Four of W. Somerset Maugham’ short stories make up this 1948 British anthology film; each part introduced by the author. The format proved successful to the extent that the film was followed by sequels Trio (1950) and Encore (1951).
Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne appear in the first story, 'Facts of Life', as two friends Henry Garnet and Leslie. The two try to advise and guide Henry’s son, Nicky (played by Jack Watling) before he heads off to France to play in a tennis tournament. Despite the advice given to him by Radford and Wayne’s characters about avoiding gambling and women, he ends up firstly in a casino winning at roulette and then subsequently in a hotel room with troublesome Jeanne. Despite her taking his money, which he soon recovers, he ends up profiting from the predicaments – all very infuriating for his father. The film features Mai Zetterling as the beautiful Jeanne; and Angela Baddeley as Mrs Garnet, who later had success as the cook Mrs Bridges in Upstairs, Downstairs
'Alien Corn', starts Dirk Bogarde and Honor Blackman. Directed by Harold French, the plot is about country gentry who share the usual pre-occupations of hunting, shooting and fishing. Bogarde’s character, George Bland, decides that rather than becoming a solicitor or going into politics he will study to become a concert pianist. His cousin, Paul played by Honor Blackman, finds a compromise solution whereby he is to study music in France for two years before he will be judged on his suitability for a career in music. On completing the two years of study, he is judged not to be up to scratch. Shortly after he is found dead – what is an accident or was it suicide. The film closes with the coroner’s jury determining accidental death, since, in the words of the plainspoken foreman, the jurors cannot accept that a gentleman such as the deceased would have killed himself "just 'cause he couldn't play piano good."
The third short is 'The Kite' recounting a young mans passion for the sport of kite flying and how it endangers his marriage. George Cole stars alongside Susan Shaw. His doting parents are Mervyn Johns and Hermione Baddley.
'The Colonels Lady' is the final tale. A colonel's quiet wife writes a book of poetry under a pseudonym but is soon exposed. Her husband pretends that he has read the book but is surprised when friend’s tells him that it is "not suitable for children" and that it has "naked, earthy passion". The book is a success and sells "like hot-cakes," becoming the talk of the town. Even the colonel's mistress has an interest in it. After hearing how "sexy" the book is, the colonel asks his mistress to borrow her copy. She explains to him that the book is about a middle-aged woman having an affair with a younger man who subsequently dies. The mistress says it is so vivid that it must be based on a real experience. The colonel, tortured by the implications, confronts his wife and she explains that the passion is based on her love for him and that she blames herself for the "death" of that love. They end in an embrace.
Here is an extract of great review of Quartet published in The New York Times on 25th March 1949. For the full review, click the link below:
Quartet (1948) March 29, 1949 THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; ' Quartet,' British Film Based on Somerset Maugham Stories, New Feature at Sutton By BOSLEY CROWTHER Published: March 29, 1949
The suave illumination of British middle-class types which has been so successfully accomplished by W. Somerset Maugham in his tales is matched in the motion-picture versions of four Maugham short stories, assembled in the British film "Quartet," which opened at the Sutton last night.
Usually, pictures in which several short stories or vignettes are strung together to make a feature take their character and effect from the cleverness of the surprises achieved at the ends of the tales. Surprise is the usual intention of the modern short story, anyhow. But in this film the unexpected—or the "twist," as they say—is not as marked as the studied and searching illustration of personality.