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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  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


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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

QUARTET (Ralph Smart, Harold French, Arthur Crabtree and Ken Annakin, 1948) ***1/2
18 July 2008 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

A number of portmanteau films had been made before this celebrated and influential British example – the most notable to emanate from the country prior to it being the superb horror-oriented DEAD OF NIGHT (1945). QUARTET, however, took a novel concept by bringing together a handful of tales by the same (famous) author, specifically W. Somerset Maugham; the formula was subsequently even imitated in Hollywood with O. HENRY’S FULL HOUSE (1952). The renowned R2 DVD company, Network, released the film as a 3-Disc Set along with its two follow-ups – TRIO (1950) and ENCORE (1951), comprising six more short stories by Maugham; thankfully, I was able to acquire the collection recently through Network themselves during an online sale (and those films will be following in short order).

I think it’s important to note at the outset the fact that most of the so-called ‘classic’ British cinema was marked by a rather genteel quality (evident not just in the behavior of characters on-screen but also the unfussy technique adopted in their making) in comparison to, say, equivalent American product from the same era. Therefore, at a cursory viewing of the film, one might feel Leonard Maltin’s **** rating a mite excessive since there’s nothing particularly outstanding about it; what we get here, quite simply, is a display of sheer professionalism to abet Maugham’s own keen writing skills.

Anyway, the first story involves a young man’s indoctrination into “The Facts Of Life” – a promising talent at tennis, he’s sent to Monte Carlo to take part in a tournament; his conservative father (Basil Radford) advises him to use his money wisely and keep away from both gambling and women. However, once there, he does his own thing and, through a series of lucky strokes, is able to contradict his old man: not only does he win a large sum of money at the casino, but he lends some to a beautiful young woman (Mai Zetterling); she then takes the boy home with her, fully intending to rob him of his gains, but it’s he who outwits her and returns to England triumphant. The episode is also notable for being yet another teaming of that amiable odd couple comprising Radford and Naunton Wayne (first brought together in Alfred Hitchcock’s THE LADY VANISHES [1938]).

The second tale, called “The Alien Corn”, stars Dirk Bogarde as the heir to an English estate; however, his passion is piano-playing – which greatly displeases the rest of the family. His cousin (lovely young Honor Blackman) who’s besotted with him comes up with a compromise – Bogarde can study for two years in Paris, after which time he’s to be examined by a professional to determine whether he shows real promise in the field or is merely an amateur. When the time for the assessment comes, he’s pretty confident in his skills – but the judgment of the expert (Francoise Rosay) is brutally frank. The family is relieved: as for Bogarde, while he seems to acquiesce to their decision and give up the piano (even admitting to Blackman to be resigned to his fate), he commits suicide the minute he’s left to his own devices!

“The Kite” is the least of the segments, but also the oddest: George Cole and his family (Mervyn Johns and Hermione Baddeley) are kite enthusiasts, which doesn’t sit well with his fiancée Susan Shaw – who believes it to be trivial kids’ stuff. Torn between his love of the girl and his passion for the hobby (he even designs experimental models himself), he’s forced to choose – and, of course, he opts for the latter while still paying alimony to Shaw (having, by now, become his wife). The situation, however, comes to a head when he finds his ‘masterpiece’ all broken up and, naturally blaming his wife, he refuses to give Shaw her dues – which lands him in jail! The tale ends with prison visitor Bernard Lee mediating between the couple…by persuading the girl to humor her hubby and develop a fondness for kite-flying herself!

The fourth and last episode, “The Colonel’s Lady”, is the longest – and best – of the quartet: no-nonsense military officer Cecil Parker is married to dowdy Nora Swinburne; one day, he discovers that she’s been writing poetry and has managed to publish a collection. He initially scoffs at the idea but, when the book becomes a resounding success (apparently for its “earthy” depiction of a love affair), he can no longer ignore it…especially since all his colleagues (including eminent critic Ernest Thesiger) start congratulating Parker and even refer to him as the husband of a celebrity! Finally obliged to read the book for himself, which is written in the first person, he becomes jealous of Swinburne’s mysterious conquest – which is ironic (to say nothing of hypocritical on his part) since Parker himself carries on a clandestine romance with attractive society woman Linden Travers who, of course, loves Swinburne’s book (incidentally, like the afore-mentioned Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne, Parker and Travers had appeared before as a couple in THE LADY VANISHES). Determined to get his wife to confess the name of the party involved in her past misdemeanor, he’s then astounded to learn that the man she was describing had been his former, younger and more caring self (at which he breaks down)!

By the way, the film is book-ended by appearances from Maugham himself – though, apparently, the epilogue was dropped in either re-issue or foreign versions (the ‘alternate ending’ included as a supplement on the DVD, then, simply reprises the concluding moments from “The Colonel’s Lady”!). For the record, I have several unwatched compendiums (mostly Italian films but also Julien Duvivier’s American-made TALES OF MANHATTAN [1942]) on various formats – and this has certainly made me game to check some of them out…

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