Of Human Bondage (1964)

The title of this third screen adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s novel derives from Spinoza’s famous essay on the power of human emotions.

Though this rendition is not as powerful as the 1934 film, which put Bette Davis on the map as a major drmataic actress, it has merits and is worth seeing.

For one thing, it’s more truthful to Maugham’s book, a reflection of the emphasis on the British New Wave (“Kitchen-Sink Realism”) on depicting reality in all of its sordid and sleazy aspects.

The tale about the destructiveness of sexual obsession stars Laurence (“Room at the Top”) Harvey (at the height of his career) as Philip Carey, a club-footed artist who after two unsuccessful years in Paris decides to pursue a career in medicine instead.

The story begins with Philip’s childhood, setting the context for his masochism as a mature man by showing a beating of the passive boy at the hands of his nasty classmates.

During his medical studies he falls in love with a working class waitress, Mildred Rogers (Kim Novak), who takes advantage of his attraction to her.

When Mildred leaves him to marry another man, Philip falls in love with a writer (Siobhan McKenna), who encourages him to complete his studies. Under her tutelage, Philip excels in medical school. But when Mildred returns, pregnant and abandoned by her husband, Philip takes her, breaking off with the kind-hearted writer. Staying with Philip at his flat, the ungrateful Mildred has an affair with his best friend.

Confronting her about her immorality, Mildred tells Philip how repulsed she is by his club foot and walks out on him. Philip once again throws himself into his studies, and then takes internship at a London hospital.

Upon learning that Mildred has become a prostitute, Philip travels to the brothel where she is living in poverty with her child and takes her under his wing again. But Mildred walks out on Philip, trashing his apartment and taking to the streets. When Philip comes upon her again, he finds that her child has died and she is suffering from syphilis.

In this version, both the art critic in Paris and the instructor in the medical school in London are harsh in their criticism and ruthless in their hounding.

 

Cast

Kim Novak as Mildred Rogers

Laurence Harvey as Philip Carey

Robert Morley as Dr.Jacobs

Siobhan McKenna as Nora Nesbitt

Roger Livesey as Thorpe Athelney

Jack Hedley as Griffiths

Credits

Running time: 100 Minutes.

Directed by Bryan Forbes and Ken Hughes,

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