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online reviews of relevant movies

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oct. 2, 2010, 11:51am

At, I came across this mention of the old movie "The Letter", starring Bette Davis, which is based on Maugham's short story by the same name. I'd not heard of the movie, and will have to watch for it.

If the reaction I encountered a few months back in New York City at a showing of the 1940 William Wyler film "The Letter" is typical, contemporary movie audiences now have no sense of past Hollywood films as anything but a collection of antiquated conventions, attitudes and styles. "The Letter," based on a Somerset Maugham short story and starring Bette Davis in one of her greatest performances, is one of the most sophisticated movies ever made in this country. It's a hard examination of the place where colonialism and race and sex intersect. Set on a British rubber plantation in Singapore, the movie opens with Davis shooting her lover to death in front of a group of witnesses. But since the witnesses are all natives, there is never any question that she, a white woman, will get away with it.

A few scenes after the opening, her husband (the marvelous, underrated actor Herbert Marshall) turns up with their lawyer. Davis, who has changed into another outfit, emerges from the bedroom, hand extended in greeting, and welcomes the lawyer with "How good of you to come." The audience I saw the movie with exploded in laughter. And it is funny -- but not in the way it was laughed at. Wyler is showing us the grotesquerie of Davis' manner, the decorum that is paramount whether you're mixing a cocktail or you've just murdered a man. The audience had no inkling that Wyler was aware of the grotesquerie of that moment. Nobody really acts like this, they seemed to think, so the whole film, especially Davis' performance, became cause for derision. If "realism" is your standard, then Bette Davis is doomed.

oct. 2, 2010, 11:53am

Here's a film called "Being Julia", said to be based on a Maugham novella. Anyone know which one?

oct. 2, 2010, 11:55am

a none-too-positive review of the film "Up at the Villa".

oct. 2, 2010, 11:59am

of course, even the existence of a film "based on" a novel of story written by Maugham raises questions of legitimacy. After all, it's not the plot that counts in writing, it's the characterization. Sometimes movies based on a writer's work seem to me like a cheap form of theft, an attempt to cash in on the name and reputation of a great writer.

But that having been said, I can name films that I thought beautifully captured the tone (and content) of a written work. And there are plenty of others that are acts of butchery.

oct. 2, 2010, 1:53pm

I've seen few excerpts from The Letter on YouTube. Bette Davis is remarkable. I suppose she did a great job as Mildred from Of Human Bondage too - a role that was crucial in her career I think.

My experience with movies based on Maugham's works is confined to Quartet, Trio and Encore, which date from the late 1940s and early 1950s and contain altogether screen versions of 10 of hi short stories. Some are admirable, some are not; certain incidents (endings especially) are changed to a much inferior ones. Some characters are amazingly portrayed, others appallingly. On the whole, enjoyable to watch, but for my part the most priceless moments are Maugham's appearances on the screen to introduce the movies - unfortunately very short and inexplicably cut.

All screenplays were published in book form together with the short stories that inspired them. Here are reviews if somebody's interested:

Interestingly, Maugham apparently wrote only one of these ten screenplays, The Verger, if Mr Calder is to be believed. Oddly enough, the screen version of this story is one of the most different than the story - but the charming ending is quite the same.

All three movies are easily available on DVD, separately or in one box.

''Being Julia'' is based on Maugham's ''Theatre'' - hardly a novella indeed. First published in 1937, ''Theatre'' is quite a novel, if strangely plotless and character-based for Maugham. It contains, to my mind, one of his most perfectly realised characters, especially Julia herself. I want to hate that woman but I always end in love with her and that's that.

oct. 2, 2010, 3:42pm

Theatre is on my mental list of books to try again. It made no impression on me when I read it some years ago. But with Maugham, what I find in such instances is that the problem lay with me the reader, not the work itself.

oct. 2, 2010, 3:44pm

also, thanks, I did not know of these screenplay books, which appear to be very scarce here at LibraryThing. I probably won't read the screenplays, but it gives me a way to seek out the movies themselves, which I also wasn't aware of.

oct. 2, 2010, 5:27pm

Not much sense to bother with the screenplays indeed. I haven't read all of them myself; but those I did read, and all that I saw on the screen, certainly were inferior to the original stories. By far the most interesting part were Maugham's addresses which few times were badly cut in the movies; no idea why.

