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A young man's quest for spiritual peace threatens his position in society.
British novelist W. Somerset Maugham recalls the time in 1919 when he first he met Larry Darrell, "a remarkable creature," during a dinner party at a Chicago country club hosted by the snobbish Elliott Templeton and his supercilious sister, Louisa Bradley: Louisa is distraught because her elegant daughter Isabel is engaged to Larry, a man who lacks money, prospects and ambition. Louisa would much prefer that Isabel marry Gray Maturin, the son of a wealthy stockbroker. At the party, Maugham also meets Sophie, Isabel's simple childhood friend who is wearing a borrowed gown. Larry arrives late, and when Isabel questions him about turning down a lucrative position with the Maturins, Larry responds that his goal in life is "to loaf." Isabel, who has been indoctrinated with the glories of American expansionism and the idea that self respect is derived through hard work, listens with incredulity as Larry states that there are more important goals in life than making money. Larry explains that his outlook has been shaped by a profoundly moving wartime experience in which his close friend sacrificed his own life so that Larry might live. With this second chance, Larry has decided to search for the meaning of life. After Larry completes his story, Isabel offers to postpone their wedding for one year so that he can find himself. Larry then sails to Paris, and some months later, Isabel visits him there. Appalled by Larry's modest living conditions, Isabel, who craves status and wealth, breaks off their engagement. On her last evening in Paris, though, Isabel invites Larry to dinner with the intent of seducing him and thus forcing him into abandoning his pursuit of knowledge for a prosaic married life. At the last minute, however, she is unable to go through with her plan and asks him to leave. Isabel then returns to Chicago and marries Gray, and Maugham meets them once again at their wedding. Also attending the ceremony is Sophie, who has married Bob MacDonald and given birth to a daughter. In Paris, meanwhile, Larry is laboring in the coal mines when he meets Kostis, a cynical defrocked priest who has lost his faith. When Kostis tells Larry of a saint-like man who dwells In India, Larry decides to journey to India and seek guidance from him. In India, the holy man counsels Larry that the road to salvation is as difficult to pass over as the sharp edge of a razor. In Chicago, meanwhile, Sophie's husband and baby perish in a car wreck, leaving Sophie bereft and hysterical. After Larry completes his studies, the holy man sends him to the top of the mountain to reflect in solitude. Some time later, the holy man visits, and Larry recounts experiencing an epiphany in which he finally became one with God. The holy man then declares that Larry is ready to return to the world and assures him that his vision will remain with him until the day he dies. Years later, Elliott encounters Maugham in a Parisian haberdashery and Elliott informs him that he has moved to the Riveria and lent his Paris apartment to Isabel and Gray, who has suffered a nervous breakdown after losing his family fortune in the 1929 stock market crash. Maugham then meets Larry, who has just returned from India, and over lunch, recounts Gray's misfortune. Unsettled by the news, Larry decides to visit Isabel, who is filled with self pity, even though she is surrounded by borrowed luxury. After Larry uses hypnosis to cure Gray's blinding headaches, Maugham invites them all to dinner. Later, Isabel insists on visiting a cheap nightclub on the Rue de Lappe and there they meet a drunk and degraded Sophie. Unsympathetic, Isabel blames Sophie's condition on her weak nature, but Larry disagrees and recalls a loving purity and innocence in Sophie. Soon after, Gray and Isabel leave for the Riviera, and when they return, Larry informs Isabel that Sophie has stopped drinking and they plan to marry. Furious, Isabel summons Maugham and asks him to dissuade Larry from the marriage. After chiding Isabel for renouncing Larry for her love of riches, Maugham suggests that Larry is sacrificing himself to save Sophie and advises Isabel to be nice to her. At Isabel's request, Maugham invites them all to lunch at the Ritz, and there, Isabel deliberately lavishes praise on a rare liquor, thus tempting Sophie, who has foresaken alcohol for Larry. Using the pretext of taking Sophie shopping for a wedding dress, Isabel invites her to the apartment the next day. There, Isabel shows Sophie a photograph of her daughter, thus rekindling painful memories of her own lost little girl. Excusing herself to run an errand, Isabel leaves Sophie alone with an enticing bottle of liquor. Succumbing to temptation, Sophie drains the bottle and disappears. In search of the missing Sophie, Larry visits the dives of Paris and when he finally locates her in an Arabic bar, she runs away. Nearly a year later, the police notify Maugham that Sophie has been brutally murdered in Toulon. At the Toulon police station, Maugham meets Larry, who has come to identify her body. From Sophie's sordid room, Larry retrieves a photograph of her husband and daughter and a book of poetry by Keats and asks that they be buried with her. Maugham, who is on the way to Nice to visit the gravely ill Elliott, asks Larry to join him. In the dying man's room, they find Elliott sniveling in self pity because he has not been invited to a fashionable party hosted by a princess. Touched by Elliott's distress, Larry convinces the princess' secretary, an old friend of his, to allow him to take an invitation to the party. When Isabel and Gray arrive to visit their dying uncle, Elliott informs them that he has willed them his entire fortune. The invitation to the party is then delivered, and Elliott dies while dictating his regrets. When Isabel learns that Larry intends to return to America to become a taxi driver or factory worker, she embraces him and confides that she still loves him and regrets marrying Gray. Larry does not return Isabel's ardor however, and instead accuses her of deliberately enticing Sophie to drink. After Isabel self-righteously admits that she tempted Sophie in order to prevent their marriage, Larry informs her that Sophie is dead, but has found peace with her husband and daughter. As Larry leaves, Isabel now knows she has lost him forever. Maugham then concludes that Larry has finally found what he sought, goodness-the greatest force in the world.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York world premiere: 19 Nov 1946|
|Release Date:||1946||Production Date:||
Darryl F. Zanuck's production
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono (Western Electric Sound System)||Production Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
|Duration(mins):||145-146 or 148||Country:||United States|
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First time seeing this film...An impeccable cast and a story many, many years ahead of its time addressing the mindsets of our war shocked veterans, their...
Investment of time, well spent
Joann hall 2015-08-01
This complex story unfolds so seamlessly and with grace. Watching work like this with actors that know their craft is a treat each and every time. Good...
spiritual and beautiful
Rewarding beauty of a movie. The main characters search for connection to spiritual wellbeing is engrossing and worth contemplating. From Clifton Webb and...