The Moon and Sixpence (1942)

88-89 mins | Melodrama | 2 October 1942

Director:

Albert Lewin

Writer:

Albert Lewin

Producer:

David L. Loew

Cinematographer:

John F. Seitz

Production Designer:

Gordon Wiles

Production Company:

David L. Loew-Albert Lewin, Inc.
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HISTORY

The film opens with the following prologue: "This is the story of Charles Strickland, the painter, whose career has created so much discussion. It is not our purpose to defend him." Although the print viewed was in black and white, original release prints began in black and white, graduated to sepia, and then changed to Technicolor for the final scenes showing "Dr. Coutras" discovering "Strickland's" paintings. Opening credits included the following: "Technical Advice and Dances by Devi Dja and her Bali-Java Dancers," and "Adapted and Directed by Albert Lewin."
       News items and information in the MPAA/PCA Files at the AMPAS Library reveal that after its publication in 1919, various production companies considered producing a film based on W. Somerset Maugham's novel The Moon and Sixpence , which was loosely based on the life of nineteenth-century artist Paul Gauguin, who was renowned for his colorful paintings of Tahitian life.
       Among those interested at various times in producing the story were Warner Bros., which purchased the rights to the novel in 1919 and anticipated casting Edward G. Robinson in the lead; director Harry Lachman, who planned to produce the film in France with Andre Daven as producer, Marcel Achard as writer and Jean Gabin in the lead role; Universal Pictures; David O. Selznick while he was at M-G-M; and RKO-Radio Pictures. The PCA continually rejected the novel as material for a screenplay because of the "manner in which the subject of adultery is justified and condoned" and because of the main character's illicit "attitude toward his marriage and the conventions of society." In 1941, David L. Loew and Albert Lewin purchased the screen rights to the novel ... More Less

The film opens with the following prologue: "This is the story of Charles Strickland, the painter, whose career has created so much discussion. It is not our purpose to defend him." Although the print viewed was in black and white, original release prints began in black and white, graduated to sepia, and then changed to Technicolor for the final scenes showing "Dr. Coutras" discovering "Strickland's" paintings. Opening credits included the following: "Technical Advice and Dances by Devi Dja and her Bali-Java Dancers," and "Adapted and Directed by Albert Lewin."
       News items and information in the MPAA/PCA Files at the AMPAS Library reveal that after its publication in 1919, various production companies considered producing a film based on W. Somerset Maugham's novel The Moon and Sixpence , which was loosely based on the life of nineteenth-century artist Paul Gauguin, who was renowned for his colorful paintings of Tahitian life.
       Among those interested at various times in producing the story were Warner Bros., which purchased the rights to the novel in 1919 and anticipated casting Edward G. Robinson in the lead; director Harry Lachman, who planned to produce the film in France with Andre Daven as producer, Marcel Achard as writer and Jean Gabin in the lead role; Universal Pictures; David O. Selznick while he was at M-G-M; and RKO-Radio Pictures. The PCA continually rejected the novel as material for a screenplay because of the "manner in which the subject of adultery is justified and condoned" and because of the main character's illicit "attitude toward his marriage and the conventions of society." In 1941, David L. Loew and Albert Lewin purchased the screen rights to the novel from M-G-M and proposed a treatment of the story which "will be told by a narrator, who will be the voice for morality and will condemn the hero's various derelictions. Mr. Lewin also plans to indicate that the wife divorces Strickland and that he marries the native girl in Tahiti. The adulterous relationship with Mrs. Stroeve in the middle of the story will be treated with the proper compensating moral values, including Mrs. Stroeve's death by suicide, as punishment. In the end, the hero will die of leprosy, as in the book." By Jan 1942, the screenplay was approved by the PCA, although certain alterations were made.
       In Feb 1942, author W. Somerset Maugham sent Albert Lewin a letter lauding his interpretation of the novel: "I consider it a brilliant piece of work. Your treatment seems to me not only ingenious but highly original, and if it results in a successful picture, I believe you achieve something very like a revolution in the picture industry for having produced a highly adult piece of work and adhered very honestly to the theme of the story. I cannot imagine that a novel could be adapted in a better way."
       Despite the filmmakers' and PCA's attempts to make the story morally acceptable, the PCA received a letter from the Roman Catholic Legion of Decency which exclaimed that "this picture antecedent to revisions left the over-all impression of the justification of the immoral acts of the main character....Also in this film there is another matter of grave concern which veritably clamors for explanation. The picture contains shots of the paintings of nude and semi-nude figures." The PCA responded by noting that the print viewed by the Legion of Decency included two alterations that were apparently made after the film was approved by the PCA. These changes included a foreword in which "occurs the expression 'we do not condemn him'"; and the deletion of a monologue in which Herbert Marshall's character makes a moral condemnation of "Strickland." The PCA nonetheless defended the film to the Legion, stating that "the sins are definitely and affirmatively shown to be wrong," and that the paintings were not offensive because "they are crude drawings of primitive men and women, painted by an artist who was blind, or half blind, and whose mind, quite clearly, was impaired."
       A HR news item indicates that Loew and Lewin initially considered Paul Muni for the lead, and had plans for Talbot Jennings to write the adaptation, but Jennings' illness prevented this. According to an article in Life , Paul Gauguin's son Emile threatened to sue United Artists if any of his father's works were used in the film. United Artists therefore enlisted Dolya Goutman to create the paintings seen in the film. The picture marked Albert Lewin's directorial debut. Some modern critics have pointed to the role of Strickland as George Sanders' best performance. Dimitri Tiomkin was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) for the film. In 1951 and 1959, NBC-TV presented televised versions of The Moon and Sixpence , based on Maugham's novel. The 1959 production featured Laurence Olivier in his television debut heading an all-star cast. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
12 Sep 1942.
---
Daily Variety
8 Sep 42
p. 3.
Film Daily
9 Sep 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Mar 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Apr 42
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Apr 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 42
p. 3, 4
Hollywood Reporter
13 Oct 42
p. 2.
Life
14 Sep 42
pp. 51-52.
Los Angeles Examiner
23 Feb 1939.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Aug 1938.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
12 Sep 42
p. 912.
New York Herald Tribune
5 Apr 1942.
---
New York Times
28 Oct 42
p. 26.
Variety
5 Jul 1939.
---
Variety
9 Sep 42
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d unit dir
3rd unit dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Ed supv
SET DECORATORS
Sculpture by
Paintings by
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Sd tech
DANCE
Dances by
and her Bali-Java Dancers
MAKEUP
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Research
Tech adv
Fire seq supv by
STAND INS
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham (London, 1919).
DETAILS
Release Date:
2 October 1942
Premiere Information:
Marchtha's Vineyard, MA premiere: 5 September 1942
Production Date:
16 March--late April 1942
Copyright Claimant:
David L. Loew-Albert Lewin, Inc.
Copyright Date:
29 September 1942
Copyright Number:
LP11753
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black & white with color sequences
Duration(in mins):
88-89
Length(in feet):
7,972
Country:
United States
PCA No:
8564
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

