Classic Film: The Razor’s Edge

The Razor's Edge

The Razor’s Edge

The Razor’s Edge is the first film version of W. Somerset Maugham’s 1944 novel. A Darryl F. Zanuck production, it was released in 1946 and stars Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne,

Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, and Herbert Marshall, with supporting cast: Lucile Watson, Frank Latimore, and Elsa Lanchester. The film was directed by Edmund Goulding. The book’s epigraph reads, “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to enlightenment is hard.” (Taken from a verse in the Katha-Upanishad.)

The Razor’s Edge will be shown at the Dunaway Center, 23 School Street in Ogunquit on Sunday March 8, 2015 at 2 pm. The Maugham best-seller in which Maugham himself is a character in the story is beautifully brought to life as a film classic, which questions society’s values.

This intriguing tale centers on a soul-searching World War I veteran, Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power), an American pilot traumatized by his experiences in World War I—the death of a comrade who sacrificed himself on the last day of the war to save Larry’s life. He finds that he cannot settle back into the world of the upper class. Shunning his planned marriage and conventional career, he travels abroad to seek a more meaningful and enlightened life, and causes his distraught fiancé (Gene Tierney) to seek solace with another man (John Payne). However, she can never quite give up on Larry, and her efforts to win him back leave disaster in her wake.

Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was a British playwright, novelist, and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest-paid author during the 1930s. During the First World War, he served with the Red Cross and in the ambulance corps before being recruited in 1916 into the British Secret Intelligence Service, for which he worked in Switzerland and in Russia before the October Revolution of 1917. During and after the war, he travelled in India and Southeast Asia . . . all of these experiences were reflected in later short stories and novels.

Maugham’s last major novel, The Razor’s Edge (1944), was a departure for him in many ways. While much of the novel takes place in Europe, its main characters were American, not British. The story’s themes of Eastern mysticism and war-weariness struck a chord with readers during the Second World War. It also touched on the post-World War I “lost generation,” a theme explored by many writers, including Hemingway and Fitzgerald

Maugham wrote the part of Isabel with his friend Gene Tierney in mind. 20th Century Fox had purchased the film rights from Maugham in March 1945 for $50,000 plus 20% of the film’s net profits. Zanuck wanted Tyrone Power to star, and delayed final casting until Power finished his service in the Marines in January 1946.

The film was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Anne Baxter won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. She and Clifton Webb both won Golden Globes for their performances.

Don’t miss the showing of The Razor’s Edge, at the Dunaway Center on Sunday March 8, 2015 at 2 pm. The film will be shown on a wall-size screen with introduction by OPA Co-chair Janel Lundgren. There will be free popcorn, too. It’s a delightful way to spend a winter Sunday afternoon.

Mark your calendars to reserve dates for the upcoming Classic Films:

Sunday April 12, 2015. 2 pm—The Concert

Sunday May 10, 2015. 2 pm—In Harm’s Way

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