Moon and Sixpense The (1942): Maugham’s Adaptation, Starring Herbert Marshall and George Sanders

In The Moon and Sixpence, a film adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel, Herbert Marshall plays Geoffrey Wolfe, a writer who tells the story of Charles Strickland (George Sanders), a mediocre and unassuming London stockbroker.

Put of the blue, Strickland suddenly gives up his career, wife of 17 years (Molly Lamont), and children and moves to Paris. Mrs. Strickland asks Wolfe to bring him back. To Wolfe’s surprise, Strickland has not run away with another woman, but out of need to become a painter. He exhibits no remorse or shame about abandoning his family and refuses return to his old life, whereupon his wife divorces him. Despite his strong disapproval of Strickland’s callous behavior, Wolfe remains intrigued.

Years later, Wolfe is in Paris to see his friend, Dirk Stroeve (Steven Geray), a bad painter, but an astute judge of others’ talent. When Wolfe asks if he knows Strickland, he states that the man is a great painter, even though he has not sold any of his work.

Finding Strickland seriously ill near Christmas, Stroeve persuades the reluctant Blanche to take him into their happy home, promising to nurse him back to health by himself. After six weeks, the artist recovers and makes himself at home, even evicting his host from his own studio. When Stroeve asks him to leave, Blanche announces she is going with him. Stroeve first tries to throttle Strickland, but then gives the couple the apartment and leaves.

When Strickland discards Blanche (he only accepted her because he wanted to study the female form), she commits suicide. Even so, Stroeve offers to put Strickland up at his mother’s home in Holland.

Wolfe travels to Tahiti, where he learns of Strickland’s fate from Captain Nichols (Eric Blore) and Tiara Johnson (Florence Bates). Tiara had arranged a match between Strickland and her young cousin Ata (Elena Verdugo).  They marry, live happily on Ata’s property, and have a child.

Dr. Coutras (Albert Bassermann) then informs Strickland he has contracted leprosy. Ata refuses to leave him, braving the hostility of their neighbors, though she eventually entrusts their child to others.

Two years later, Dr. Coutras is summoned again, but he is too late; Strickland is dead.  Entering the now dilapidated house, Coutras is awestruck by the grand paintings, recognizing Strickland’s talent. Ata, however, burns the house down, fulfilling the wish of her husband.

The prolific composer, Dimitri Tiomkin, nominated for the Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture.


George Sanders as Charles Strickland

Herbert Marshall as Geoffrey Wolfe

Doris Dudley as Blanche Stroeve

Eric Blore as Captain Nichols

Albert Bassermann as Dr. Coutras

Florence Bates as Tiara Johnson

Steven Geray as Dirk Stroeve

Elena Verdugo as Ata