Separate Tables (film)

Separate Tables is a 1958 American drama film starring Rita Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Burt Lancaster, and Wendy Hiller, based on two one-act plays by Terence Rattigan that were collectively known by this name. Niven and Hiller won Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress respectively for their performances. The picture was directed by Delbert Mann and adapted for the screen by Rattigan, John Gay and an uncredited John Michael Hayes. Mary Grant and Edith Head designed the film's costumes.

Separate Tables
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDelbert Mann
Screenplay by
Based onSeparate Tables
by Terence Rattigan
Produced byHarold Hecht
CinematographyCharles Lang
Edited byMarjorie Fowler
Music byDavid Raksin (score)
Harry Warren and Harold Adamson (song "Separate Tables")
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release dates
  • December 18, 1958 (1958-12-18) (New York, USA)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.1 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[1]
244,284 admissions (France)[2]

Plot edit

The film is set in the Hotel Beauregard in Bournemouth on the south coast of England. Major David Angus Pollock (David Niven) tries but fails to hide an article about himself in the West Hampshire Weekly News. His attempt to keep the article from the eyes of the other guests at the residential hotel only succeeds in heightening their awareness of it, particularly the strict Mrs Railton-Bell (Gladys Cooper) and the more relaxed and compassionate Lady Matheson (Cathleen Nesbitt). The two women read in the paper that Major Pollock has pled guilty to sexually harassing several young women in a theatre. However the filed complaints are, in themselves, questionable. Mrs Railton-Bell wants Major Pollock expelled from the hotel and holds a meeting with other long-term residents to decide the issue before presenting it to the manager, Miss Pat Cooper (Wendy Hiller). Mrs Railton-Bell leads the meeting arguing for the Major's expulsion, and despite the opposing views of the other residents, she informs Miss Cooper that the Major must leave.

Anne (Rita Hayworth) and John (Burt Lancaster), who were formerly married to one another, meet outside. Anne coolly teases John, informing him that she is engaged; John tells her he is engaged as well, but does not disclose that he is engaged to Miss Cooper. John claims that though Anne could have married other men who were wealthier and more important, she chose him, a man in a lower economic class, in order to manipulate and degrade him fully. Despite this, John and Anne admit they are still attracted to each other. She asks him to come to her room.

As they walk into the hotel, Miss Cooper tells Anne she has a phone call. Miss Cooper asks John, knowing Anne is his ex-wife, to consider the real reason for Anne's visit. John defends Anne at first, claiming that all his misfortunes are his own fault, but changes his mind when Miss Cooper tells him that Anne is talking on the phone to his publisher, the only person who knows that John and Miss Cooper are engaged. John confronts Anne in her bedroom. When she attempts to seduce him, he cruelly tells her that, in the light, he can see that she has aged and without her physical beauty it will be impossible for her to continue to manipulate people. She begs him to stay, but he runs out of the hotel after striking her. Anne has an emotional breakdown, and Miss Cooper comforts her. Anne reveals that she is not really engaged and has been abusing sleeping pills to ease her pain, even during the day.

The next morning, Mrs Railton-Bell's downtrodden daughter Sibyl (Deborah Kerr) tells Major Pollock that she knows what he did. He explains that he always has been fearful of people and that it is easier for him to attempt to be familiar with strangers. Major Pollock tells Sibyl that he and she get along well with each other because they are both afraid of life. As he returns to his room to pack, Sibyl worries he will not find a new home.

When John returns in the morning, Miss Cooper tells him that Anne is emotionally unwell, and asks him to see her before she checks out of the hotel. After John leaves, Miss Cooper attempts to persuade Major Pollock to stay, but he refuses. The hotel residents eat their breakfast at separate tables in the dining room. John and Anne appear to reconcile, but they do not know if they can ever be happy, together or apart.

When Major Pollock enters the room, there is an awkward silence until John greets him. The others do the same and cheerfully converse with him. Mrs Railton-Bell is angered by this and demands Sibyl leave with her. Sibyl refuses to obey her mother's command for the first time ever, and insists on remaining to finish her breakfast. After her mother leaves, she starts to talk to Major Pollock, who decides to stay on at the hotel.

