Wednesday, October 17, 2018

THE RITA HAYWORTH IS 100! BLOGATHON: Separate Tables (1958)


Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood is hosting this loving blogathon tribute to Rita Hayworth on the occasion of her centenary, October 17, 2018.


Click HERE for the contributions collected from October 17th to the 19th.

Two one-act plays by Terence Rattigan (The Winslow Boy), Table by the Window and Table Number Seven, are commonly presented under the title Separate Tables. As written, the two main characters are played by the same male and female actors, while the background guests and staff at the setting of the Beauregard Private Hotel remain the same.

The play had its premiere in 1954 and Rattigan adapted it for the screen with John Gay in 1958 for Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Productions (Harold Hecht, James Hill, Burt Lancaster). Hecht-Lancaster was formed in 1948 with writer Hill joining the company in 1954. New characters and incidents were created to blend the stories into a seamless film.

Rehearsal
Rita Hayworth, Burt Lancaster, Ben Hecht, Wendy Hiller
Daniel Mann, David Niven, Deborah Kerr

Daniel Mann (Come Back, Little Sheba) directed the acclaimed and multi-award winning film. The Academy nominated the movie for seven awards, and its two wins were for lead actor David Niven and supporting actress Wendy Hiller.

HOTEL BEAUREGARD

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND

Three Minutes from the Sea

Fine Cuisine

Separate Tables

The permanent residents and temporary guests at the Hotel Beauregard present a microcosm of the difficulties to be found, and sometimes to be nurtured in human relations. People are not easy.

Deborah Kerr, Gladys Cooper

Top-billed Deborah Kerr plays Sibyl Railton-Bell, a young woman of a repressed and awkward nature exacerbated by a domineering mother played by Gladys Cooper. Sibyl's fondness for fellow resident Major Angus Pollock played by David Niven is an embarrassment to her mother.

David Niven

Major Pollock is obviously from a lower class, as well as being an annoying boaster. The Major is a man with his own secrets and shame. Those secrets and shame will be pivotal to events which unfold at the hotel over the course of the following day.

Rita Hayworth, Wendy Hiller

Rita Hayworth plays Ann Shankland, a wealthy and glamorous socialite. The residents of the Beauregard instinctively know that she is not the type to come to this hotel. The proprietress of the Beauregard, Pat Cooper played by Wendy Hiller accepts Ann's arrival almost as something expected.

Burt Lancaster, Rita Hayworth

Ann is the ex-wife of long-time resident John Malcolm played by Burt Lancaster. John is a semi-successful writer, something of a drunkard, and a veteran of a literal war and a marital war. His relationship with Ann was fraught with misunderstandings and manipulation which led to violence and prison.

John's relationship with Pat includes a secret engagement. Although when one half of the engagement feels compelled to confirm with the other that the engagement is real, and not merely the result of a late night and too much whisky, it doesn't seem very solid. People are not easy.

Rita Hayworth is second-billed in the role of Ann which was originally slated for Vivien Leigh. Disagreements between the first director Laurence Olivier and producer Lancaster led to the Oliviers leaving the project. Rita at this time was married to co-producer James Hill. It was to be her final marriage and lasted only three years. It was Hill's only try at matrimony. Sadly, Rita was soon to be beset with the undiagnosed early-onset Alzheimer's which would plague her final years.

Miss Hayworth's gowns by Edith Head

Ann is a character which showcases Rita's years of acting experience in a role which required subtlety and range. Upon meeting the character we see her confidence in her status and beauty. Her confrontations with John show her manipulative and brittle nature. Ann's unabashed sympathy and kindness toward Sibyl show us a vulnerable core. When Ann and John finally share honestly and we are voyeurs to Ann's fear for the loss of her health and beauty, and her innate loneliness, we see a soul unbarred. Ann and John have unfinished business and whether their relationship will be good for them or not, for now, it must be pursued.

Audrey Dalton, Rod Taylor

An antidote to all of the drama at the Beauregard concerns a young couple played by Rod Taylor and Audrey Dalton whose separate rooms are not fooling anyone. He is a medical student who is under the impression that they are engaged. She is a young woman with liberal ideas concerning the institution of marriage who wants to live! By the end of their sojourn by the sea, she is comically and ironically setting a wedding date and dictating the number of future children. Bonus interview with Audrey Dalton at the Classic Film and TV Cafe.