The 3 DVDs box is perfect for you then. I think it's fairly cheap and won't be a grief if you don't like the movies.

oct. 2, 2010, 10:49pm

Secret Agent (1936) by Hitchcock is a classic,
based on Ashenden. I haven't seen it for a long time.
Worth re-watching.

oct. 3, 2010, 11:26am

ah, thanks, I had no idea Hitchcock offered this

oct. 3, 2010, 11:32am

Not to be confused with Sabotage by Hitch based
on Conrad's Secret Agent! ;-) Both are all-time classics.

oct. 4, 2010, 8:27am

The ENTIRE movie "Secret Agent" is online

oct. 5, 2010, 9:52pm

Being Julia is based on Maugham's novel Theatre. I've been looking for the title of a Maugham novel I read a few years ago. It takes place during the time of Cervantes, and Don Quixote actually makes an appearance in the book. It's about a young girl who becomes lame by being run over by bulls (I think,) and is cured by a miracle (performed by a baker after his brothers the bishop and the prince fail,) gets advice from the Blessed Virgin every once in a while, and becomes an actress in a touring troupe, and eventually becomes world famous. I read this book in Las Vegas and I cannot recall the title for the life of me. Your help will be most appreciated.

oct. 5, 2010, 10:24pm

IronMike, I wonder if the book you are looking for is Then and Now.
I leave it to Waldstein and others to say for sure.

oct. 6, 2010, 12:05am

IronMike, the title you are searching for is ''Catalina'' (the name of the crippled girl), Maugham's last novel and last work of fiction, first published in 1948. Maugham had announced that after this he would stop writing fiction and, as always, was as good as his word. Critics generally hate "Catalina", I have no idea why. It may not be Maugham's best, it isn't a novel actually, it's a romance as the subtitle goes, which simply means a fairy tale. I remember one of the very, very few critics who had a good word about it - he did hit the nail on the head:

"A trifle, to be sure, but brilliantly clever and amusing.

"Then and Now" (1946) is Maugham's penultimate novel, again hated by the critics. To my mind, it is a brilliant historical novel, set in Italy of Machiavelly and Cesare Borgia. It makes tremendously fascinating comparison with Maugham's previous historical novel, published 48 years before and only his second book. John Whitehead is one notable exception for a critic who admires this novel; Anthony Curtis too, to some extent at least.

oct. 6, 2010, 3:04pm

Secret Agent is also a watch now on netflix.

oct. 11, 2010, 11:20am

I see that Being Julia is coming on the cable TV station IFC, for those who get it...

Editat: oct. 14, 2010, 10:09am

#6, #7 I also had great difficulty with THEATER, one of the few books by Maugham I gave up on initially, only to return to and complete some years later. I think the problem was an old one with Maugham: despite his sensitivity as a writer, he has always had a real inability to come up with a fully rounded sympathetic female protagonist. Major female characters in books such as RAZOR'S EDGE, THE PAINTED VEIL, MRS. CRADDOCK, and most especially OF HUMAN BONDAGE are there primarily to cause suffering for noble, high principled males. Maugham was particularly taken to task for this in TIME's review of RAZOR'S EDGE where the jealous Isabel destroys the damaged Sophie just to hurt Larry--the review went so far as to imply he was a misogynist. The problem with THEATER is that it is Maugham's only novel where one of his unlikeable females is given center stage--unfaithful wife, indifferent mother, as vain as the day is long, it's no wonder the reader has a hard time sticking it out with her...even during the course of a relatively brief novel.

oct. 24, 2010, 12:29am

I just saw Being Julia, the movie of Theatre. It was rather well done. I can't say how true to the book it is until reading the latter again.

