Somerset Maugham and the Cinema

Univ. of Wisconsin. Feb. 2024. 275p. ISBN 9780299346201. $79.95. FILM
Calder (emeritus, English, Univ. of Saskatchewan; A Hero for the Americas) examines Hollywood adaptations of the works of W. Somerset Maugham (1874–1965), who was one of the most widely read authors of the first half of the 20th century. His prolific output included nearly 20 novels, 32 plays, more than 100 short stories, and several nonfiction works, often centered on the strains and stresses on society and the individual. He never ventured into screenwriting, but his popular works were highly sought by film producers, although the subject matter (sex; marital infidelity) often hotly conflicted with the film industry’s Hays Code. Calder examines the Maugham adaptations—there were at least 39 between 1920 and 1960—and discusses how screenwriters had to revise the stories to appease the censors. One of Maugham’s most famous short stories, “Rain,” about a missionary’s determination to reform a sex worker, was adapted three times, with Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford, and Rita Hayworth in the starring role. There’s also the Bette Davis–starring The Letter and recent adaptions of The Painted Veil and Being Julia.
VERDICT Comprehensive and admirably researched, this is a welcome addition to literature and cinema studies collections.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing