Of Human Bondage

  • 1946
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

In the second film version of W. Somerset Maugham's novel, Henreid stars as the doctor-artist crippled by both his physical problem and intense self-pity. Henreid's miserable life is interrupted by Smith, a novelist, but it is another woman, waitress Parker, with whom he becomes obsessed. His interest in the brash, crude woman grows into an attraction beyond...read more

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In the second film version of W. Somerset Maugham's novel, Henreid stars as the doctor-artist crippled by both his physical problem and intense self-pity. Henreid's miserable life is interrupted by Smith, a novelist, but it is another woman, waitress Parker, with whom he becomes obsessed.

His interest in the brash, crude woman grows into an attraction beyond his understanding, an overwhelming obsession that soon dominates all he does. Parker in turn mistreats Henreid and grows more sadistically abusive as their relationship develops. Eventually they reach a self-destructive

conclusion and Henreid meets a new love interest, Paige, the daughter of bohemian Gwenn.

Receiving a mixed critical reaction at the time of release, the second telling of this London-based story has both its strong and weak points. Henreid and Parker do admirable jobs, though they certainly don't match Leslie Howard or Bette Davis in the first version filmed 12 years before. The

production was fraught with troubles. In his autobiography, Ladies Man, Henreid described the shooting as a series of problems resulting from director Goulding's shooting methods. Taking Turney's original screenplay, Goulding decided to rewrite over the course of shooting, changing what Henreid

felt was already a fine work. The two also disagreed over motivations for Henreid's character. Henreid described Goulding's methods as "childish," and, although he tried to hide his animosity from the director, bad feelings emerged between the two that lasted throughout production. Goulding was

also a firm believer in the long take and never shot closeups or other inserts to cover himself. As a result if a take didn't work the entire shot would have to be redone, causing delays and adding to the film's budget. Producer Blanke grew more frantic about these escalations and sought Henreid's

help in putting an end to them. "I finally agreed to fluff my lines whenever I thought the take was too long," the actor recalled. "This would force Goulding to stop the shot and go back to a point before my fluff and reshoot. The camera angle was usually somewhat changed and it would force a cut

at that point unless he was willing to reshoot the entire take. He had sense enough not to try that." The initial screening of the final product showed a film that could prove to be a box-office disaster, for Henreid's attempts to add variety in the shots were only partially successful. Henreid

then got the bright idea of using an optical bench, one of the new devices available to filmmakers, which was capable of pulling closeups and medium shots out of a master shot. With the encouragement of friend Lew Wasserman, Henreid went over a shooting script penning down the moments he felt some

shot variations would improve the film. "The next morning," wrote the actor, "I gave my notes to Lew and to my amazement [he] memorized all the changes in half an hour. `This way,' he assured me, `Blanke is going to think the changes came from me, not you--and I believe he'll put them in, at least

I hope to hell he will!"' Indeed, Blanke not only bought the changes wholeheartedly but informed Henreid that these changes had been a brainstorm of his! The results were not bad, giving dramatic life to what could have been a disaster. Though by no means a great picture, the second version of OF

HUMAN BONDAGE is certainly an entertaining one.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: In the second film version of W. Somerset Maugham's novel, Henreid stars as the doctor-artist crippled by both his physical problem and intense self-pity. Henreid's miserable life is interrupted by Smith, a novelist, but it is another woman, waitress Parke… (more)

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