Editat: oct. 24, 2010, 12:59pm

Dan, having read the book, I have to agree, though Annette Benning would not have been my first choice for the lead. Still, she was a better choice then Sean Penn in UP AT THE VILLA, or Bill Murray in the biggest insult to Maugham ever perpetrated, the horrid remake of RAZOR'S EDGE.

oct. 24, 2010, 6:15pm

I couldn't bring myself to watch the Bill Murray version of Razor's Edge. Problem is, he has spent a career dealing in deadpan humor. From the small excerpts I saw, I couldn't help waiting for the superior smirk and wise-ass sarcasm. He was a terrible choice for the part, for anyone who has ever seen his previous stuff. Maybe someone who has never seen B Murray before might have a different reaction?

oct. 24, 2010, 10:10pm

Interesting point. The problem with the film was instead of making it a Somerset Maugham adaptation with Bill Murray in it, they went ahead and made a Bill Murray film, and Somerset Maugham be damned. So you had this wierd period piece with non-comedic actors playing it straight, and anachronistic Bill Murray doing his same, smirky slacker routine. The mystery remains--and I'm sure there's a book in there somewhere--why on earth did they pick on Maugham, and why on one of his most serious novels? I mean--and maybe you or Waldstein can help me here, Dan, because I have to confess to a complete ignorance of Maugham, the playwright--he did write successful comedies, right? Why couldn't they have let Murray loose on one of those? Oh, well, at least we still have the great Tyrone Power version.

oct. 25, 2010, 12:18am

have you ever seen the earlier (1940s?) version? It had its moments, and I appreciated it for what it was. But it also features one of the worst backdrops I've seen in a movie (it was supposed to be the Himalayas)

oct. 25, 2010, 12:22am

as for the Bill Murray version of Razor's Edge... this is Hollywood, of course, and there's always someone looking for a story to feature or a way to cash in on a famous one. So many movies slaughter books, that I am pleasantly surprised when one does a passable job. I would put the recent "the Painted Veil" in that category, along with the recent "Pride and Prejudice" (with Keira Knightly) and in a different vein, "Slaughterhouse Five", which I thought managed to capture not just the storyline but the tone and philosophy of Vonnegut's book.

Of course, when it comes to Mr Maugham, it's not just the plot; it's the characterization, the exquisite, careful use of language, the subtle nuances, all the sorts of things for which we read books instead of spending all our time at the movies.

oct. 25, 2010, 1:02am

Dan, by earlier, you mean the Tyrone Power version, right? I did see it...several times, it being one of those films I almost invariably tune in on whenever it's scheduled. And you're right, the earlier films certainly had their drawbacks--shoddy scenery, like you mentioned, but even worse, I believe there was some watering down of the book's eastern philosophy, since film-makers back then were ridiculously anxious to conform their films to a predominantly Christian audience. But what the film got right, it got gloriously right, its really spot-on performances and characterizations, all the way from Tyrone Power down to Herbert Marshall as Maugham and the perfectly cast Clifton Webb as Elliot Templeton. As for the recent Maugham films, casting, as we've been discussing, has been a problem for me. I have to confess I haven't seen the recent PAINTED VEIL remake for that very reason--I just couldn't see Edward Norton in the doctor role. However, now that you recommend it, I think I will get it from Netflix and give it a go. Whatever the result, I suppose, we can't help but be encouraged that Hollywood has taken such a keen interest in Maugham lately--it has to trickle down to renewed interest in his books.

nov. 8, 2010, 5:26pm

Just by the way, I've watched Being Julia last night and certainly liked it quite a bit. Most of the characters lack the depth of the book of course, but Annette Benning steals the show completely anyway - as in the book indeed. I too imagined Julia somewhat differently but, oddly enough, I can't think of any actress more suitable for the part.

