Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Moon and Sixpence

TCM will be marking the birth anniversary of George Sanders tomorrow with a morning and afternoon of his movies. One that I've never recommended before is The Moon and Sixpence, which is coming on tomorrow morning at 11:15 AM.

George Sanders stars as Charles Strickland, who at the start of the movie is a stockbroker living in Victorian London with his wife and kids, and friends with writer Geoffrey Wolfe (Herbert Marshall). However, what Strickland would really like to do is be an artist. So one day, he just gets up and runs off to Paris, so that he can be where the action is and away from all the people he knew, who would only serve to distract him from his art! Mrs. Strickland gets word of her husband's presences in Paris, so she sends Geoffrey to go see him and with any luck, Geoffrey can put some sense into Charles and get him to return to England. Yeah, right. Strickland is living in poverty, but he's got passion for art, and he's actually quite good at it, not that commercial success concerns him.

Time passes, and Wolfe returns to Paris, where he finds out that Strickland has a friend! Well, not quite: he's got a man who thinks Charles is a friend, but Charles doesn't give a damn either way. That man is Dutch artist Dirk Stroeve (Steven Geray) who, like Strickland and a lot of other artists, has moved to Paris with his wife Blanche (Doris Dudley). Dirk doesn't have that much talent himself, but he realizes that Strickland has it in spades, as we already knew. Dirk supports Strickland and even goes so far as to take him in when the state of poverty in which Strickland has been living leads to Strickland's falling seriously ill. Not that Strickland wants the attention, and not that Mrs. Stroeve likes it either.

Eventually, Strickland realizes that the only way he can truly engage his passion for art is to get away from it all by going all the way to the end of the world, which in this case means the South Seas. It's here that Strickland finally meets a woman he can love and who is willing to put up with him, allowing to create art better than he ever had back in Europe. However, it's going to come at the price of his health, as Geoffrey discovers when he goes to the South Seas to discover what ever happened to Strickland....

The Moon and Sixpence is George Sanders' film all the way, and he's excellent. His character is a jerk to everybody around him, but to be fair, a lot of the time he'd really be happier being left alone. People are lavishing attention on him that he never even asked for, and that helps us to be more sympathetic to Strickland. It doesn't hurt either that Sanders was generally quite good at playing the caddish character we like to hate. Everybody else is more than good enough in their supporting roles, although the roles are nothing more than supporting roles. The story, from a novel by Somerset Maugham, is quite good, and the cinematography is interesting, effectively using both sepiatone and for the finale, Technicolor. The Moon and Sixpence deserves to be better remembered than it is, and I'm glad that TCM is showing it again.

Amazon implies that The Moon and Sixpence did get a DVD release at some point, but it looks to be out of print now.

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