Tuesday, January 31, 2017

W. Somerset Maugham Is Back with a Final Encore

Encore (1951) was the third and final W. Somerset Maugham anthology film, following the excellent Quartet (1948) and its "sequel" Trio (1950). As before, Maugham provides a brief introduction (from his chateau in France). Then, it's on to the first of three stories, "The Ant and the Grasshopper," a cynical look at a ne'er-do-well who does remarkably well indeed. It features a fine cast and makes Maugham's point effectively (i.e., the worthless brother succeeds in life, the hard-working one has a rough time). Still, it's a bit of a boring affair.

Kay Walsh in "Winter Cruise."
On the other hand, "Winter Cruise" starts out slowly, but evolves into a touching tale about a woman on holiday who annoys a ship's crew to the point of exhaustion. Kay Walsh, who was once married to David Lean, gives a wonderfully rounded performance. It was one of those acting jobs that sends one to the IMDb to learn more about the performer.

Glynis Johns about to make the dive.
My favorite of the three stories, though, is the final one: the oddly-titled "Gigolo and Gigolette." Of course, it stars Glynis Johns and  I adore her, so I admit there may be some prejudice influencing my preference. Glynis plays a nightclub performer who dives from an 80-foot platform into a "lake of flames" just five feet deep (click here to watch the sequence on our YouTube channel). Thinking her husband no longer loves her, she appears to have lost her will to live. It climaxes with her climbing the ladder as her husband races to save her. From a narrative point, it's a simple story, but executed wonderfully (I love the small details, such as the sound of the wind at the top of the diving platform).

It's too bad that Encore was the last of the Maugham anthologies--though it's always good to go out on a strong note...as opposed to lingering around too long.

2 comments:

  1. The story that made the biggest impression on me in "Encore" would have to be "Gigolo and Gigalette." Like you, I am captivated by Glynis Johns. I am also afraid of heights. I am quite certain I could never be a platform diver even without the lake of flames!

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  2. I see this series (all three films) can be purchased in the U.K. for a reasonable price, but it looks like a North American version is harder to come by. But if I ever come across any of these films, I'll drop everything to watch. :)

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