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THE FALLEN IDOL: Looks like eight-year-old Phil (Bobby Henrey) will have his cavernous Belgravia Square embassy to himself for the weekend. Dad the ambassador is off to retrieve Mom from a long hospital stay, so his only companions will be his beloved pet, McGregor the snake; his idol, Baines the butler (Ralph Richardson); and his dreaded nemesis, the snake-hating Mrs. Baines (Sonia Dresdel). And when Phil trails Baines to a tea room tryst with embassy staffer Julie (Gallic legend Michele Morgan) -- Baines claims she's his "niece" -- he becomes the solemn bearer of a Secret. But when an idyllic afternoon at the zoo is topped by a nighttime tragedy, and those soft-spoken police arrive to ask all those polite questions, Phil enters a world of lies that protect, lies that implicate, and eventually, truth that no one listens to. The first collaboration of writer Graham Greene and director Carol Reed (their next: THE THIRD MAN) was based on Greene's story "The Basement Room." Pivotal to the screen adaptation was the casting of the boy: blessed with an engagingly indeterminate accent, the French-born, London-reared Henrey perfectly conveys the earnest, compulsively chatty attention-demanding behavior of a typical child (Reed, who had a knack for handling kids -- his musical OLIVER! nabbed the Best Picture Oscar two decades later -- changed his original concept to allow the boy to pretty much play himself). Just hearing how Richardson pronounces Phil's name indicates the chemistry they achieved, but then Sir Ralph was at the peak of his film career, evoking affection, anguish, guilt and fear without ever raising his voice. The impeccable casting extends to the smallest parts, from detectives Jack Hawkins (later Brit superstar and Lawrence of Arabia's General Allenby) and Bernard Lee (James Bond's original "M" and THIRD MAN sewer bullet-recipient) to famed comedienne Dora Bryan as the tart who can't comfort Phil without resorting to her usual come-ons. Honored in its time (Reed was named Best Director by the New York Film Critics Circle and was Oscar-nominated, as was Greene), FALLEN IDOL has tended to get lost as the middle child of Reed's greatest period (between ODD MAN OUT and THIRD MAN). Seen again, it effortlessly combines a sensitive child's-eye-view of the world with a poignant love story and suspense that rivals Hitchcock -- just follow the flight of the fateful telegram/paper airplane.