February 20, 2017


Quartet – 1948 | 120 mins | Drama, Comedy | B&W


Plot Synopsis


The first of three well-received “omnibus” films hosted by Somerset Maugham, Quartet features four of Maugham’s most celebrated stories, each introduced by the author himself. The Facts of Life, The Alien Corn, The Colonel’s Lady and The Kite. Each of the short tales in Quartet possesses its own mood, pace and rhythm, and each is a gem in its own right. The popularity of Quartet resulted in two more Maugham compendiums, Trio and Encore.

The Colonel’s Lady is the first of the four sketches linked together by the voice of the author, a master of the short story. The Colonel is George Peregrine, a respected, but dull, country gentleman. the Lady is his calm, bespectacled wife. She surprises him by admitting that she is the writer of a book of poems published under a pen name. He is further astonished to hear in London from his secret girl friend, Daphne, that the book is selling ‘ like hot cakes ‘, and he is astounded to be told by a literary critic that ‘ passion throbs in every line ‘ of the verses. He decides to read them himself. Before he can do so he learns from Daphne that their theme concerns a woman who loves a man much younger than herself, who decides to leave her husband and go off with her lover, and who is left to grief and loneliness when the young man is killed. The Colonel hastens to his lawyer, who advises him to do nothing. It is the Colonel’s Lady who provides the solution. Her lover, she explains, was himself. He died in her feelings because she never understood the things he cared for she described him as young because ‘ memories are always young ‘.

In Alien Corn, Sir Frederick, summoned to the gun-room, kneels beside the body of his son George. Behind him Lady Bland gives a little cry and begins to sob. At the inquest, the coroner recalls that it seems only yesterday that they were gathered in the village hall on a happier occasion. The scene changes to George’s coming-of-age party. After the guests depart the young man tells his father that he wants to become a professional pianist. The dumbfounded Sir Frederick is persuaded by George’s cousin Paula to give the young man an allowance so that he can study in Paris for two years, after which he must return to England to allow a qualified person to judge his playing. When the time comes for this test the judge is the famous concert pianist Lea Makart. Her verdict is that he will never become a fine pianist ‘not in a thousand years’. The young man refuses his father’s offer of further study. Back in the coroner’s court, the foreman of the jury says, ‘ A young gentleman in Master George’s position certainly ain’t going to shoot himself just because ‘e can’t play the piano good. We say “Accidental Death”.

Gambling, lending money, and women. These are the subjects about which young Nicky is warned by his father when he sets off for Monte Carlo, and which provide the themes for The Facts of Life. Nicky is persuaded to try his luck on the tables. He wins. An adventuress named Jeanne borrows a thousand francs from him. Surprised when she repays the loan, he takes her to supper. When it is too late for him to return to his hotel he sleeps on a divan in her sitting-room. During the night he sees her creep in, steal his money, and hide it in the flower pot. Next morning he retrieves the notes-and finds later that he has taken much more than his own money. Back home, he perplexes his father by appearing far too pleased with himself. He has a reason!

From the superb irony of The Facts of Life, we turn to a strange psychological drama in miniature – the story of a schoolboy who persuades his doting suburban parents to share his passion for flying kites. When he is a young man, the hobby is interrupted. He becomes infatuated with Betty Baker and marries her. They quarrel over his kites and separate. In a fit of revenge, Betty destroys the super-kite the family has designed. Herbert retaliates by refusing to maintain her and is sent to prison. On his release he crosses a common and sees a girl flying a kite. It is Betty; the gesture brings about their reconciliation.

Production Team

Ken Annakin: Director
Harold French: Director
Ralph Smart: Director
Arthur Crabtree: Director
George Provis: Art Direction
Ray Elton: Cinematography
Reg Wyer: Cinematography
Jean Baker: Editing
Charles Knott: Editing
John Greenwood: Music
Muir Mathieson: Music Direction
Anthony Darnborough: Producer
Hal Mason: Production Supervisor
R C Sheriff: Script
Eric Williams: Sound


Angela Baddeley: Mrs Garnett
Cecil Parker: Col George Peregrine
Nora Swinburne: Evie Peregrine
Linden Travers: Daphne
Clive Morton: Henry Blane
Ernest Thesiger: Henry Dashwood
Harcourt Williams: Duke of Heveril
Felix Aylmer: Martin
Lyn Evans: Bannock
Dirk Bogarde: George Bland
Francoise Rosay: Lea Makart
Irene Brown: Lady Bland
Raymond Lovell: Sir Frederick
George Thorpe: Uncle John
Honor Blackman: Paula
Mary Hinton: Aunt Maud
Maurice Denham: Coroner
Basil Radford: Henry Garner
Naunton Wayne: Leslie
Mai Zetterling: Jeanne
Nigel Buchanan: John
James Robertson Justice: Commander Branksome
Jack Watling: Nicky
Ian Fleming: Ralph
Mervyn Johns: Samuel Sunbury
Hermione Baddeley: Mrs Sunbury
Susan Shaw: Betty Baker
George Cole: Herbert Sunbury
Frederick Leister: Prison Governor
George Merritt: Prison Officer

blog comments powered by Disqus