Moon and Sixpence, The (1943)

“The Moon and Sixpence,” Albert Lewin’s version of W. Somerset Maugham's novel is intelligent, literate, and extremely well acted by two of Hollywood’s most gifted character actors, Herbert Marshall and George Sanders, both blessed with powerful, resonant voices that lend themselves easily to voice-overs, cerebral monologues, and lengthy dialogue scenes.

George Sanders, still best known for his Oscar-winning performance in “All About Eve” (as the cynical and manipulative theater critic) plays Charles Strickland, a staid London broker whose goal and passion in life is to become an accomplished artist. The tale is inspired by the life of the French artist Paul Gauguin.

Committed to his inner calling, Strickland pursues his dream to the extent of sacrificing everything else in his existence.  In his mind, his goal justifies the means to be used, legit as well as illegit ones.

Moving out of the chilly and depressing and suffocating England for Paris, he leaves his wife and family, betrays his friends and colleagues, and becomes utterly single-minded in his artistic pyrsuit.

Though he becomes a brilliant painter, Strickland is not a sympathetic characterr–until he is forced to confront himself on the threshold of death, when he moves to Tahiti, where, initially he leaves a hedonistic life until he is smitten by a young, goregous local girl.

Herbert Marshall plays Somerset Maugham (as he would later in the 1946 Oscar-nominated film, “The Razor's Edge,” starring Tyrone Power), who narrates the story as he attempts to make some sense of and give some order to Strickland's immoral ways.

As writer and director Lewin (who later became a successful producer), shows his own fascination with all things exotics, from the feline statuaries to the obscure poetry readings to the gorgeous landscape (shot in yellow-brownish color).

Most of the film is in black-and-white, as was the norm in Hollywood of the 1940s, but some sequences (the Tahiti in the last reel), the painings, and the closing images, which depict a fire that destructs the artist’s work and his own life, are in bright colors.

Reportedly, “The Moon and Sixpence” was one of the few movies based on his work that the demanding novelist Maugham really liked.

However, decades later, seen from a feminist perspective, some of Strickland’s monologues about women's “typical” conduct and “unrealistic” expectations and demands of men are critically dubious.

Oscar Nominaions:

Scoring of Dramatic or Comedy Picture: Dimitri Tiomkin

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Scoring Oscar was Alfred Newman (the most-nominated artist in Academy’s history) for “The Song of Bernadette.”

Cast

George Sanders as Charles Strickland

Herbert Marshall as Geoffrey Wolfe

Doris Dudley as Blanche Stroeve

Steven Geray as Dirk Stroeve

Eric Blore as Capt. Nichols

Florence Bates as Tiara Johnson

Albert Basserman as Doctor Coutras

Robert Greig as Maitland Butler

Kenneth Hunter as Col. MacAndrew

Molly Lamont as Mrs. Strickland

Irene Tedrow as Mrs. MacAndrew

Heather Thatcher as Rose Waterford

Elena Verdugo as Ata

Credits

Running time: 89 Minutes.

Directed  by Albert Lewin,

Screenplay by Albert Lewin and W. Somerset Maugham.

Released by UA in 1943

DVD: July 12, 2005

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