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Separate Tables (1958)

Rod Taylor plays Charles, a studious young medical student, in this all-star film that drew a lot of attention from Oscar.

The film is based on a pair of one-act plays by Terence Rattigan and examines the lives of a group of lonely people at a seaside hotel in England. Taylor's character is one of the more well-adjusted guests.

As the film opens, Charles is trying to study in the lobby while the other characters swirl around him. That includes his girlfriend, Jean (Audrey Dalton), who tries to persuade him to combine romance and anatomy -- but declines his suggestion of marriage. The couple retreat to bed, then reappear at the end of the film -- after the lives of the rest of the "self-reliant" guests have unraveled.

"Separate Tables" seems to be one of the films that embodies Taylor's goals at the early part of his Hollywood career: "I'd much rather turn down a starring role in a bad picture and do a small role in a very good picture," he has said.

Rod liked working with director Delbert Mann. "He was almost like a very kindly professor... I thought he was brilliant in a movie like 'Separate Tables' because there were so many different stories... The way Del threaded these stories together was some brilliant directing."

Audrey Dalton recalled, "We rehearsed for three weeks and shot it in sequence, which was very unusual."

The film was nominated for the best picture Oscar, and David Niven won the best actor Academy Award for his role as Major Pollock, a very proper Englishman who turns out to be something of a fraud. Deborah Kerr was nominated for best actress for her portrayal of Sybil, a mousy spinster dominated by her busy-body mother.

Wendy Hiller won the best supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal of the inn's owner, who had been wooed by John Malcolm, an American writer portrayed by Burt Lancaster. That romance is dashed, however, when Malcom's ex-wife, played by Rita Hayworth, re-enters his life.



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