The Razor's Edge (1946)

145-146 or 148 mins | Drama | December 1946

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HISTORY

The film's title card reads "Darryl F. Zanuck's Production of W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge ." Maugham's novel was originally serialized in Redbook from Dec 1943--May 1944. According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Fox purchased the screen rights to Maugham's novel in Mar 1945 for an advance of $50,000, plus 20% of the net profits derived from the motion picture. Maugham's contract further stipulated that unless principle photography was begun by 2 Feb 1946, the studio would have to pay the author an additional $50,000. Location shooting began in Denver in Aug 1945, thus meeting the terms of the contract. According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the mountains around Denver were used to simulate the mountain top in India, and a double was used for Larry, because the role was not yet cast.
       In May 1945, George Cukor was assigned to direct the film, according to a HR news item. By Sep 1945, a HR news item announced that Cukor was leaving the project because casting problems caused a temporary delay in the start of production, thus leading to a scheduling conflict for the director. However, materials contained in the Produced Scripts Collection disclose that Cukor and Zanuck strongly disagreed over the interpretation of Larry's character. In a 14 Nov 1945 letter addressed to Cukor, Zanuck criticized the director's proclivity for a heavy-handed treatment of Larry's spirituality. Zanuck argued that the audience would reject the picture if it detected any mock saintliness ... More Less

The film's title card reads "Darryl F. Zanuck's Production of W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge ." Maugham's novel was originally serialized in Redbook from Dec 1943--May 1944. According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Fox purchased the screen rights to Maugham's novel in Mar 1945 for an advance of $50,000, plus 20% of the net profits derived from the motion picture. Maugham's contract further stipulated that unless principle photography was begun by 2 Feb 1946, the studio would have to pay the author an additional $50,000. Location shooting began in Denver in Aug 1945, thus meeting the terms of the contract. According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, the mountains around Denver were used to simulate the mountain top in India, and a double was used for Larry, because the role was not yet cast.
       In May 1945, George Cukor was assigned to direct the film, according to a HR news item. By Sep 1945, a HR news item announced that Cukor was leaving the project because casting problems caused a temporary delay in the start of production, thus leading to a scheduling conflict for the director. However, materials contained in the Produced Scripts Collection disclose that Cukor and Zanuck strongly disagreed over the interpretation of Larry's character. In a 14 Nov 1945 letter addressed to Cukor, Zanuck criticized the director's proclivity for a heavy-handed treatment of Larry's spirituality. Zanuck argued that the audience would reject the picture if it detected any mock saintliness in Larry's character. Instead, Zanuck believed that Larry "should not set out on a crusade to save humanity or to find out whether or not there is a God. He sets out to find the answer to his own personal problems." Consequently, Zanuck strongly opposed Cukor's suggestions for highlighting Larry's spirituality through the inclusion of several speeches extolling the life of the spirit. Zanuck asserted," for him [Larry] to suddenly try to sell...a Billy Sunday bill of goods about the paths of righteousness and light cannot get us anything." Cukor also wanted to end the picture by giving Larry a loftier goal then becoming a taxi driver, but Zanuck rejected this idea.
       Modern sources state that Cukor, unhappy with Lamar Trotti's original screenplay, arranged for the studio to hire Maugham to draft his own version. The scripts collection contains a screenplay written by Maugham, but the extent of his contribution to the final screenplay has not been determined and Trotti was given sole writing credit onscreen.
       In addition to his problems with Cukor, Zanuck experienced conflicts with the PCA over the depiction of alcoholism in the film. In materials contained in the PAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, Zanuck argued in a 1 Apr 1946 letter to Joseph I. Breen that he could not comply with any of the requests to eliminate drinking from the picture because "alcoholism is the basic foundation of out plot." A Jun 1946 HR news item notes that Zanuck wrote thirty-seven additional scenes for the picture. Zanuck's Nov 1945 letter to Cukor also reveals that the producer was eagerly awaiting the military release of Tyrone Power, hoping that the actor would star in this film. Power was formally discharged on Jan 1946, and The Razor's Edge became Power's first role since his return from war and a three-year absence from the screen. According to an Aug 1945 HR news item, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Haviland were being considered for the role of "Isabel," Nancy Guild was to play "Sophie" and Alexander Knox was cast as "Somerset Maugham."
       A 13 May 1945 NYT news item adds that Maureen O'Hara was interested in playing a lead in the picture. In his letter to Cukor, Zanuck suggested Anne Revere for the part of "Miss Keith," the princess' secretary; Glen Langan for "Gray," and Mark Stevens for "Bob MacDonald". Anne Baxter's biography states that the role of Sophie was offered to Susan Hayward, Betty Grable, Judy Garland and Anabel Shaw and adds that Bonita Granville was about to be cast when Baxter asked to try out for the part. A Mar 1946 HR news item adds that Philip Merivale was set to play the holy man, but died on 12 Mar, seventeen days before the start of production. Although a Dec 1945 studio publicity item states that Marcel Dalio was to play a French police inspector, he does not appear in the released film. A Jan 1946 publicity item notes that Orry-Kelly was originally to design the costumes for the picture. Although various HR news items add Jamiel Hasson to the cast, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Roman Bohnen was also mentioned in a HR news item, but he was not in the film.
       According to studio publicity materials, the production cost around $4,000,000 to film, used eighty-nine different sets and enjoyed the longest shooting schedule in the studio's history to date. A Jul 1946 HR news item notes that the film incorporated footage excerpted from a photographic expedition shot by the Bombay Film Co. in the Himalayan mountains. Gene Tierney's real-life husband at the time, Oleg Cassini, designed her costumes for the film. According to a studio publicity item, the wedding gown worn by Tierney in the picture was based on a sketch that Cassini had made for his and Tierney's wedding. The couple eloped, however, and so the dress was never made until the production of this film. According to a 6 Jan 1947 HR news item, the film broke all previous Fox box office records. The DV review called the picture a "dramatic triumph in every sense of the word." The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Art Direction, and Clifton Webb was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Baxter's performance as Sophie earned her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. On 18 Oct 1948, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a version of Maugham's story starring Ida Lupino and Mark Stevens. In 1984, Columbia Ltd. produced a version of the story directed by John Byrum and starring Bill Murray. According to materials in the Produced Scripts Collection, Fox signed over all its rights to the property to Columbia in 1983 in exchange for the rights to the script for Romancing the Stone . More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Dec 1946.
---
Daily Variety
20 Nov 46
p. 3.
Film Daily
20 Nov 46
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 45
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 45
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Aug 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Sep 45
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Feb 46
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 46
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 46
pp. 5-8.
Hollywood Reporter
23 May 46
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 46
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jun 46
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jun 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jul 46
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Nov 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 46
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 47
p. 1.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
3 Aug 46
p. 3127.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
30 Nov 46
pp. 3334-35.
New York Times
13 May 1945.
---
New York Times
20 Nov 46
p. 42.
Variety
20 Nov 46
p. 22.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Ray De Ravenne
Dr. Paul Singh
Jack Davidson
Ray Largay
Saul Gorss
Jacques Boyjan
Major Fred Farrell
Nenette Vallon
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
Darryl F. Zanuck's production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
Addl scenes
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Assoc
COSTUMES
Ward dir
Gene Tierney's cost des by
MUSIC
Orch arr
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Dances staged by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech research
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv
Tech adv in connection with sets
Tech adv for India seq
Tech adv for India seq
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham (London and Garden City, NY 1944).
SONGS
"Night Was So Dark," music by Edmund Goulding, lyrics by Nina Koshetz
"M'aime ta pomme" and "Miners Song," music by Edmund Goulding, lyrics by Jacques Surmagne.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
W. Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge
Release Date:
December 1946
Premiere Information:
New York world premiere: 19 November 1946
Production Date:
29 March--22 July 1946
Denver location scenes: 24 August--1 September 1945
Copyright Claimant:
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Copyright Date:
19 November 1946
Copyright Number:
LP785
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
145-146 or 148
Length(in feet):
13,005
Length(in reels):
17
Country:
United States
PCA No:
11498
SYNOPSIS

