Black & White Anthologies Based on Works of W. Somerset Maugham and O’Henry

Short story anthology films gained a brief period of popularity in the early 1950s, with English writer W. Somerset Maugham’s “Quartet” leading the pack. In this 1948 black and white, Maugham personally introduces four of his noted short stories — The Facts of Life; The Kite; The Alien Corn; and The Colonel’s Lady”.

Quartet: The Facts of Life

In “The Facts of Life”, a young man’s experience in Monte Carlo turns his father’s good advice inside out; “The Kite” keeps us wondering who’s pulling the strings on a young husband’s life, and if that life will ever take flight; in “The Alien Corn”, a young aspiring pianist and heir finds his life out of tune as he climbs toward the ivory heights; and in “The Colonel’s Lady”, a retired, socially active man-of-the-world, becomes desperate to learn the identity of the young Lothario his mousy wife writes so passionately about — in a book of poetry that is racing up the best-seller charts.

O’Henry’s Full House

The success of this short story film was followed by “Trio” in 1950, “Encore” in 1951, and “O’Henry’s Full House” in 1952. O’Henry, of course, is William Sidney Porter. While “Quartet” boasted the personal appearance of W. Somerset Maugham as author and narrator,  O’Henry was narrated on-screen by renowned author John Steinbeck (Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men). This 20th Century Fox compilation was comprised of five O’Henry short stories, each of which involved five different directors and five separate screenplays. In comparison, W. Somerset Maugham’s overall anthology is a toddy with a twist, while O’Henry’s is a Long Island Iced Tea. It seems innocuous enough to begin with but packs a wallop at the end. (Just so you know, I’m not a drinker but I have bartended briefly – with a how-to readily at hand).

O’Henry’s Full House

Both of these films are well worth watching and have garnered some good reviews — both from critics and movie buffs. And if, like me, you enjoy the cultured language of these actors from the early years of film, and the soothing quality of black and white, that’s just an extra bonus.

But, (funny story) I had seen “O’Henry’s Full House” several times, but had never heard of “Quartet” until a blog buddy suggested I see it. However, in a “twist” of my own, the one she suggested was the 2012 “Quartet” directed by Dustin Hoffman, and starring Maggie Smith and had nothing to do with short stories. However, when I pulled the title up on Netflix I got the 1948 anthology instead and just went ahead and watched it. I still  haven’t seen Dustin Hoffman’s “Quartet”.


13 thoughts on “Black & White Anthologies Based on Works of W. Somerset Maugham and O’Henry

  1. I have the 1948 “Quartet” next up in my Netflix queue. I know I’ve read the stories, but now I’m wondering if I HAVE seen “Quartet.” I vividly remember Dirk Bogarde in “The Alien Corn.” It was such a heartbreaking film of thwarted ambition. It made me a fan of Dirk Bogarde. But I don’t recall that it was part of the film “Quartet”. I thought it was a full-length feature film. I’ll know when I get the DVD from Netflix.

    Speaking of Dirk Borgarde, another my favorite movies of his is “The Servant.” Give it a look see if you get a chance. Meanwhile, here’s more about Dirk. He had an interesting life.

      • When I was looking for the 2012 “Quartet” for you at Netflix, I discovered that the one I have in my queue was made in 1981 and isn’t the film of Maughm’s short stories. Where did you get it from, Netflix or streaming? If it’s from, I can watch it for free because I have Prime and streaming movies are free. I could check, too, because I have Hulu Plus and they have tons of old movies.

        When Netflix started charging separately for streaming and DVDs, I opted to go with DVDs. This way Frank can watch them, too. There is no way on earth he’d ever watch a streaming movie on his computer and we’re not set up to watch them on any of the TVs. I LOVE watching DVDs on my computer because I have a wonderful 25″ monitor. I have to be a bit careful about watching too much streaming stuff because with satellite Internet, there are bandwidth restrictions.

      • Quartet is on instant queue on Netflix – streaming. Doesn’t show DVD. We watch these movies on our TV. Mike’s an electronic/mechanic guru who has all our electronic acronyms going and coming in so many directions I can hardly figure anything out when he’s not here. He also claims that machinery doesn’t like me, and I tend to agree. I can jump through hoops to please the gremlins in the circuitry to no avail. They wait for Mike to come in and do the same exact thing, and . . . tadaaa. It works.

      • “Electronic/mechanic guru” perfectly describes Frank, too. I’m pretty good with most technology, but the satellite decoder from DishNetwork has me totally flummoxed. If ANYTHING happens with it that’s unexpected, I yell for help. If anything ever happens to Frank, I’ll have a take a day-long course with our installer to learn how to deal with the beast.

        Signing off now to go watch “Falling Skies.” Lovely chatting with you, as always.

      • No, I don’t remember “The Colonel’s Lady,” or any of the other stories. It’s been MANY years since I read “Quartet.”


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