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The play Separate Tables consisted of two acts, both taking place at the "Beauregard Hotel," one featuring "Major Pollock" and "Sibyl Railton-Bell" and the other featuring "John Malcolm" and his ex-wife, "Anne Shankland." Margaret Leighton and Eric Portman starred in both the London and Broadway productions of the play, in which the actors assumed the roles of the first couple in Act I, then appeared as the other couple in Act II.
A February 1957 Daily Variety news item indicates that Laurence Olivier was to direct and star with his then-wife, Vivien Leigh, in the film adaptation, which would merge the two acts and require another set of actors. When Burt Lancaster decided to take the starring role of John, Olivier and Leigh quit the production. A modern source indicates that playwright Terence Rattigan quit the production with the Oliviers, necessitating script completion by John Gay. Another modern source indicates that Lancaster was compelled to take the starring role to secure financing for the film from United Artists.
Although an October 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that veteran Broadway, radio and television star John Gibson was set to appear in the film, and Hollywood Reporter production information adds Mark Sutherland to the cast, neither man's appearance in the final film has been confirmed. Vic Damone sang the song "Separate Tables" over the opening credits, but received no screen credit. Film editor George Boemler was listed in Hollywood Reporter production charts, but did not receive an onscreen credit.
Separate Tables received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography (Black and White), for Deborah Kerr as Best Actress and for Best Score. David Niven won the Academy Award for Best Actor and Wendy Hiller won the award for Best Supporting Actress. In 1983 a television production of Separate Tables was broadcast, returning to the original play structure, with Julie Christie starring as Sibyl and Anne and Alan Bates co-starring as Major Pollock and John, under the direction of John Schlesinger.