Trio (also known as W. Somerset Maugham’s Trio) is a 1950 British anthology film based on three short stories by W. Somerset Maugham: “The Verger”, “Mr. Know-All” and “Sanatorium”. Ken Annakin directed “The Verger” and “Mr. Know-All”, while Harold French was responsible for “Sanatorium”.
Trio is the second of a film trilogy, all consisting of adaptations of Maugham’s stories, preceded by the 1948 Quartet and followed by the 1951 Encore. Production budget of the film was shared by the J. Arthur Rank Organization and Paramount.
The new vicar (Michael Hordern) of St. Peter’s Church is astonished to learn that the long-serving verger, Albert Foreman (James Hayter), is illiterate. When Foreman is too set in his ways to want to learn to read, the vicar feels he has no choice but to sack him.
On the way back to his lodgings, Foreman notices that there is not a tobacconist shop in the area. Needing work, he decides to open one. He also takes the opportunity to propose to his landlady, Emma (Kathleen Harrison). Their fledgling business is so successful that when his stepdaughter’s husband loses his job, Foreman sets up another shop for them to run. Over the next decade, Foreman starts up more and more shops, becoming a wealthy man in the process and depositing his profits at the bank.
The bank manager (Felix Aylmer) recommends that he invest his sizeable savings to get a better return on his money, causing Foreman to reveal that he could not read the necessary papers. The astonished manager exclaims (rhetorically), “What would you be today if you had been able to?” Foreman replies that he would be the verger at St. Peter’s.
Reserved Mr. Gray (Wilfred Hyde-White) finds himself forced to share a cabin on an ocean liner with the loud, opinionated, supremely self-confident gem dealer Max Kelada (Nigel Patrick). Kelada soon dominates all the onboard social gatherings, much to the annoyance of his fellow passengers, who take to calling him “Mr. Know-All” behind his back because of his insistence that he is an expert on all subjects.
One night, he remarks on the fine quality of the pearl necklace worn by the pretty Mrs. Ramsay (Anne Crawford), who has rejoined her husband (Naunton Wayne) after a two-year separation caused by his work. Mr. Ramsay bets him ten pounds that the pearls are fake; Kelada swiftly accepts the wager, despite Mrs. Ramsay’s attempt to call it off. While examining the pearls, Kelada observes that the woman is very uneasy. He then admits that he was wrong and pays Mr. Ramsay.
Afterwards, back in their cabin, Gray and Kelada are surprised when two five-pound banknotes are slipped under their door in an envelope. Gray gets Kelada to tell the truth: the pearls are real and very costly. Kelada adds that he would not have left such an attractive wife alone for that long. Gray begins to warm to his cabin mate.
This segment was based on “Sanatorium”, included in the 1947 collection of Maugham stories Creatures of Circumstance.
Writer Mr. Ashenden (Roland Culver) is sent to a sanatorium for his health. While there, he becomes acquainted with the lives and dramas of the residents. Another newcomer is the scandalous Major George Templeton (Michael Rennie), who admires lovely Evie Bishop (Jean Simmons). Evie has spent years in one sanatorium after another. Ashenden also observes the ongoing feud between longtime patients Mr. Campbell (John Laurie) and Mr. McLeod (Finlay Currie), who delight in making each other’s lives miserable. Finally, Mr. Chester (Raymond Huntley) resents the visits of his loving wife (Betty Ann Davies) because he envies her robust good health.
Tragedy strikes when McLeod dies, depriving Campbell of his enjoyment of life. Meanwhile, George and Evie fall in love; however, doctors warn them that George will hasten his death if they marry and try to enjoy a normal life. Despite the warning, the lovers decide that happiness, no matter how brief, is worth the price and leave the sanatorium. Their example eases Mr. Chester’s bitterness with his own fate and strengthens his love for his wife.