The Beauregard Hotel is a seaside inn in rural England where a dozen guests reside in their own self-imposed isolation. There is the half-drunk John Malcolm (Burt Lancaster), a writer, who is having a small affair with the hotel's owner, Mrs. Cooper (Wendy Hiller). But then in walks a dazzling-as-always Rita Hayworth, playing as Ann Shankland, who is John's ex-wife. Gladys Cooper plays Mrs. Railton-Bell, whose over-bearing personality stifles her sheepish wallflower daughter, Sibyl. Sybil, unfortunately, carries with her a torch for the older Major Pollock (David Niven), a pompous gaffer who has a penchant for woman, yet goes about them the wrong way.
After Pollock's latest womanly misdeed is publicized in a local newspaper, it isn't long before the whole hotel is up in arms, demanding he leave the hotel immediately. With the intervention of several of the guests, it is learnt that it is better to forgive and forget.
We've seen hotel dramas in the past, most notably in the best picture Grand Hotel. This type of soap opera usually works well, and here is no exception, given the terrific performances by the principle cast.
David Niven is fantastic as the stodgy old major, although his performance is only 16 minutes throughout the entire film. Niven plays well with the entire cast, none of whom are miscast. There are two old bats who try to get Major Pollock thrown out and their bickering like old hens is quite comical when the other half of the cast are having frank discussions about sexual topics which were strictly taboo in those days.
Nevertheless, the film moves quickly and, although a solemn screenplay from start to finish, there are no happy endings. There very well could have easily been one.
The film is a decent British film in every aspect, although you'd never guess it was filmed entirely in Hollywood. Great performances highlight this soap-drama that shows us how anyone can make a mistake and still be forgiven.
Age at win: 49
Nominated for: Best Actor in a Leading Role, Major Pollock, Separate Tables
Nomination: 1/1 (acting), 1/1 (total); Win: Only
David Niven is one of those terrific British actors who deserved more accolades than he got. He has been in several terrific pictures including The Pink Panther, Murder by Death, and the film he is most remembered for, Around the World in Eighty Days.
in Separate Tables, David plays well a some-what dashing, war veteran who is not all that he seems to be. David is true British, and his accent carries his performance with wit and charm, that British sophistication that makes him one of the greatest British actors ever.
It is not a happy part that Niven plays, but rather a man trapped by his guilt and shame. Niven gives a solemn, tender performance that, at only 16 minutes in length, earn him the distinction of having the shortest Oscar-winning performance for a lead actor.
Age at win: 46
Nominated for: Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Pat Cooper, Separate Tables
Nomination: 2/3 (acting), 2/3 (total); Win: Only
Wendy Hiller had a long and distinguished career in the movie business, starting with 1938's Pygmalion. This was the first time a British actress was nominated for a British film. She was also the first person to swear in a British film. Wendy would be nominated twice more, the second for Separate Tables.
In this film Wendy plays a hotel owner who is having an affair with Burt Lancaster's half-drunk writer, John Malcolm. While the performance isn't all that melodramatic or above average in any way, she does make it her own and gives us a decent turn non-the-less.
There isn't much to say about her performance her, but all-in-all Wendy Hiller has been considered one of England's top dramatic actresses of all time. Wendy was a terrific actress, but cared not for the public life or even the Oscar she won. "never mind the honour, cold hard cash is what it means to me.”