Otherwise, I have watched very few movies based on Maugham's works and have never found any of them even remotely capturing the depth and complexity of his characters; most seem to treat Maugham simply as a great storyteller. That he certainly was, but he was much more than that.

Nevertheless, The Painted Veil was quite nice, if Edward Norton is bit of a strange choice and the guy who played Charlie Townsend an almost complete disappointment, and I remember, years ago, watching several times The Razor's Edge with Tyrone Power and found it quite nice, especially Herbert Marshal and Clifton Webb were superb; Gene Tierney and Anne Baxter weren't bad either as the bitchy Isabel and pathetic Sophie, respectively.

I have always been curious about that remake with Bill Murray but have never mustered the courage to see it. An odd choice for Larry indeed! Whatever The Razor's Edge is, it is no comedy, and whatever comedy it does contain, it is certainly not in Larry's character.

I've recently seen Groundhog Day with Bill Murray which I found surprisingly enjoyable given that I have never particularly cared for this actor. The idea of casting him in some of Maugham's comedies is fascinating; pity that nobody seems to care about these plays nowadays. The title roles in The Circle and The Breadwinner would probably be beyond him, but in some of the minor ones he may manage; perhaps the title roles in some of the farces, Jack Straw or Home and Beauty, would not be too much for him. At his best Maugham's comedies are frighfully serious, and it's interesting to note that towards the end of his career in the theatre he also wrote few harrowing dramas that could hardly have been further from comedy, like For Services Rendered and my favourite The Sacred Flame.

On the whole, it seems the older movies manage to capture whatever they can of Maugham's magic better. For all of their drawbacks, Quartet (1948), Trio (1950) and Encore (1951) are rather enjoyable and with some startingly brilliantly acting, though the most important parts for me remain Maugham's addresses. I wouldn't mind having a look at Of Human Bondage or The Letter with Bette Davies or any of the three (at least) versions of Rain.

PS Mentioning Bette Davies, I am always reminded about the nasty remark of Gore Vidal that the best that can be said about Of Human Bondage is that it gave a great role for Bette Davies.

Editat: nov. 8, 2010, 8:17pm

Thanks for a fascinating analysis, Waldstein. I still haven't seen the PAINTED VEIL, but your recommendation along with danielx' have certainly moved me closer. I don't care much for Mr. Vidal or his opinions, but I will say that I thought Bette Davis fared impressively as Mildred and the excellent English actor Leslie Howard was a commendable Phillip: for these performances alone, I think the 1934 OF HUMAN BONDAGE to be worth your while, however much its technique and storytelling are constrained by its era. The BONDAGE to really avoid is the 1946 version, with Austrian Paul Henreid (ordinarily a fine actor) horribly miscast as Philip and Eleanor Parker lacking the acting chops for Mildred (after the Bill Murray RAZOR'S EDGE probably the second worst Maugham adaptation). The best? The QUARTET, TRIO, and ENCORE films are certainly up for consideration and remain priceless for Maugham buffs because of the master's cameos. But all round? I think I would have to give that prize to the brilliant THE LETTER; more than any other Maugham adaptation, I think this film captures fully Maugham's specialty creation: the heartless, duplicitious female who coldly uses her sex to control men and avoid the consequencess of her actions.

nov. 9, 2010, 8:22am

Paul Henreid? Wasn't he who played the implacable enemy of the Nazis in Casablanca?

I am most curious to see the later version with Laurence Harvey, who may be OK, and Kim Novak who seems to me much too sultry to play Mildred. After all, that would make Philip's passion too easy to explain and the story would lose an essential part of its strength (but I guess it would be easier to film).

Harvey and Novak appear on the cover of the mass market paperback of the abridged (by Maugham himself) version of the novel:

By the way, a touch of pure off-topic, if somebody knows how to separate titles, please separate the abridged edition from the original one. Also, Of Human Bondage, with a Digression on the Art of Fiction: An address certainly should be separated too, for it's a little pamphlet with the address Maugham gave on 20th of April 1946 in Coolidge Auditorium, The Library of Congress, on the occassion of his presenting the original manuscript of Of Human Bondage to the Library of Congress.