British writer Geoffrey Wolfe recalls the first time he met the infamous painter Charles Strickland: Strickland, a married stockbroker, seems to be a commonplace person, who inexplicably leaves his wife, abandons his children, and moves to Paris to pursue his lifelong dream of being an artist. On Mrs. Strickland's behalf, Geoffrey visits Strickland in his rundown apartment in Paris, but is unable to convince the egotist to return to England. Several years after Strickland's divorce, Geoffrey visits another artist friend in Paris, Dutchman Dirk Stroeve, and meets Blanche, Dirk's new wife. Dirk, a sweet-natured but uninspired artist, avows that Strickland is a genius, despite the fact that Strickland continually insults him. Geoffrey soon finds that Strickland is completely destitute but shows no interest in selling or exhibiting his brilliant work. At Christmas-time, Dirk brings Strickland to his home to convalesce from pneumonia, despite the protests of Blanche, who feels threatened by the arrogant artist. Blanche becomes a devoted nurse, however, and although Strickland is ungrateful, she leaves her husband for him when he recovers. Strickland, who is only interested in her as a model, soon deserts her. Blanche commits suicide, and while devastated by the circumstances, Dirk is so moved by Strickland's talent that he invites him to return to Holland with him. Strickland unkindly rejects his offer, but gives him a painting of Blanche as a gift. Many years later, Geoffrey goes to Tahiti, where the artist had moved from Paris, to further research the book he is now writing about Strickland. Geoffrey learns from a talkative British local about Strickland's final years: In Tahiti, Strickland marries a young island native named Ata at the urging of ... +


British writer Geoffrey Wolfe recalls the first time he met the infamous painter Charles Strickland: Strickland, a married stockbroker, seems to be a commonplace person, who inexplicably leaves his wife, abandons his children, and moves to Paris to pursue his lifelong dream of being an artist. On Mrs. Strickland's behalf, Geoffrey visits Strickland in his rundown apartment in Paris, but is unable to convince the egotist to return to England. Several years after Strickland's divorce, Geoffrey visits another artist friend in Paris, Dutchman Dirk Stroeve, and meets Blanche, Dirk's new wife. Dirk, a sweet-natured but uninspired artist, avows that Strickland is a genius, despite the fact that Strickland continually insults him. Geoffrey soon finds that Strickland is completely destitute but shows no interest in selling or exhibiting his brilliant work. At Christmas-time, Dirk brings Strickland to his home to convalesce from pneumonia, despite the protests of Blanche, who feels threatened by the arrogant artist. Blanche becomes a devoted nurse, however, and although Strickland is ungrateful, she leaves her husband for him when he recovers. Strickland, who is only interested in her as a model, soon deserts her. Blanche commits suicide, and while devastated by the circumstances, Dirk is so moved by Strickland's talent that he invites him to return to Holland with him. Strickland unkindly rejects his offer, but gives him a painting of Blanche as a gift. Many years later, Geoffrey goes to Tahiti, where the artist had moved from Paris, to further research the book he is now writing about Strickland. Geoffrey learns from a talkative British local about Strickland's final years: In Tahiti, Strickland marries a young island native named Ata at the urging of jovial matchmaker, hotel proprietress Tiara Johnson. Having at last found sincere happiness with Ata, Strickland is stricken with leprosy. Ata insists on remaining by his side through the debilitating illness, although she is stoned by ignorant locals who fear that the disease will spread. Two years later, Dr. Coutras, the physician who initially diagnosed Strickland returns because he has heard that Strickland is dying. Coutras arrives after Strickland's death, but sees the painter's final works, which he later describes as sublime, lovely and cruel masterpieces, some painted by Strickland after he had gone blind. Ata, overcome by grief, fulfills her husband's dying wish that she burn the hut in which his paintings are contained, and the last of his genius disappears forever. +

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

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