British novelist W. Somerset Maugham recalls the time in 1919 when he first he met Larry Darrell, "a remarkable creature," during a dinner party at a Chicago country club hosted by the snobbish Elliott Templeton and his supercilious sister, Louisa Bradley: Louisa is distraught because her elegant daughter Isabel is engaged to Larry, a man who lacks money, prospects and ambition. Louisa would much prefer that Isabel marry Gray Maturin, the son of a wealthy stockbroker. At the party, Maugham also meets Sophie, Isabel's simple childhood friend who is wearing a borrowed gown. Larry arrives late, and when Isabel questions him about turning down a lucrative position with the Maturins, Larry responds that his goal in life is "to loaf." Isabel, who has been indoctrinated with the glories of American expansionism and the idea that self respect is derived through hard work, listens with incredulity as Larry states that there are more important goals in life than making money. Larry explains that his outlook has been shaped by a profoundly moving wartime experience in which his close friend sacrificed his own life so that Larry might live. With this second chance, Larry has decided to search for the meaning of life. After Larry completes his story, Isabel offers to postpone their wedding for one year so that he can find himself. Larry then sails to Paris, and some months later, Isabel visits him there. Appalled by Larry's modest living conditions, Isabel, who craves status and wealth, breaks off their engagement. On her last evening in Paris, though, Isabel invites Larry to dinner with the intent of seducing him and thus ... +