Coming back to the movies, I'll have a closer look on the ones with Bette Davies some of these days; the little I have seen did look promising. The Letter is particularly interesting for it was the only short story Maugham adapted for the stage himself; he even wrote two different endings. Interestingly enough, he omitted the play from The Collected Plays but it can be found in one more or less modern paperback: Maugham Plays, Volume Two (Methuen, 1999). It would be fascinating to see another version of this very fine story.

nov. 9, 2010, 9:20am

small point: I separated "Of human bondage, with a digression on the art of fiction : an address" from the book itself and added a disambiguation notice. Whether it lasts is questionable.

nov. 9, 2010, 9:58am

Thank you.

nov. 9, 2010, 10:48am

#29, Though the critics bombed it, I always thought the Laurence Harvey version of BONDAGE was underrated. You're right, Kim Novak was a bit too enticing as Mildred (even after they put the big black circles under her eyes) but Harvey was tolerable and the acting generally was superior. And, yes, Waldstein, that was Paul Henreid from CASABLANCA as Philip; even TV program directors have critical acumen apparently: it's very seldom shown (though, I suppose, it is an interesting curiosity piece). BTW hard to imagine Maugham consenting to an abridgement of BONDAGE, even by his own hand; he didn't need to do it for the money--do you think he may have thought it needed revision?

nov. 10, 2010, 11:52am

Well, Maugham actually wrote a special preface for the first edition of this abridged version (1950), starting, typically in his style, with a stupendous inaccuracy in terms of years: ''This book was published forty-five years ago...''. But it is not because of this why this preface is definitely not among his best ones. It's worth reading all the same. In short, Maugham claims that his chief motive was to make the book avaliable for as wide a public as possible by shortening it and thus making it cheaper, suitable for ''every pocket''. But on the very interesting question raised by you Maugham is somewhat, and unusually, ambiguous:

It may well be that in Of Human Bondage there are passages or episodes which are of too personal a nature to be of general interest or which owing to the passage of time or a change of fashion no longer have much point. I do not know. I am willing let others judge of that. ... A novel is not a scientific work nor a work of edification. So far as the reader is concerned it is a work which purports to offer him intelligent entertainment. If this book, in this shortened version, finds new readers who get just that from it I shall be well satisfied.

I have to confess that I have never read this version for I have never thought the original a single page too long nor more loosely structured as a novel dealing with the formation of a personality should be. But some time in the future I intend to read the abridged version out of pure curiosity what is it that Maugham left out; judging by the size (12mo, 373 pp), some half of the original novel must have been cut.

Since Maugham was famous, or notorious, for his cynicism I should like to propose a cynical motive for this abridgement, though this is rather far-fetched. Maugham might have done it in order to save himself some harsh criticism because he had done the same with all novels from his ''Top Ten''. Generally known or not, the ten essays which (save one) were originally published in Atlantic Monthly between November 1947 and July 1948 and later (all ten + introductory essay) in book form as Great Novelists and Their Novels (1949; later revised as Ten Novels and Their Authors, 1954) were written as introductions to abridged editions of these ten novels. I think the idea was of the publisher (Winston) and the abridgment was carried by Maugham himself.

It's time for another confession now, namely that I have read but one of Maugham's ''Top Ten'' and I certainly don't see anything to cut from Pride and Prejudice. Such abridgement is a point on which we - Maugham and I - strongly disagree. Another such point, a direct consequence of this one actually, is Maugham's advice to skip. He once confessed that he is a bad skipper and so am I. I always say that if you're going to skip, you'd better not read the bloody book at all. I made an exception only for excruciatingly tedious plot descriptions in critical studies of Maugham's works.

nov. 10, 2010, 12:14pm

I must say, I was astonished and appalled at Maugham's advice to "skip" when reading. How would a person know what to skip? Surely if a work is worth reading, one should take it in its totality? But I am given pause by the source of the advice, since it's Maugham himself who urges this approach. Maybe as a professional writer he holds the fruits of a writer's labors as far less sacred than do I. He knows well that many writers of the 19th century padded their work with extra words for the sake of money, or to fulfill a contract. Indeed, he makes this point regarding Dickens in his "Top Ten" book.

