Separate Tables is an odd little film which seems to have been outterly forgotten over the years despite some impressive star power. It was directed by Debert Mann who nobody remembers but did direct real classic Marty and for the early part of Paddy Chayefsky’s career, he was his go-to director both on television and film to bring his scripts to the screen. This however isn’t a Chayefsky script but it’s adapted by Terence Rattigan who is probably best known for The Browning Vision.
The cast boasts an impressive mixture of British and American stars such as David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth and Burt Lancaster. It’s all set in a Bournemouth hotel and it’s mostly set over a messy night at the hotel where the occupant’s secrets coming rushing out. It’s all sparked by Niven’s Major David Angus Pollock clumsy attempt to hide a news article about an incident in a local movie theatre. Burt Lancaster’s boozy writer John and the former model Anne (Rita Hayworth) have their own history and so on and on.
The film isn’t brilliant by any means because it’s so obviously a filmed play it lacks any real cinematic style but then again Marty is that too but works as a film. The characters Niven and Lancaster play are obviously a mixture of Terence Rattigan who was gay and although Niven’s character is accused of harassing women you almost think he is have been caught committing “buggery” and if you dig a bit you find out in the earliest drafts that was the case. It’s still a pretty daring for it’s time because it has some pretty frank discussions on sex for 1958. It would win some oscars for acting which is where the film really shines and David Niven would get best actor and Wendy Hiller for playing the hotel manager Miss Pat Cooper.
The disc includes an archival commentary by Delbert Mann and the audio of a Guardian interview with Burt Lancaster which acts an alternative commentary track. The release is rounded off a trailer, stills gallery and a booklet with new essays on the film.