Of Human Bondage

  • 1964
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

This third version of Somerset Maugham's autobiographical story is clearly the least successful, marred by production troubles and the miscasting of the leads. This time Harvey is the clubfoot who turns to medicine after failing as an artist. He leaves Paris for Edwardian England, where he begins his studies and meets Novak. This coarse cockney waitress...read more

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This third version of Somerset Maugham's autobiographical story is clearly the least successful, marred by production troubles and the miscasting of the leads. This time Harvey is the clubfoot who turns to medicine after failing as an artist. He leaves Paris for Edwardian England, where he

begins his studies and meets Novak. This coarse cockney waitress becomes the great passion of Harvey's life. Although impressed by his social standing, Novak rejects his love and marries another man. Soon after, Harvey takes up with writer McKenna (in a solid performance) and, under her guidance,

returns wholeheartedly to his studies. But this romance is short-lived, as Novak returns to his life pregnant and alone. She moves in with Harvey and, after the child is born, takes up with Harvey's close friend, Hedley. When Harvey finds out, he confronts Novak. The two argue, and Novak admits

that her only interest in Harvey has been the financial support he provides; his clubfoot arouses repugnance. Once again, Novak leaves, and Harvey throws himself back into his work. He takes his internship at a hospital, where he meets Livesey and daughter Newman. His life at last appears to be

headed in a solid direction, but once more he is brought low by Novak. When he hears the woman has become a low-class hooker, he finds the object of his obsession working in a bawdy house, her once-fiery personality now subdued by time and experience. Harvey takes Novak and her child away from the

brothel, resettling them in his apartment. Once more Novak treats Harvey's kindness with disdain. She trashes his apartment and then walks out. Novak returns to street life only to see her child die. Then she contracts syphilis and, ironically, ends up in the clinic at which Harvey treats the poor

and indigent. Here she dies in her spurned benefactor's arms. Harvey honors Novak's final wish by giving her a grand funeral. Broken by the events he has been subjected to in London, he decides to return to Paris and once again take up a career in art. As he prepares to leave, he is surprised to

see Newman standing above him--still in love with him despite his tragic obsession with Novak.

As the doomed pair, Novak and Harvey are passable but little more than that. Harvey looks too old for the role and fails to give his character much life, while Novak, although making a valiant attempt, never conveys enough passion to make her role believable. Further denying any dramatic potential

is Forbes' unispired adaptation of Maugham's novel. Rather than probe the psychological makeup of the characters, the script consistently focuses on superficial motivations with all the emotional intensity of a high-school drama-society production. Hathaway began as director but wisely bowed out

shortly after production was begun. Forbes then tackled the job of directing his own work (he also appears in a minor nonspeaking role). Eventually, Hughes finished the film, resulting in simple, straightforward storytelling--which probably suited the material best, considering the quality of the

script and the abilities of the cast. Any elaborate stylizing could have turned a mediocre picture into a turkey.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This third version of Somerset Maugham's autobiographical story is clearly the least successful, marred by production troubles and the miscasting of the leads. This time Harvey is the clubfoot who turns to medicine after failing as an artist. He leaves Par… (more)

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