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W. Somerset Maugham was born William Somerset Maugham in Paris, France in 1874 at the English Embassy, which made him an English citizen (his parents were English, and his father was a lawyer working at the embassy). He spent his early years in Paris, and French was his first language. His life took a massive downturn when his mother passed away when he was eight, and his father two years later. He was sent back to England to live with a creepy uncle, a Vicar. He was of small stature and spoke English with a stammer, and he was more attracted to boys than girls, all of which made for a miserable adolescence, He wanted to be a writer, but his uncle pushed him into going to medical school, and he went for five years, but when he graduated, he was able to publish a novel, Liza of Lambeth, about the working class Londoners he had lived among while at medical school, and it was very successful, and he was able to quit medicine, and become a full-time writer, first of novels, and then also of many successful plays. Over the years he became one of the most successful and highest paid English writers, and many of his novels and plays were adapted into movies, some more than once. Among these were The Moon and Sixpence (a fictionalized biography of Paul Gauguin), Rain, The Letter, The Painted Veil, Secret Agent, The Razor's Edge, and many more. Most of these movies were very successful, and Maugham was one of first English authors to make huge amounts of money selling the film rights to many of his works. Of course his masterpiece was Of Human Bondage, which clearly is somewhat autobiographical. The novel's central character is clearly Maugham himself (Maugham's stammer is replaced by Philip Carey's club foot), but who was the awful Mildred who wrecks his life? Maugham never told, and she may have in fact been based on a man who the bi-sexual Maugham had a relationship with while in medical school. Maugham's personal life was very messy, for he lived most of it as a closeted gay man who nonetheless married and had a child (although late in life he tried to disinherit her, and leave some of his estate to a gay lover, saying she was not his biological child). Maugham passed away in 1965 at the age of 91. Most of the characters in his works lead very messy lives themselves, and they often carry around terrible secrets, as Maugham himself did. I highly recommend most of the movies based on Maugham's works, but especially the 1934 version of Of Human Bondage, starring Bette Davis (in the most brilliant performance of an incredible career) and Leslie Howard. Because Bette Davis was a Warner Bros star, and because she was "loaned" to RKO to make the movie, Warner executives saw to it that she wasn't even nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. likely the greatest travesty in the history of the Academy Awards! As so often happens, Davis was given the Best Actress Oscar the following year for Dangerous, as a "consolation" prize.
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