Despite the above, I confess I have been tempted to skip in a novel I'm currently laboring through, that being Conrad's Lord Jim. I'm hardly new to classic fiction, but have found it tough going. (I finally went back and started the book again, to make sure I wasn't overlooking its value, of which there is a great deal)

Editat: nov. 10, 2010, 3:14pm

#33, 34 along with the two of you, I am similarly disheartened by an attitude that both condones "skipping" and the abridgement of books. Throughout my reading career the word "abridged" has been for me like a four-letter word and even the phrase "abridged by the author" has seemed merely an ineffective method of softening a vulgarity, the use of "effing" or "frigging" in place of the "F" word. It is a mystery to me why Maugham of all people would condone such butchery even with the scalpel in his own hand, for surely the wealthiest and most popular writer of his time had no need to curry favor with readers, and especially not those disrespectful of a writer's intent. And to operate on OF HUMAN BONDAGE, a novel so popular it saw three cinematic adaptations in the space of 30 years? It would have been better if Maugham had said "I'm taking a pair of scissors to OF HUMAN BONDAGE, the movie, that horrid production with Paul Henreid!" Now that would have made sense.

Editat: gen. 22, 2011, 5:29pm

The 1940 Fred MacMurray/Jean Arthur film TOO MANY HUSBANDS and its 1955 musical remake THREE FOR THE SHOW with Jack Lemmon and Betty Grable: two versions of Maugham's original play to look out for. Haven't seen either yet, but TOO MANY HUSBANDS is carried by Netflix.

gen. 24, 2011, 6:01pm

sholofsky, speaking of skipping, I recently came across a passage by Maugham which leads me to think he never could take his own advice. He confesses that no matter how bad a book is, he much plow through to the end; if he doesn't finish it, it leaves him with a disquieting feeling that he's left it undone. I believe therefore that he may be advising readers to try to do what he himself cannot; or perhaps he was trying to convince himself that it was ok to do.

As for abridgement: one of Maugham's all-time favorite books is Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. When asked to choose the top ten novels ever published for Redbook magazine, where they were to be reprinted in abridged form, he declined to choose Remembrance in part because of the abrigdgement that would be necessary. (However, he did not balk at the prospect of being associated with the other abridgements by Redbook...)

gen. 24, 2011, 8:05pm

#37 Dan, good to see you posting again. The silence in our group has been deafening. I don't know if we're all such hard partiers that we're only now coming out of our New Year's Eve hangovers, but when I posted above, I heard an echo :=) Thanks for your post about Hastings' bio being in contention for the National Book Award--if it wins it could mean a real revival in interest about Maugham. Re the above: I hate to go so far as to use the word sell-out--certainly not in the sense that it's been applied to Salvador Dali--but it seems that later in life Willie got himself involved in some pretty questionable commercial projects--some of which seem hypocritical particularly in light of contrary opinions of his like what you indicated above. What really floored me was his own abridgement of HUMAN BONDAGE--just, apparently, to make it more popular. This popularizing of himself seems to be the goal because he certainly couldn't have needed the money. What amazes me is why--certainly in the fifties he was still one of the world's most popular authors. In your reading of his biographers have you found any comment on what seems a late-life thirst for fame?

feb. 12, 2011, 12:03pm

feb. 12, 2011, 12:12pm

hi sholofsky, sorry for overlooking your message. I guess I don't see it as any sort of sell- out for Maugham to be involved with Redbook. He commonly spoke of the value of skipping, and clearly saw that much classic fiction was over-written, by authors who were paid by the word. In fact, he gives examples in his writings on the subject. Thus, while we readers may view each word as indispensible, as a professional writer he well knew that much of the material was filler.

