Quartet (1948)

 |  Drama  |  22 November 1948 (UK)
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Four of Somerset Maugham's short stories are brought to the screen with each introduced by the author himself. In the first story, The Facts of Life, a young man with great potential on the... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
W. Somerset Maugham ...
Himself - Host
Basil Radford ...
Naunton Wayne ...
Leslie (segment "The Facts of Life")
Ian Fleming ...
Ralph (segment "The Facts of Life")
Jack Raine ...
Thomas (segment "The Facts of Life")
Mrs. Garnet (segment "The Facts of Life")
Branksome (segment "The Facts of Life")
Jack Watling ...
Nicky (segment "The Facts of Life")
Nigel Buchanan ...
John (segment "The Facts of Life") (as Nigal Buchanan)
Jeanne (segment "The Facts of Life")
Jean Cavall ...
Cabaret Artist (segment "The Facts of Life")
George Bland (segment "The Alien Corn")
Raymond Lovell ...
Sir Frederick Bland (segment "The Alien Corn")
Irene Browne ...
Lady Bland (segment "The Alien Corn")
Paula (segment "The Alien Corn")


Four of Somerset Maugham's short stories are brought to the screen with each introduced by the author himself. In the first story, The Facts of Life, a young man with great potential on the tennis courts goes to Monte Carlo and soon finds himself doing the exact opposite of what his father recommended. In 'The Alien Corn', an aspiring pianist devotes himself to perfecting his artistic skills but finds he likely hasn't the talents to reach the heights he so desperately craves. In 'The Kite', a young man who lives at home and loves kite flying goes against his overbearing mother's wishes and marries the girl he's been dating. He's soon back home, much to his mother's delight, but re-considers when his wife takes up a new hobby. In the final chapter 'The Colonel's Lady', a middle-aged man is shocked to learn that his somewhat dowdy wife has written a collection of racy poems and is now a best-selling author. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

22 November 1948 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A Arte de Viver  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


In an unusual coincidence, Quartet has two actors who would both have eternal associations with the James Bond series. Bernard Lee, who would later play M, and Honor Blackman, who would play one of the most famous Bond girls in Goldfinger (1964), Pussy Galore. Despite the name Ian Fleming on the credits, he is not the same man who wrote the Bond novels. See more »


Himself, Host: In my twenties, the critics said I was brutal. In my thirties, they said I was flippant; in my forties, they said I was cynical; in my fifties they said I was competent - and then, in my sixties, they said I was superficial.
See more »


Followed by Trio (1950) See more »


by Franz Schubert
Played by Eileen Joyce
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User Reviews

A lovely, literate array - but not for the shallow or impatient
12 May 2011 | by (Bolton, Ct./Jersey City, NJ; United States) – See all my reviews

Anthologies whether on stage, page or screen, are among the hardest of pieces to successfully bring off because it is so difficult to find collections of stories which complement each other with similar tone and style - and sufficiently varied to hold audience interest. With the death of the stage revue form, with interspersed songs and sketches but no thru-plot line, we have failed to develop a popular palate for the possibilities and even the outlets for short stories, the traditional training ground for great writers seem to have fewer outlets these days.

W. Somerset Maugham was one of Great Britain's last great, subtle story tellers, a master of the ironic and quiet wisdom. Late in a long career he had substantial success with three films tied to successful books of his classic short stories - of which QUARTET was the first. In it, Maugham provided an introduction to the collection and a brief exegesis or afterward. In the subsequent films, TRIO (1950) and ENCORE (1951), the film makers improved the experience by having Maugham provide a brief introduction to each of the three stories - reduced from QUARTET's four.

The four works dramatized in QUARTET are given perfect, polished productions with appropriate stars of the British stage and screen, only a few of which will be familiar to American eyes - most notably Dirk Bogarde as the hopeful pianist in the strangely undercut (by the screenwriter's removing Maugham's ethnic subtext) "Alien Corn," the movie's second act, and Honor Blackman as his girlfriend. The stories themselves are quiet, literate and well worthwhile, but hardly the sort of thing to set the pulse racing. More the sort of thing to set the MIND racing. They well reflect the sort of sensibility, such as which Maugham brought to his best plays like THE CONSTANT WIFE, THE CIRCLE or THE LETTER.

Maugham's three anthologies were successful enough that a decade later his works were again tapped for a successful three year run of an hour long television anthology ("The Somerset Maugham Hour") in which all four of these stories would be recycled along with several of those from the film sequels.

Hard to find at present in the U.S. aside from occasional screenings on cable services like Turner Classic Movies, the films have been reissued on British DVDs and are well worth seeking out for good, literate viewing. Some of these four (the concluding "Colonel's Lady" in which a Col. Blimp-type, startled to find his wife of many years has written a best selling book of poetry recalling a great love affair is consumed with jealousy for the unknown lover) are legitimate classics, some ("Alien Corn" in which 'reasonable' solutions to personal passion are found wanting or "The Kite" in which a young wife nearly destroys her marriage through a conventional concern with her own image and refusal to understand her husband's passion) have been copied so frequently they risk feeling almost trite and some ("The Facts of Life" in which a young man finds his father's advice not infallible) are so quietly humorous that it is easy to miss Maugham's more serious point, but all are quiet gems, polished to a nice soft glow.

The Entire Maugham trilogy (QUARTET, TRIO and ENCORE) is well worth your time if you don't need car chases and explosions to hold your interest.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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