's arguments about the need to get rid of that "pervert" for the sake of the hotel's reputation, and then gradually gets fed up with her self-righteous egotism until he starts leading a reaction against it he gave a terrific performance. He too deserved some recognition, but only his fans can give it to him now.
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