Separate Tables


D: Delbert Mann

United Artists (Harold Hecht)

US 1958

100 mins


W: Terence Rattigan & John Gay [based on the play by Terence Rattigan]

DP: Charles Lang

Ed: Marjorie Fowler

Mus: David Raksin

Rita Hayworth (Anne Shankland), Deborah Kerr (Sibyl Railton-Bell), David Niven (Maj. Angus Pollock), Burt Lancaster (John Malcolm), Wendy Hiller (Pat Cooper), Gladys Cooper (Maud Railton-Bell)

Despite only being on screen for less than 20 minutes, David Niven walked home with the 1958 Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Separate Tables (a record for the shortest performance to win for a lead role over 60 years later).

Adapted to the screen by Terence Rattigan from his own stage play, the film follows a group of various people staying at a seaside hotel in the coastal English town of Bournemouth, where the characters have some interaction with each other, but always dine at "separate tables".

It's understandable why Niven won the Academy Award, since his story is the most central to the plot as a war veteran who is accused of a scandal to which some of the other hotel guests wish to see him expelled from the building.

It's all quite melodramatic with the other stories going on all around this, but the ensemble cast are all excellent, particularly Wendy Hiller who has interaction with all the hotel's guests.

The plot probably would work best as a stage play, but this film did break some boundaries at the time of its release due to its risqué dialogue and sexual innuendos, which are all quite tame now, but would have been quite the scandal in the late 1950's.


Rita Hayworth & Burt Lancaster in Separate Tables
Rita Hayworth & Burt Lancaster in Separate Tables