Lot 89
Sold for US$ 36,600 inc. premium
Lot Details
Collection of 25 Autograph Letters Signed, 9 Typed Letters Signed, and 1 Photograph Inscribed, variously signed (usually "Willie", some in initials), totaling 40 pp, various sizes, various places, 1933-1963, all but 3 letters to GEORGE CUKOR, overall excellent condition. Plus one Typed Letter Signed from Alan Searle, Maugham's companion.

Three decades of correspondence between Somerset Maugham and George Cukor including MUCH FROM THE MID-1940S REGARDING THE PRODUCTION OF RAZOR'S EDGE. Maugham's letters are friendly and vivacious, filled with references to their collaborations, details of Maugham's extensive travels and notices of both of their professional achievements. The first letter, March 1933, refers to their first film together, Our Betters: "I am now writing to you to congratulate you on the success of the Screen version of 'Our Betters'. It has not yet been my good fortune to see the film but judging by a large number of the notices I have seen it is the first film ever made which cannot bring a tear to the author."
In one of the longest letters, from November 1944, Maugham has recently returned from a trip to California: "The slippers I stole from you have also been much admired. Norah, my cook, said: 'Well, Mr Maugham you did get something out of Hollywood, those slippers you used to wear were a disgrace.'" He gives a long discussion of his work-in-progress, the story "The Door of Opportunity": "I shall start the story with the story. You won't understand this, but take it from me it does mean something. Also I shall start it much later in the world's history, in fact about the beginning of the war. I would also slightly change the character of my hero. I would make him & the heroine arrive at Bristol where they put up for the night at a hotel & when she has told him she is going to leave him there is an air. raid. She is scared, but he refuses to go down to the shelter & while it goes on (the air. raid) plays the piano."
About a week later, Maugham expresses his keen disappointment that Cukor will not be able to direct the screen version of Maugham's work The Razor's Edge: "I can't tell you how distressed I am. After all, you know the subject by heart, & have put an immense amount of work into it; no one can possibly give the direction to the picture that you can. And besides, for some obscure psychological reason for which I can find no scientific justification, I like you. And god knows why, I esteem & admire you into the bargain." Two letters follow, to the screenwriter LAMAR TROTTI, who wrote the final version of Razor's Edge.
Nearly a year later, Darryl Zanuck is ready to start production on Razor's Edge: "It may interest you to know that Zanuck has sent me the final version of our old Razor. He wired to me that as you were not to be had(!) he had got Edmund Goulding. I read the script. He has in fact reverted to Trotti's original version & inserted the scenes that you & I cut out. As they were of their combined invention I am not surprised that they thought highly of them. In order to improve Larry's part he has given him the scene at the end between Isabel & M. Of course it is completely out of character" and continued kvetching, but he winds down, "I cabled to Zanuck to say that I thought the script first rate because it seemed to me that as they were going to do it as it now stands it was better that they should do it with conviction of its excellence...." And in February 1947, "I shall never cease to regret that you were not able to direct [Razor's Edge]. Still I am told that it is a great success and I suppose I ought to console myself with that."
Later letters discuss Greta Garbo (having met her, Maugham wishes he could write a role for her).
See illustration.
  1. Catherine Williamson
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