Monday, September 3, 2012

Transced* (for Transcend*)

"The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard..."—taken from a verse in the sacred Hindu text the Upanishads. I caught the 1946 film adaptation of the book The Razor's Edge on TCM the other day and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As did guest programmer Drew Barrymore, who thanked host Robert Osborne (he claimed it was one of his top three all-time favorite films) for introducing her to it. (I myself had my good friend, and classic movie fan, P. to thank for the fortunate heads-up.) The book, written by W. Somerset Maugham, traces the spiritual voyage and search for transcendence undertaken by World War I veteran Larry Darrell. Larry is played by Tyrone Power in the movie, which also features Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, and Herbert Marshall as Somerset Maugham. Like life itself, this story has got it all: love, death, personal identity, travel abroad, romantic entanglements, societal expectations, drinking problems, and the quest for God. And it's wonderfully written, expertly directed (by Joseph L. Mankiewicz), and beautifully acted to boot. According to some, the protagonist was based on another prominent author, Christopher Isherwood, who nevertheless repudiated the link in the pages of Time magazine. Maugham was a highly regarded author and travel writer with an unusual empathy for women and their sexual natures. He is perhaps best known for the semi-autobiographical novel Of Human Bondage, which was made into a film starring Bette Davis and Leslie Howard in 1934. The typo Transced* was found 16 times in OhioLINK, and 426 times in WorldCat.

(Cover of The Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham, 1946 paperback edition, Triangle Books, from Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

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