An adventuresome young man goes off to find himself and loses his socialite fiancée in the process. But when he returns 10 years later, she will stop at nothing to get him back, even though she is already married.
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Well-to-do Chicagoan, Larry Darrell, breaks off his engagement to Isabel and travels the world seeking enlightenment, eventually finding his guru India. Isabel marries Gray, and following the crash of 1929, is invited to live in Paris with her rich, social climbing, Uncle Elliot. During a sojurn there, Larry, having attained his goal, is reunited with Isabel. While slumming one night Larry, Isabel and company are shocked to discover Sophie, a friend from Chicago. Having lost her husband and child in a tragic accident, Sophie is living the low-life with the help of drugs and an abusive brute. Larry tries to rehabilitate her, but his efforts are sabotaged by Isabel who tries in vain to reignite Larry's interest in herself. Written by
Richard Blinkal <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Alexander Knox, Anne Revere, Marcel Dalio, and Philip Merivale (who was actually born in India) were earlier choices for the roles played by Herbert Marshall, Elsa Lanchester, Robert Barron, and Cecil Humphreys. See more »
At 1:17:13, the way Gray holds the coin changes. See more »
When the screenplay credits are shown, a curious symbol appears near W. Somerset Maugham's name. It's a symbol meant to ward off the evil eye, and it more often than not appeared on the covers of many of Maugham's novels. See more »
A stately, dramatic, richly nuanced film about love, true love, and the love of life. It's about what matters, and what doesn't, in a high society world George Cukor could have filmed, but this is by director Edmund Goulding, coming off of a series of war films, and with the great Grand Hotel from 1932 in his trail. Some people will find this a touch stiff or slow, or rather too nuanced, but I think none of the above at all. It has the richness of the Somerset Maugham novel it is based on, and Goulding had just filmed (the same year) Of Human Bondage, another Maugham novel. In both cases, the writer contributed to the screenplay, and the combination of the two of them seems really perfect.
Tyrone Power is an interesting lead man, as the idealistic and handsome Larry Darrell, and in some ways his restraint and almost studied dullness at times is maybe what the film needs for its rich, calm trajectory through the twenty years it covers. He's as stable and "good" as the wise, knowing figure of the author, who appears in the form of actor Herbert Marshall. Gene Tierney as Power's counterpart and eventually counterpoint plays the spoiled woman with cool, dramatic perfection. She's got energy and edge and beauty from every angle, and she maintains just that slightest duplicity in every scene, so you are kept on your toes.
The only forced and almost laughable section is the one that demands we think profound thoughts...the guru in India being guru to our hero. Unfortunately, it lasts for fifteen minutes, and though there is a spiritual necessity to the experience he has there, this spiritual aspect is implied just as fully in the worldly scenes that follow. I can picture a far better movie without this insert, and I can picture the director picturing it, too. Someone knows why it got patched in, and for whom, but this is what we have.
It has to be said the filming, as conservative as it is in many ways, is spot-on gorgeous. The brightly lit, ornamented, busy sets are actually inhabited by the camera, and the figures move together not only across the field, but front to back as well, in triangles and curves of visual activity, yet with fluidity--it's all contained and lyrically delicious. This is done without ostentatious mood, without sharp angles and bold lighting, but instead with spatial arrangements, always full, no emptiness, no great shadows, always something more to see. A great example, easy to find, is the very last scene, just before the shot on the boat when the end titles run. Watch how Marshall walks the long way around Tierney, and then she walks around him, and the camera keeps them framed side to side, front to back. It's nothing short of brilliant, and yet, in style, so different than say Toland doing Kane or, at another extreme, Ozu doing Tokyo Story. But no less spectacular.
At one point, a minor character, a defrocked priest, says to Darrell in a working class bar, "You sound like a very religious man who does not believe in God." The movie is really about godliness, or what Maugham calls "goodness" in the end. And some people have it, and share it, and make the world better, God or no God.
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