“In one way or another, I’ve used in my writings pretty well everything that’s happened to me in the course of my life.”
W. Somerset Maugham introduces four cinematic adaptations of his short stories: in “The Facts of Life”, a young man (Jack Watling) disregards his father’s advice about gambling while on a trip to Montecarlo, and is duly pursued by a deceitful young woman (Mai Zetterling); in “The Alien Corn”, an aspiring pianist (Dirk Bogarde) is given two years by his wealthy father (Raymond Lovell) and mother (Irene Browne) to prove himself worthy of the career; in “The Kite”, a grown mama’s boy (George Cole) finds that his passion for kites is jeopardizing his new marriage; and in “The Colonel’s Lady”, a self-absorbed colonel (Cecil Parker) is startled to learn that his meek wife (Nora Swinburne) has published a best-selling book of romantic poetry.
- Aspiring Stars
- Dirk Bogarde Films
- Episodic Films
- Marital Problems
This surprisingly enjoyable quartet of films may very well represent the best of “short story cinema”. While directed by four different men (Ken Annakin, Arthur Crabtree, Harold French, and Ralph Smart), the half-hour segments possess a unifying sensibility which elevates the whole to more than simply the sum of its parts. Each story touches in some way upon relations between the sexes: callow youths are taught valuable life lessons by older women, and troubled spouses must evince humility and compromise in order to repair the damage done to their marriages. As with all episodic movies, it’s nearly impossible not to pick favorites (the final one here — “The Colonel’s Lady” — is widely acknowledged as the best of the bunch), but I found each one to be an enjoyable — albeit undeniably melancholy — morsel. With the possible exception of “The Facts of Life”, these are not necessarily light-hearted diversions; the most devastating tale is undoubtedly the second one, which — thanks in large part to Dirk Bogarde’s sensitive performance — is a true weeper.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- An enjoyable, light-hearted tale of deceit and luck (“The Facts of Life”)
- Dirk Bogarde as the aspiring pianist in “The Alien Corn”
- A remarkably touching story of middle-aged marriage and masculine insecurity (“The Colonel’s Lady”)
- Cecil Parker as Colonel Peregrine
Yes; this is a “jolly good show”, and should be seen by all film fanatics. Listed as a film with historical importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.
- Good Show
- Historically Relevant