Separate Tables

Separate Tables

A Clifton/Joanna Production, Presented by Hecht, Hill and Lancaster,
Released by United Artists (1958)

Producers: Harold Hecht, James Hill and Burt Lancaster
Director: Delbert Mann

Screenplay: Terence Rattigan and John Gay,
from play by Terence Rattigan

Rita Hayworth as Ann Shankland
Deborah Kerr as Sybil Railton-Bell
David Niven as Major Pollock
Burt Lancaster as John Malcolm
Wendy Hiller as Pat Cooper
Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Railton-Bell
Cathleen Nesbitt as Lady Matheson

Song: "Separate Tables" by Harry Warren & Harold Adamson

Miss Hayworth's Gowns by Edith Head
Costumes by Mary Grant

Black and White, 100 mins. running time

Separate Tables was based on the successful play by Terence Rattigan. First introduced on the London stage, it later played on Broadway. When they decided to turn it into a motion picture, Mr. Rattigan teamed up with John Gay to pen the screenplay. Vivian Leigh and Laurence Olivier were set to star, with Olivier doubling as director. When those plans fell through, Rita Hayworth was given the part that was to be played by Miss Leigh, which was originated on the stage by Margaret Leighton. Rita's husband, producer James Hill, had the script of Separate Tables lying around the house for weeks when Rita voiced her desire to take part in the film. She was thrilled with the character of Ann Shankland, which she called "the kind of role I've been waiting all my life to play." It shows Rita in a dramatic role, proving that more than a glamour girl, she was really a very talented actress.

Separate Tables reveals the personal trials of a group of distinct people, all of whom reside at the Hotel Beauregard in Bournemouth, England. Major Pollock (David Niven) is a garrulous man who speaks of nothing but his stellar war record. Sybil Railton-Bell (Deborah Kerr) the meek, introverted daughter of the high-handed Mrs. Railton-Bell (Gladys Cooper), has developed a great affection for him, much to her mother's displeasure. An article about Pollock surfaces in a newspaper, exposing him as a fraud, recently arrested for lewd behavior in a movie theater. Mrs. Railton-Bell holds a residents meeting to try and have him evicted. Though the others don't approve of Pollock's behavior, she is the only one that wants to see him go. But she is a very forceful woman, and tells the hotel owner, Miss Cooper (Wendy Hiller), that she must ask him to leave. Meanwhile, Sybil becomes hysterical over her disillusionment.

Another tenant is writer John Malcolm (Burt Lancaster). He is engaged to be married to Miss Cooper -until his estranged ex-wife, Ann Shankland (Rita Hayworth), arrives at the Hotel Beauregard. She is a beautiful, but vain and self-centered former fashion model. Ann says the reason she has come is to help John and make amends. Their marriage ended five years ago when her aloofness finally made him fly into a rage and attack her. He still mistrusts her, but she works her charm and soon has him at her feet again. Yet John can't get over the past and feels Ann hasn't changed. They have another fight and he runs out into the night.

In another area of the hotel, Sybil informs Pollock that everyone knows the truth about him. He confesses to her that he had indeed committed the "immoral act", and invented the tales of "Major Pollock, war hero", because he's actually an intensely insecure person, like herself, afraid of "life, people and sex". Sybil and Pollock are two timid people, yet they find comfort in each other's company. When she'd first read the newspaper article, Sybil was disgusted, but her regard for him helps her overcome these feelings and realize that he is a good man. Meanwhile, Ann is truly sorry for everything that happened between she and John in the past. John returns the next morning, having regained composure since their fight the night before. They quickly realize that they'll never be able to get over each other, and decide to give love another try. Miss Cooper tells Pollock that he needn't leave if he does not want to. Sybil musters the courage to stand up to her domineering mother, and stands by Pollock, who realizes he's found a kindred spirit in Sybil.

Starring alongside Rita in Separate Tables was an all-star cast of dramatic actors, all of whom turned it stellar performances. The film was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including "Best Picture". David Niven was awarded "Best Actor" for his performance as Major Pollock, Wendy Hiller won "Best Supporting Actress" as Miss Cooper, and Deborah Kerr was nominated for "Best Actress". The film also received nominations in the categories of "Best Screenplay", "Best Black-and-white Cinematography" and "Best Score". -Quite impressive! Although Rita was not nominated for any awards, she received excellent reviews, and her portrayal of Ann Shankland is certainly among her best.

John Malcolm and Ann Shankland
Rita and Burt Lancaster as Ann Shankland and John Malcolm.

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