THE MOON AND SIXPENCE —-“If you look on the ground in search of a sixpence, you don’t look up,and so miss the Moon.” This is a swell oldie to sit back in the rocker, arrange a blanket and have a civilized brandy with, if you can find a decent print of the 1942 drama, taken from the 1919 Somerset Maugham novel.
Ever-urbane narrator Herbert Marshall becomes intrigued by the affairs of uber-cad George Sanders, utterly absent remorse in damn-the-cost pursuit of his expression of self as an artist, leaving shattered innocents in his wake from London and Paris to Tahiti. Just Deserts await in a classic ‘You asked for it, swine’ finale.
Beautifully written, though allowances have to be made for outdated misanthropy in some of the characters attitudes (as well as Maugham’s own). “A woman can forgive a man for the harm he does her…but she can never forgive him for the sacrfices he makes on her account.” (yikes). The author himself praised the screenplay adaptation by Albert Lewin, who also debuted as director.
Modest production values allow concentration to focus on the cast and dialogue, and helmsman Lewin employs an appropriately artsy touch by having the film start in black & white, move to sepia, and climax in Technicolor (again, the quality of acceptable prints hurts: it begs for restoration, if it’s not too late).
Acting throughout is a pleasure: Sanders has one of his best roles (what a rotter!), Stevan Geray evokes sympathy as a kind benefactor who is abused by Sanders’ scoundrel and there are good scenes from Doris Dudley, Eric Blore and Elena Verdugo. Modeled after Paul Gauguin, the episodic 89-minute story also features Florence Bates and Albert Bassermann, and in bits Rondo Hatton and Mike Mazurki. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score was Oscar nominated, and $2,660,000 returned to the producers.
For added flavor, look up biographical info on the very interesting Mr. Marshall and Mr. Sanders.