Felix Aylmer, May Hallatt

Rounding out the ensemble are Cathleen Nesbitt as the kindly Lady Matheson, Felix Aylmer as a retired teacher named Fowler, and May Hallatt recreating her Broadway role as the blunt Miss Meacham. Miss Meacham candidly admits that she lives at the Beauregard because she is the alone type, self-sufficient. "People have always scared me a bit you see. They're so complicated. I suppose that's why I prefer horses."

David Niven, May Hallatt, Gladys Cooper, Deborah Kerr
Rita Hayworth, Cathleen Nesbitt, Burt Lancaster

Nonetheless, Miss Meacham, Mr. Fowler, Lady Matheson, and everyone excluding Mrs. Railton-Bell prove themselves to be willing and capable of kindness and forgiveness with a gesture small in action and great in impact that ends our visit to the Beauregard Hotel.












16 comments:

  1. I watched this film just recently and really enjoyed it. What a great ensemble cast of talented actors! It's hard to pick a favorite among them. Not to mention it is obviously a thoughtful portrayal of the various characters' personalities and stories.

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    1. I am in awe of how well we get to know characters in a thoughtful piece like Separate Tables. It deserved its accolades and awards upon its release, and deserves its audience today.

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  2. Amazing post! I really enjoyed all of the interesting background info, and your assessment of Rita's performance is spot-on. This film expertly showcases what an underrated talent she was.

    Thanks for helping me to celebrate Rita!

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    1. Thank you so much, Michaela.

      Indeed it is my pleasure to participate in this event. Rita was and is special to us.

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  3. Paddy Lee, spot on characterizations. SEPARATE TABLES has a wonderful ensemble cast. The cast, through their very good performances, brings forth the feeling of loneliness, which brings us to the separate tables This very fine cast and the well written dialogue makes for a quiet pleasurable viewing.

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    1. Thank you, Walter. Your assessment of this film is clear-eyed and true. The more I see it, the more I appreciate it. Something everyone involved could have taken pride in.

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  4. Incredible performances in this film. I've only seen it once – need to see it again – but when I saw it I was riveted. I don't think I even blinked, for fear of missing anything.

    This film doesn't get as much attention as it deserves these days. I'm glad you featured it in the blogathon. :)

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    1. Yes, Separate Tables does seem to have unfairly fallen between the cracks. In the cycle of movie love, its time will come again I'm sure.

      PS: Congratulations on the CiMBAs! Well done!

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  5. So glad you covered this important milestone in Rita's career! I think she is wonderfully subtle and nuanced here, as you note, with great chemistry opposite her friend Burt Lancaster, who was her next husband's business partner. Rita could more than hold her own against all the screen's greatest actors. LOVE Wendy Hiller and David Niven here, of course, as well as the wonderful Miss Kerr, but Rita and Burt are just as impressive. Need to see this again!
    -Chris

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    1. Thank you so much, Chris. My head started whirling with the choices for the blogathon but once Separate Tables came up, that was it. Everyone is so impressive and Rita is outstanding.

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  6. Great write up. Love the cast, especially Niven and the Brit supporting players. Hayworth proves she can act. And the Major was a bit of a bounder wasn't he? The only lemon is Lancaster, who really doesn't fit. Spenser Tracy would've been much better in the role.

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    1. It seems original director Olivier wanted Spencer Tracy or nothing, and when Burt decided to play the role, it was nothing for Sir Larry.

      My imagination has a hard time picturing Tracy and Hayworth, but knowing their abilities, they would make it hard for me to imagine anyone else.

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  7. Great article Patricia! I love this film so much. As a matter of fact, it would be my favourite Rita Hayworth's film along with Music in my Heart. The cast is SO brilliant. As much as I love Vivien Leigh, I can't imagine anyone else than Rita in the role.

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    1. Definitely. Rita was mesmerizing in a film filled with perfect performances. She made that character her own creation.

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  8. Great review of an absolutely wonderful film. Every character is fully rounded. Rita showed that she could be more than just a pretty face.

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    1. Rita certainly proved her mettle with this role. It is a shame that of all the Academy nods in the acting category that she was overlooked. You would think or hope that the industry could look past image.

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