TRIO, from Britain in 1950, followed the success of Quartet, an anthology of Somerset Maugham stories, with three more from the venerated author, who appears on screen to give brief introductions to each. He assisted with screenplay duty as well, sharing that with Noel Langley and R.C. Sheriff.
Leading off is “The Verger”, directed by Ken Annakin. After 17 years as caretaker for his church, amiable ‘Albert Foreman’ (James Hayter) is dismissed by the straight-laced new vicar (Michael Hordern) when it’s revealed Albert can neither read nor write. Left to create a way to make a living, Albert shows that illiterate doesn’t equal ignorant by opening a small business, then another…
“Mr. Know-All”, also directed by Annakin, puts the passengers and crew of an ocean liner to the boundaries of their patience when a relentlessly pushy gem dealer sticks his nose in everyone’s business, to the point where irritation may turn to hurt. Nigel Patrick has a field day as ‘Max Kelada’, who possesses more character than his irked shipmates can guess. Among the afflicted are Wilfrid Hyde-White and Anne Crawford.
“The Sanitorium”, directed by Harold French, is the lengthiest segment, employing 47 of the 88-minute running time, with a larger number of characters and a more serious tone. At a countryside treatment retreat in Scotland, long-term patients suffering from tuberculosis deal with personal matters other than their diagnoses. Michael Rennie and Jean Simmons headline this episode, with support from Roland Culver, Finlay Currie and Andre Morell.
Literate (of course, it’s Maugham), civilized ventures into humor, irony, bitterness, humility and hope, well acted by all. A big hit in England, earning £147,000 (£5,167,000 in 2021), it took in $1,000,000 in the U.S. Hollywood took notice, and in short order poached Simmons and Rennie.
Oscar nominated for Best Sound. Others in the cast include Felix Aylmer, Naunton Wayne, Kathleen Harrison, Raymond Huntley, John Laurie, Clive Morton, Michael Medwin and Bill Travers. A third Maugham trilogy, Encore, followed a year later.