SEPARATE TABLES drew high praise when it came out in 1958, and remains a solid watch today, even if decades of more intense movie drama have reduced its somewhat overrated status from Great to Good.
If only for the wonderful Oscar-snagging performance from David Niven, as a bogus Colonel, it warrants a salute, but under Delbert Mann’s sensitive direction there are a number of pleasures on hand. His handling of the witty Terence Rattigan-John Gay screenplay (taken from two one-act plays by Rattigan) summons superior work from Wendy Hiller and Gladys Cooper, a very good job from a frumped-up Deborah Kerr and fairly arresting turns from leads Burt Lancaster and Rita Hayworth.
Set at an English seaside resort during the winter, a lodge populated by a variety of dowagers, outcasts and emotional refugees, the brittle heartaches that made it a stage success seem fairly obvious and theatrical on screen. Still, with the cast, Niven foremost, there are 99 minutes of star-imbued entertainment served up, well-done. Aside from everyone’s favorite British import winning Best Actor, Ms. Hiller took home the statue for Best Supporting Actress, and the film was nominated for Best Picture, Actress (Kerr), Screenplay, Cinematography and Music Score. The registers rang up $6,820,000.
Hiller’s take on winning an Academy Award: “Never mind the honor, though I’m sure it’s very nice of them. I hope this award means cash – hard cash. I want lots of lovely offers to go filming in Hollywood, preferably in the winter so I can avoid all the horrid cold over here.”
With Rod Taylor, Cathleen Nesbitt, Audrey Dalton, Felix Aylmer, May Hallett, Priscilla Morgan and Hilda Plowright.