Trio (aka W. Somerset Maugham’s Trio): British Anthology of Stories, Directed by Ken Annakin and Harold French

Trio is a British anthology film based on three stories by W. Somerset Maugham, “The Verger,” “Mr. Know-All,” and “Sanatorium.” The first two segments were directed by Ken Annakin, the third by Harold French.

The second of a Maugham’s film trilogy, “Trio” was preceded by the 1948 “Quartet,” and followed by the 1951 “Encore.”

The Verger

The new vicar (Michael Hordern) of St. Peter’s Church is astonished that the long-serving verger Albert Foreman (James Hayter) is illiterate. When Foreman is too set in his ways to learn to read, the vicar feels he has to sack him.

On the way back to his lodgings, Foreman notices that there is not a tobacconist shop in the area. Needing work, he decides to open one. He also takes the opportunity to propose to his landlady, Emma (Kathleen Harrison). Their fledgling business is so successful that when his stepdaughter’s husband loses his job, Foreman sets up another shop for them to run. Over the next decade, Foreman starts up more and more shops, becoming a wealthy man in the process and depositing his profits at the bank.

The bank manager (Felix Aylmer) recommends that he invest his sizeable savings to get a better return on his money, causing Foreman to reveal that he could not read the necessary papers. The astonished manager exclaims (rhetorically), “What would you be today if you had been able to?” Foreman replies that he would be the verger at St. Peter’s.

Mr. Know-All

Mr. Gray (Wilfred Hyde-White) is forced to share a cabin on ocean liner with the loud, opinionated, supremely self-confident gem dealer Max Kelada (Nigel Patrick). Kelada soon dominates all the onboard social gatherings, much to the annoyance of his fellow passengers, who take to calling him “Mr. Know-All” because of his insistence that he is an expert on all subjects.

One night, he remarks on the fine quality of the pearl necklace worn by the pretty Mrs. Ramsay (Anne Crawford), who has rejoined her husband (Naunton Wayne) after a two-year separation caused by his work. Mr. Ramsay bets him ten pounds that the pearls are fake; Kelada swiftly accepts the wager, despite Mrs. Ramsay’s attempt to call it off. While examining the pearls, Kelada observes that the woman is very uneasy. He then admits that he was wrong and pays Mr. Ramsay.

Gray and Kelada are surprised when two five-pound banknotes are slipped under their door in an envelope. Gray gets Kelada to tell the truth: the pearls are real and very costly. Kelada adds that he would not have left such an attractive wife alone for that long. Gray begins to warm to his cabin mate.


This segment was based on “Sanatorium,” included in the 1947 collection of Maugham stories Creatures of Circumstance. Writer Mr. Ashenden (Roland Culver) is sent to a sanatorium, where he becomes acquainted with the other residents. They include the scandalous Major George Templeton (Michael Rennie), who admires lovely Evie Bishop (Jean Simmons), a woman who has spent years insanatoriums. Ashenden also observes the ongoing feud between longtime patients Mr. Campbell (John Laurie) and Mr. McLeod (Finlay Currie).

When George and Evie fall in love, the doctors warn them about the risks involved in getting married. Despite the warning, the lovers decide that happiness, even a brief one, is worth the price and leave the sanatorium. Their conduct makes Chester less bitter about his fate, and strengthens his love for his wife.

Oscar Context:

The film was nominated for the Best Sound Recording (Cyril Crowhurst) Oscar.


I am grateful to TCM for showing this anthology on January 31, 2020.