Cast edit

Production edit

The film took the two plays and opened them to create a screenplay that introduced some new parts, and stars Rita Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Wendy Hiller, Burt Lancaster, and May Hallatt, who already played Miss Meacham on stage. Variety wrote "Rattigan and John Gay have masterfully blended the two playlets into one literate and absorbing full-length film."[3] The film was nominated for seven Oscars, Best Picture, Best Actress (Kerr), Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Black and White), and Best Dramatic or Comedy Score, and won two (Niven for Best Actor and Hiller for Best Supporting Actress).[4]

Top billing was divided between Deborah Kerr and Rita Hayworth: Hayworth was billed above Kerr in the posters while Kerr was billed above Hayworth in the film itself, a practice followed by James Stewart and John Wayne four years later for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and later by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in All the President's Men (1976).

Burt Lancaster was also co-producer (Clifton Productions, a subsidiary of Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Productions). Rita Hayworth was married to James Hill at the time.[5]

Rod Taylor agreed to play a small part in the film because of the quality of the production.[6]

Reception edit

Critical Reception edit

Separate Tables encountered a complex reception upon its release. Despite the allure of its star-studded cast, the film faced uncertainty regarding its commercial success due to the narrative's downbeat nature and its divergence from the conventional notions of escapist entertainment.[7] Margaret Hinxman of Picturegoer called the film "a four-star crusade against type-casting." She wrote: "It's almost as if in Separate Tables David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancaster, Rita Hayworth are deliberately setting out to pillory the "types" that made them famous."[8] She praised the film as "an absorbing study of human relationships."[8] Jack Moffit of The Hollywood Reporter claimed it would require an audience with a "finer, more selective" taste since "the film qualifies itself to the exacting literary requirements of important tragedy." He added: "It may be hard to sell this to the moviegoing public, but it is eminently worth selling."[7] Variety claimed the story was "bolstered by some of the best performances of the year" and praised the film's producers as deserving credit "for undertaking a story that does not meet the conception of what is generally considered sure-fire material in today's market."[9]

Awards and nominations edit

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Motion Picture Harold Hecht Nominated
Best Actor David Niven Won
Best Actress Deborah Kerr Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Wendy Hiller Won
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium John Gay and Terence Rattigan Nominated
Best Cinematography – Black-and-White Charles Lang Nominated
Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture David Raksin Nominated
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actress Deborah Kerr Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama David Niven Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Deborah Kerr Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Wendy Hiller Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Delbert Mann Nominated
Laurel Awards Top Male Dramatic Performance David Niven Nominated
Top Female Dramatic Performance Deborah Kerr Nominated
Top Female Supporting Performance Wendy Hiller Nominated
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 2nd Place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Actor David Niven Won
Best Screenplay Terence Rattigan and John Gay Nominated
Sant Jordi Awards Best Foreign Actor David Niven Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Drama Terence Rattigan and John Gay Nominated

David Niven won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role, setting the current record for the shortest performance to win the award.[10]

Home media edit

Separate Tables was released to DVD by MGM Home Video on December 11, 2001, as a Region 1 widescreen DVD and by Kino Lorber (under license from MGM) to Blu-ray on July 29, 2014.

References edit

  1. ^ "1959: Probable Domestic Take". Variety. January 6, 1960. p 34.
  2. ^ "Box Office France — 1959". Box Office Story. Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  3. ^ "Separate Tables". Variety. January 1, 1958.
  4. ^ "Awards for Separate Tables". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  5. ^ "Separate Tables (1958) - Articles". Turner Classic Movies.
  6. ^ Vagg, Stephen (2010). Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood. BearManor. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-6293-3041-9.
  7. ^ a b Moffit, Jack (December 2, 1958). "'Separate Tables' serves fine but specialized fare". The Hollywood Reporter. p. 3. ProQuest 2338266676. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  8. ^ a b Hinxman, Margaret (February 21, 1959). "Separate Tables". Picturegoer. Vol. 37, no. 1242. pp. 10–11.
  9. ^ Holl (December 3, 1958). "Film review: Separate tables". Variety. p. 6. ProQuest 1014809767. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  10. ^ Stewart, Matthew (December 28, 2020). "Best Actor Oscar winners: Who won for a performance that clocked in at under 24 minutes?". Gold Derby. Retrieved March 16, 2023.

External links edit