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
Naunton Wayne ...
Leslie (segment "The Facts of Life")
Ian Fleming ...
Ralph (segment "The Facts of Life")
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")
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 »


W. Somerset Maugham - 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

Four Somerset Maugham short stories arranged into one film
26 November 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The film consists of four W. Somerset Maugham short stories translated into film stories. Maugham, himself, introduces the film at the beginning and summarizes it at the end. Each of the four short stories is an individual a product with different actors and directors. This is a mixed bag in that some are interesting and others leave something to be desired. This film is followed by two other sequels: Trio (1950) and Encore (1951). The three films together make up a nice homemade boxed set. But, the reviews (below) only refer to Quartet.

===== THE FACTS OF LIFE (directed by Ralph Smart) is one of the most entertaining stories of the four, with both an interesting story process and a surprise ending. Here, we have a father giving his son three precepts before sending him 'out into the world' on his own. 'The world,' here, is short-term trip to a tennis match in the South of France . The son breaks all three precepts and still succeeds in spite of breaking his father's rules. The aggravating part for the father is that it makes a fool of him at his club. This is like the Polonius– Laertes relationship turned on its head. The consequences aren't great enough to be that important, and one can't help but feel that Maugham is doing a spoof on the superficiality of the upper-class Club set. (8/10)

===== THE ALIEN CORN (directed by Harold French) This story, starring Dirk Bogarde and Honor Blackman, left me cold. Not only is it uninteresting, but the ending is telescoped almost from the outset. Also, it is hard to believe that Honor Blackman's character might not have guessed that anyone who would rather study piano for two years than show ANY interest in her at all either has a hormone deficiency or she just plain doesn't turn him on. One wants to cry out, 'Honor, can't you take a HINT!!' This guy is NOT the marrying kind. Too bad the people in those days couldn't just ask, 'Are you gay? OR 'Do you love me at all?' before emotionally investing in a two-year experiment, leading nowhere. (3/10)

===== THE KITE (directed by Arthur Crabtree) was fun because of the English humor; the story about a boy growing up with the unusual hobby of kite flying; and the fact that his parents not only encouraged him to look no further than his hobby but TOTALLY join him in his one and only passion. To most parents, it is OK to have a hobby but not to the exclusion of a social life. I loved the competition interaction between the possessive kite-flyer's mother (Hermione Baddeley) and her son's fiancée, and later wife, Betty (Susan Shaw). Though this story ends in a somewhat conventional way, the process is where the fun comes into play. (7/10)

===== THE COLONEL'S LADY (directed by Ken Annakin) is probably the best of the bunch. Here, we have an extremely important man, doing his extremely important work, and giving little attention to his wife. When she publishes a book of poetry, under her maiden name and gets paid for it, he is mildly annoyed. When he learns from everyone everywhere that her poetry is not only great by that it is salacious, he becomes VERY annoyed. But, worst of all, he finds out from his mistress that the author's poetry about her affair with a younger man is so realistic that it could only be true. After 'the light bulb finally lights up' in this very important man's head, he is SO annoyed that he actually reads the book himself!! This story is great, both for the way it unfolds and the way it ends. (10/10)

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