Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Trio ( 1950 ) - The Sanatorium

During my school years, William Somerset Maugham was one of my favorite authors. He is famous for his novels "The Razor's Edge", "The Moon and Sixpence" and "Of Human Bondage", but he was also an excellent short story writer and many of his best works were short stories. 

In 1948, Gainsborough Studios decided to film a selection of these stories as an anthology film. It was called Quartet and included the tales "The Facts of Life", "Alien Corn", "The Kite", and "The Colonel's Lady". These were excellent adaptations and because they were so entertaining and so well received, two more compilations were made: Trio ( 1950 ) and Encore ( 1951 ). 

Trio included three great stories - "The Verger", the story of a man who climbs to business success not even knowing how to read; "Mr. Know-All", about an obnoxious jewelry dealer who has a change of heart onboard a cruise ship; and the best of the three, "The Sanatorium". This little 45-minute gem shares the stories behind the patients of a rest home in a secluded part of Scotland. 

Most of these patients suffer from tuberculosis and, because of the care they need, have been living at the sanatorium anywhere from two to twenty years. The film focuses on the lives of four of the patients with a particular emphasis on Major Templeton ( Michael Rennie ), the latest arrival. The Major is a hero from battles in British India and is also regarded as quite the ladies' man. He was, and is, a confirmed bachelor. However, the moment he sets his eyes on Evie Bishop ( Jean Simmons ), he desires to not only woo her, but win her as his wife. Miss Bishop has been living at the sanatorium for seven years and, in spite of the lack of social entertainment and companions her own age, is cheerful, confident, and quite flirtatious. Bishop, however, shows very little interest in Templeton at first and it is only slowly that he gains her admiration - and love. 
Roland Culver stars as Mr. Ashedon, sort of the narrator of the story. We come to know the inhabitants of the sanatorium through his eyes and his astute observations of them. He is particularly interested in Mr. Chester ( Raymond Huntley ) and the way he treats his wife when she comes for her monthly visits. For a man who looks forward to seeing his wife as eagerly as Mr. Chester does, Ashedon wonders why he behaves so rudely and indifferent to her when she finally arrives. 

Then there is Campbell ( John Laurie ) and MacLeod ( Finlay Currie ), the two fighting Scotsmen. They are constantly at each other's throats over their game of chess and yet are very dear companions. 
The Sanatorium is beautifully filmed by Geoffrey Unsworth and features a stunning array of English character actors. The episode is filled with so many wonderful details and subtle interchanges between these characters. These really shine when seen over multiple viewings ( the segment's short length lends itself easily to this ), but it is the romance between Major Templeton and Miss Bishop that I find so very entertaining. Both are independent spirits who have no interest in getting involved in marriage and yet, when they find out the state of their health, it is marriage that instantly comes to the forefront of their thoughts. 

Jean Simmons was such a talented actress, even as a child, and, in spite of her youthful appearance, always acted with a maturity beyond her years. When The Sanatorium was filmed, she was twenty years old and never looked more beautiful. Simmons was often cast in films with a contemporary setting but she was so well-suited for these period films, possessing the beauty of Edwardian women.

Her character, Miss Bishop, is both independent and headstrong and yet demure and gentle, and Simmons brings out both of these qualities excellently. It is easy to see why Major Templeton is so quickly taken by her charms. 

Unfortunately, Trio is not yet available on DVD in the United States, but it is available in PAL format through Network DVD both independently and as part of the three-film W. Somerset Maugham collection

This review is my contribution to the 90 Years of Jean Simmons Blogathon running today through January 31st. It is being hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies, so be sure to head over to either of these sites to read more Jean Simmons film reviews!


  1. You described the films and this segment so beautifully that I long to see them. A lovely tribute to the era of filmmaking and to Jean Simmons.

  2. I think actresses like Jean Simmons and Teresa Wright sometimes get overshadowed by their contemporary Jennifer Jones. And yet I prefer Simmons to Jones. As you say, she looks so beautiful in this film. And she is talented in a way that doesn't rely on her looks and doesn't require showy acting.

  3. I want to see that! I hope I'll be able to find it. You make it sounds delightful with your great review. Actually I think I saw a few clips when I was editing my video tribute to Jean Simmons a few years ago, but I really had no idea what the story was about. Thanks so much for participating to our blogathon!

  4. This is exactly the sort of movie I would love! Onto the TBW list it goes.

    1. I hope you do get a chance to see it, I just found it very enjoyable. Here is the link to the movie on Youtube ( it's not very clear ) but it's accessible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SweR7qwEMxo&t=4409s Stop back here and share your thoughts about the film after you've had a chance to watch it. :-)

    2. Thanks for providing the YouTube link! As I was reading your fab essay, I was longing to see this film.

  5. This sounds sooo good!!! I've enjoyed several anthology films over the past year and I hope I get the chance to see this one one day! Thanks for participating in the blogathon and bringing this film to my attention!

  6. Very good post! I loved this post abput movies. More posts must be written like this. It is good to see that people write this nowadays.