British novelist W. Somerset Maugham recalls the time in 1919 when he first he met Larry Darrell, "a remarkable creature," during a dinner party at a Chicago country club hosted by the snobbish Elliott Templeton and his supercilious sister, Louisa Bradley: Louisa is distraught because her elegant daughter Isabel is engaged to Larry, a man who lacks money, prospects and ambition. Louisa would much prefer that Isabel marry Gray Maturin, the son of a wealthy stockbroker. At the party, Maugham also meets Sophie, Isabel's simple childhood friend who is wearing a borrowed gown. Larry arrives late, and when Isabel questions him about turning down a lucrative position with the Maturins, Larry responds that his goal in life is "to loaf." Isabel, who has been indoctrinated with the glories of American expansionism and the idea that self respect is derived through hard work, listens with incredulity as Larry states that there are more important goals in life than making money. Larry explains that his outlook has been shaped by a profoundly moving wartime experience in which his close friend sacrificed his own life so that Larry might live. With this second chance, Larry has decided to search for the meaning of life. After Larry completes his story, Isabel offers to postpone their wedding for one year so that he can find himself. Larry then sails to Paris, and some months later, Isabel visits him there. Appalled by Larry's modest living conditions, Isabel, who craves status and wealth, breaks off their engagement. On her last evening in Paris, though, Isabel invites Larry to dinner with the intent of seducing him and thus forcing him into abandoning his pursuit of knowledge for a prosaic married life. At the last minute, however, she is unable to go through with her plan and asks him to leave. Isabel then returns to Chicago and marries Gray, and Maugham meets them once again at their wedding. Also attending the ceremony is Sophie, who has married Bob MacDonald and given birth to a daughter. In Paris, meanwhile, Larry is laboring in the coal mines when he meets Kostis, a cynical defrocked priest who has lost his faith. When Kostis tells Larry of a saint-like man who dwells In India, Larry decides to journey to India and seek guidance from him. In India, the holy man counsels Larry that the road to salvation is as difficult to pass over as the sharp edge of a razor. In Chicago, meanwhile, Sophie's husband and baby perish in a car wreck, leaving Sophie bereft and hysterical. After Larry completes his studies, the holy man sends him to the top of the mountain to reflect in solitude. Some time later, the holy man visits, and Larry recounts experiencing an epiphany in which he finally became one with God. The holy man then declares that Larry is ready to return to the world and assures him that his vision will remain with him until the day he dies. Years later, Elliott encounters Maugham in a Parisian haberdashery and Elliott informs him that he has moved to the Riveria and lent his Paris apartment to Isabel and Gray, who has suffered a nervous breakdown after losing his family fortune in the 1929 stock market crash. Maugham then meets Larry, who has just returned from India, and over lunch, recounts Gray's misfortune. Unsettled by the news, Larry decides to visit Isabel, who is filled with self pity, even though she is surrounded by borrowed luxury. After Larry uses hypnosis to cure Gray's blinding headaches, Maugham invites them all to dinner. Later, Isabel insists on visiting a cheap nightclub on the Rue de Lappe and there they meet a drunk and degraded Sophie. Unsympathetic, Isabel blames Sophie's condition on her weak nature, but Larry disagrees and recalls a loving purity and innocence in Sophie. Soon after, Gray and Isabel leave for the Riviera, and when they return, Larry informs Isabel that Sophie has stopped drinking and they plan to marry. Furious, Isabel summons Maugham and asks him to dissuade Larry from the marriage. After chiding Isabel for renouncing Larry for her love of riches, Maugham suggests that Larry is sacrificing himself to save Sophie and advises Isabel to be nice to her. At Isabel's request, Maugham invites them all to lunch at the Ritz, and there, Isabel deliberately lavishes praise on a rare liquor, thus tempting Sophie, who has foresaken alcohol for Larry. Using the pretext of taking Sophie shopping for a wedding dress, Isabel invites her to the apartment the next day. There, Isabel shows Sophie a photograph of her daughter, thus rekindling painful memories of her own lost little girl. Excusing herself to run an errand, Isabel leaves Sophie alone with an enticing bottle of liquor. Succumbing to temptation, Sophie drains the bottle and disappears. In search of the missing Sophie, Larry visits the dives of Paris and when he finally locates her in an Arabic bar, she runs away. Nearly a year later, the police notify Maugham that Sophie has been brutally murdered in Toulon. At the Toulon police station, Maugham meets Larry, who has come to identify her body. From Sophie's sordid room, Larry retrieves a photograph of her husband and daughter and a book of poetry by Keats and asks that they be buried with her. Maugham, who is on the way to Nice to visit the gravely ill Elliott, asks Larry to join him. In the dying man's room, they find Elliott sniveling in self pity because he has not been invited to a fashionable party hosted by a princess. Touched by Elliott's distress, Larry convinces the princess' secretary, an old friend of his, to allow him to take an invitation to the party. When Isabel and Gray arrive to visit their dying uncle, Elliott informs them that he has willed them his entire fortune. The invitation to the party is then delivered, and Elliott dies while dictating his regrets. When Isabel learns that Larry intends to return to America to become a taxi driver or factory worker, she embraces him and confides that she still loves him and regrets marrying Gray. Larry does not return Isabel's ardor however, and instead accuses her of deliberately enticing Sophie to drink. After Isabel self-righteously admits that she tempted Sophie in order to prevent their marriage, Larry informs her that Sophie is dead, but has found peace with her husband and daughter. As Larry leaves, Isabel now knows she has lost him forever. Maugham then concludes that Larry has finally found what he sought, goodness-the greatest force in the world. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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