I was struck by his confession that he found it difficult not to finish a book he started. He didn't try to justify it -- it was as if he was confessing a weakness, or perhaps a silly and harmless neurosis. It means he was advising readers to do what he himself found hard to do. By carefully editing some very long novels, he was helping the reader focus on the essentials, and probably exposing such classic works to a vast readership who otherwise might never be exposed to Austen, Dickens, and so on. I see his involvement with the Redbook project as of little or no benefit to WSM himself (he certainly had no need of the money!), but one of great benefit to readers, who might thereupon be more likely to tackle the original books. That's my opinion, for what it's worth

feb. 12, 2011, 12:15pm

PS. I share WSM's neurosis of finding it difficult not to finish a book I've begun. It is disquieting and uncomfortable; an unfinished book is an unfinished project, and much as I try to talk myself out of it, the feeling is impervious to logic. So I too could preach to people to feel free to put down a book that one isn't enjoying, but it's so hard.

As a result, I find that I've carried a few books in my "currently reading" listings at LT for three years now. One of them I recently finished -- finally!

feb. 12, 2011, 1:10pm

#40 Thanks for your response, Dan. I guess the distaste I feel toward skipping and apply generally, Maugham only reserved for himself. As a writer (you may be as well), I have always put myself in place of the author I was reading, and reflected on my own dismay toward people driven to skip or leave my entire manuscript unfinished (not that my work hasn't deserved it)--and so, feel uncomfortable doing it to a fellow scribbler. It is more, I suppose, in the nature of a professional courtesy extended to the author, whether he or she is still living or not. It is a valid point, though, that many of the "classics" were paid by the word or number of installments (in Dickens' case especially) and so were inflated beyond the demands of artistic necessity to put dinner on the table. When it comes to abridging, however, there is still the unpleasant issue of altering another author's work, however much the manuscript has been inflated for monetary reasons. Thanks for your insight into Maugham's motives, though: it's nice to know he advised skipping and practiced abridging for possibly altruistic reasons i.e. providing the classics with a wider readership; even still, the practices leave a bad taste in my mouth.

feb. 12, 2011, 8:21pm

hi Sholofsky, I share your distaste for abridgement (and grew up with disgust at the idea learned from a parent). I doubt that I've ever read an abridgement knowingly (though I found out a few years ago, to my dismay, that my copy of Count of Monte Cristo, read years ago, was abridged).

I find it amusing that Maugham advised readers to do what he himself apparently found impossible. Maybe he was trying to convince himself of the practice.

feb. 12, 2011, 8:50pm

Or maybe he felt (with that slight hint of Maugham superiority) that, loving reading as much as he did, he had the patience casual readers did not.

ag. 28, 2011, 1:04pm

I recently watched a pre-code film on Turner Classic Movies called The Narrow Corner (1933) and was surprised to see that it was based on a book by Maugham of the same name. Of course I now must find a copy of the book to read!

I was first introduced to Maugham through my love for old films. After seeing The Razor's Edge (1946) I read the book (it remains my favorite so far) and he became one of my favorite authors.

Although the production standards of the old films must often be overlooked, as mentioned in earlier posts, I can still enjoy the 1946 Razor's Edge because I think they respected their source material even if they could not be faithful to the book. I think the same is true of The Letter (1940) and The Narrow Corner (1933).

I remember reading that Bill Murray loved the book and original film of The Razor's Edge. He co-wrote the screenplay of the 1984 film version. What a mess.

ag. 30, 2011, 9:33pm

hi Marise, I didn't know (or had forgotten) that The Narrow Corner had been made into a movie. Here is a description of the novel

and a review by our own Waldstein

I would like to see the movie you cited. I've seen Razor's Edge (not the Bill Murray one) and the classic Of Human Bondage. Here is another classic movie, The Beachcomber, made from a Maugham short story

ag. 30, 2011, 9:34pm

and a movie of the short story "rain"