Razor's Edge [1984]

The Somerset Maugham novel should be read by everybody at a certain age (say, early twenties), and this 1946 movie adaptation of The Razor's Edge stays faithful to the book's questing spirit. Despite its apparently uncommercial storyline, it was a pet project of Fox honcho Darryl F. Zanuck, who saw the spiritual journey of Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power) as an "adventure" movie. Power, who was newly returned to Hollywood after his military service in World War I, does his most soul-searching work as the WWI vet who needs to find something in life deeper than money and conformity. The search takes him away from fiancee Gene Tierney and her skeptical uncle Clifton Webb and into Parisian streets and Himalayan mountain ranges. Herbert Marshall deftly plays the role of "Somerset Maugham," the observing author, and Anne Baxter picked up the supporting actress Oscar for her brassy turn as a floozy. The picture has the careful, glossy look of the studio system's peak years (you can sense Zanuck "classing it up" and squeezing the life out of it), and Edmund Goulding's tasteful approach is hardly the way to dig deep into the soul of man. If it seems a little staid today, its square sincerity nevertheless holds up well--and it just looks so fabulous. The really amazing thing about the movie is that it was made at all. A 1984 remake, with Bill Murray, is an extremely weird variation on the material. --Robert Horton

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