For, Friday, March 6, 2015

Based on Terence Rattigan’s play — actually, two interconnected one-act plays — “Separate Tables” (1958, b/w) is a drawing-room melodrama optioned by Burt Lancaster’s production company in the late 1950s, which by that time had been turning out quality films for a decade.

Lancaster also has a meaty role in this ensemble piece, but it was co-stars David Niven and Wendy Hiller that took home Oscars for their performances.

“Separate Tables” is set in a residential hotel in the seaside town of Bournemouth on the south coast of England, where several occupants have been living for some time and all know each other, or are at least acquainted.


David Niven, left, Gladys Cooper, Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, Burt Lancaster, 'Separate Tables'

Lancaster plays an alcoholic writer who is unofficially engaged to the hotel manager (Wendy Hiller), but his feelings are upended by the arrival of his ex-wife (Rita Hayworth), who manipulates his emotions in the same way she has in the past, and then attempts to seduce him.

Meanwhile, a talkative braggart whose exploits as an Army major (David Niven) provide most of his conversation, is revealed to have been arrested for harassing young women in a movie theater. As a result, one of the longtime tenants, a controlling snob (Gladys Cooper), wants him expelled — especially since her timid, browbeaten daughter (Deborah Kerr) is attracted to him.


Among the other residents is a young couple (Rod Taylor and Audrey Dalton) debating whether to marry or just live together as they sneak in and out of the parlor and he studies for exams.

Niven and Hiller may have been honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences but the entire cast is in peak form, and the film — recently revived for its Blu-ray debut on the Kino Lorber label — is well worth a look when you’re in the mood for something serious.