Terence Rattigan's pair of one-act plays are deftly woven together into this intelligent, handsome drama, a kind of somber Grand Hotel of lonely and repressed lives at a British seaside hotel in the dreary off-season. D... more »avid Niven and Wendy Hiller earned well-deserved Oscars for their subdued turns, as a blustery old warhorse hiding a guilty secret and the efficient hotel proprietress, respectively. Burt Lancaster is the alcoholic American whose secret affair with Hiller is complicated when his former wife (Rita Hayworth) breezes in and reopens old emotional wounds, and Deborah Kerr is a mousy woman whose secret love for Niven is shattered by scandal. Director Daniel Mann (Marty) remains true to the good manners and quiet desperation that keeps these sad souls isolated at separate tables. He gracefully floats between the two dramas and patiently allows his repressed characters to open up and reveal their true feelings in their own quiet fashion. --Sean Axmaker« less
A. Wolverton | Crofton, MD United States | 10/25/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Separate Tables was released, the agents of Deborah Kerr and Rita Hayworth fought for top billing in the opening credits. It's easy to understand after viewing this powerful film. Separate Tables is a great study in human nature and relationships among people who are far from faultless. Burt Lancaster displays both intense anger and hopeless longing as his former wife Rita Hayworth comes back into his life. David Niven (who won an Oscar for this role) is superb as the military man with a past. Watch Niven as he is confronted with the truth about himself and how he interacts with his friends and those who once were his friends. The strength of the film is in its casting. In the hands of lesser actors, the film would turn into a very sappy melodrama. I am anxious to view the film again just to catch all the subtle facial expressions that these wonderful actors use to make their characters even more believable. A great ensemble, a great film."
Wonderful museum piece from the fifties.
Mary Whipple | New England | 07/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Produced in 1958 by Harold Hecht and directed by Delbert Mann, Separate Tables takes place at the tiny Beauregard Hotel, a seaside resort on England's south coast, which serves in the winter as "a refuge for the lonely, resigned, and desperate." The main feature of the hotel is its separate tables, rather than "family style" dining, for the guests. The cast is a who's who of fifties stars--David Niven (who won an Oscar for his role), Deborah Kerr, Bert Lancaster, Rita Hayworth, and Wendy Hiller (who also won an Oscar)--all playing characters who live as separated from the world as their tables are in the dining room.
The Major (Niven) sets the action in motion when he is reported in the local newspaper as having been guilty of "insulting behavior" in a movie theater, and his war record is published. Niven is worshipped from afar by Sybil Railton-Bell (Kerr), a pathetically neurotic woman, subject to hysteria, who is totally controlled by her demanding mother. John Malcolm (Lancaster), was once married to former model Ann Shankland (Hayworth), who has suddenly come to visit him at the hotel, possibly to rekindle their flame, but he is already secretly engaged to Pat Cooper (Hiller), the manager of the hotel. A variety of eccentric subordinate characters add color, and occasionally humor, to the action. These isolated characters soon begin to find their lives intersecting and overlapping, and they eventually come to a poignant reckoning in the hotel dining room, as everyone arrives at his/her separate table.
The cinematography (Charles Lang) and music (David Raksin), both nominated for Academy Awards, provide subtle emphasis for the character dramas going on in the hotel, rather than calling attention to themselves. Character dramas were less common in the plot-driven 1950s than they are today, and these characters will now be seen as stereotypes by today's audience, and their actions predictable. Sybil (Kerr) seems particularly unrealistic now, her constant refrain of "Yes, Mummy," an insistent reminder of how times have changed. Lancaster seems a bit out of his element as a character actor, and Hayworth, in her buttoned up blouse, seems a bit uncertain about how to handle such a subtle role. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful study of actors and acting from the 1950s, and the writing (by Terence Rattigan and John Gay), direction, and cinematography, which showcase the cast, are superb. A classic film. Mary Whipple"
Robert Ortiz | The Southwest | 08/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a superb film that stars Rita Hayworth, Deborah Kerr, David Niven and Burt Lancaster as guests staying at an English seaside resort named Beauregard Hotel. Each of the guests contends with different problems and complications, but the one thing in common is their loneliness. Rita Hayworth is a woman whose vanity hides her fear of growing old alone. She tries to make another go of her marriage to an alcoholic writer named John Malcolm (Burt Lancaster). John however is in love with Pat Cooper (Wendy Hiller) the hotel's manager. Deborah Kerr is Sibyl Railton-Bell, a shy spinster who is dominated by her mother (Gladys Cooper). Sibyl has feelings for Major Pollack (David Niven) a supposed war hero that hides a dark secret. This is a very captivating film with excellent performances and good dialogue. Also starring are Cathleen Nesbitt, Felix Aylmer and Rod Taylor. This is a very complex and mature film that deserves multiple viewings. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!"
"Big things come in small packages"
William Hare | 08/15/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Excellent drama set in a seaside hotel which acts as a cruicible and window onto the human conflicts and frailties which lay beneath the surface of everday human lives. The movie excells in it's realism and depicition of integral human traits of love, jelousy, vanity and evil. Emotions and flaws which are as vivid and alive not only in wars, revolutions and mass upheavals, but also in the intertwining lives of all of us, including the inhabitants of this seemingly tranquil boarding house. Highly recommended. One of Burt Lancaster's best films."
View from the Boarding House
William Hare | Seattle, Washington | 12/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The production team of Hecht-Hill-Lancaster made film history by winning the first ever Best Picture Oscar by an independent with an offbeat film, "Marty", in which Ernest Borgnine secured a Best Actor statuette. Some three years later the group with a penchant for strong but highly unconventional stories scored again with "Separate Tables."Set in a boarding house in a British seaside resort, "Separate Tables" appraises the lives of people who often are seeking to escape from the real world, as well as those who attempt to oversee and manipulate others. Two of the chief characters in the film fall into those distinct categories, David Niven, who won a Best Actor Oscar as a man who has manufactured a glittering military career and harbors a tragic secret, and stellar British character performer Gladys Cooper, a meddlesome presence who unearths that secret and seeks to have Niven evicted from the premises. The chief reason for her determined venom is that Deborah Kerr, her tortured daughter who suffers from her suffocating domination, is attracted to Niven.The drama also has a fascinating romantic triangle as an indigeouns element of its plot. Co-producer Burt Lancaster plays an American writer with a tragic past who seeks to bury it in alcohol, spending the greater part of his time at a nearby pub. His romance with the establishment's proprietor, Wendy Hiller, who secured a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her brilliant effort, is suddenly threatened with the arrival of a guest. Rita Hayworth, wife of co-producer James Hill at the time, is from a more socially upscale society and appears out of place at the decidedly middle class boarding house. She is a glamorous internationally renowned model. Though she attempts to deny it, Hayworth is there to rekindle her old romance to former husband Lancaster, who in a fit of rage once attempted to kill her, doing prison time for his attempt. We also learn that Hayworth's life has diminished from its earlier aristocratic pedestal.The film was a melding of two Terence Rattigan one act plays, which he adapted to the screen with John Gay. Delbert Mann directs with steadiness, allowing the drama to flourish without anyone going over the edge. The sparks are there, but never in incredulous suberabundance. The final mystery which is brilliantly unraveled is whether Gladys Cooper will prevail in getting Niven to leave the establishment after it is learned that he has been involved in a local scandal at a cinema. The resolution is deftly handled, dramatic without histrionics, which was the hallmark of the entire cinema gem. Deborah Kerr's future also hangs in the balance with her ultimate decision."