The Razor's Edge (1946)

The Razor's Edge
Gene Tierney and Tyrone Power

'The Razor's Edge' is a moving and inspiring melodrama released in 1946 and directed by Edmund Goulding. The high quality cast includes Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, and Herbert Marshall. It is based on the popular 1944 novel by Somerset Maugham and deals sympathetically with such adult themes as the meaning of life, alcoholism, psychic healing, and differences in society.

The movie was nominated for four Academy Awards for the year 1946 including the Best Picture Award but lost out to the excellent post-war drama, 'The Best Years of Our Lives'. Anne Baxter won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. The two unsuccessful nominations were for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White and Clifton Webb for the Best Supporting Actor Award.

The movie was a major commercial success, breaking all previous Fox box office records. earning $5 million and becoming Fox's biggest hit up to that time.


We see the action through the eyes of the author, Somerset Maugham, who appears throughout the movie, played by Herbert Marshall.

Tyrone Power plays Larry Darrell, a well-to-do Chicagoan, who decides to travel the world to find himself and to seek enlightenment. He breaks off his engagement to social butterfly, Isabel, played by Gene Tierney and travels to Europe and India.

Isabel, in the meantime, marries Larry's friend, Gray, and raises a family. We meet her uncle, Elliott Templeton, played by Clifton Webb, who is a complete snob and gradually, throughout the film, our view of the lovely Isabel changes, as we realise she is pursuing the wrong dreams. Larry, on the other hand, finds himself and is the more content of the two.


Somerset Maugham sold the film rights to 20th Century Fox in March 1945, for $50000 plus 20% of the film's net profits Filming began in August, 1945 in the mountains around Denver, Colorado, which portrayed the Himalayas in the film. At that time the main stars had not been cast and Larry's part was shot in long shot using a stand-in.

George Cukor was originally assigned to direct, but was fired because he and Darryl F. Zanuck interpreted the role of Larry differently. Cukor thought he should be more spiritual and Zanuck opted for a more practical approach.

Edmund Goulding had just finished another Somerset Maugham picture, 'Of Human Bondage' and had several top movies to his name including 'Grand Hotel' in 1932, 'The Dawn Patrol' in1938 and 'Dark Victory' in 1939 with Bette Davis. Goulding was a musician and wrote two songs for the film, one for Isabel (Isabel's Waltz) and one for Sophie (Sophie's Theme). It was Sophie's Theme, under the alternate title Mam'selle that became a popular hit.

Joan Fontaine, Olivia de Havilland, and Maureen O'Hara were all considered for the role of Isabel. Betty Grable, and Judy Garland were offered the role of Sophie, but turned it down as too depressing.

Zanuck wanted Tyrone Power from the start and delayed casting until Power's military service in the Marines ended in January, 1946.

When Maugham wrote the book, the thought of leaving home to seek enlightenment in the East was far-fetched, to say the least. By the time of Maugham's death in 1965, taking time out to find oneself had become an accepted and popular journey made by thousands of young people every year. This was Maugham's final flirtation with Hollywood. His early draft of the screenplay was not used in the final script, and as a result Maugham declined Zanuck's request to write a sequel. He never worked in Hollywood again.

Main Cast

Tyrone Power ... Larry Darrell
Gene Tierney ... Isabel Bradley
John Payne ... Gray Maturin
Anne Baxter ... Sophie MacDonald
Clifton Webb ... Elliott Templeton
Herbert Marshall ... W. Somerset Maugham
Lucile Watson ... Louisa Bradley
Frank Latimore ... Bob MacDonald
Elsa Lanchester ... Miss Keith
Cecil Humphreys ... the Holy Man
Fritz Kortner ... Kosti
Ted Billings ... Miner (uncredited)
Eugene Borden ... Sea Captain (uncredited)
Reed Hadley ... Party Waiter (voice, uncredited)


Director ... Edmund Goulding
Producer ... Darryl F. Zanuck
Distribution Company ... 20th Century Fox
Screenplay ... Lamar Trotti
Story ... From the novel by Somerset Maugham
Original Music ... Alfred Newman, Edmund Goulding (uncredited)
Cinematography ... Arthur C. Miller
Format ... B & W
Release date(s) ... December 25, 1946
Running time ... 145 minutes

Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Supporting Actress … Anne Baxter
3 Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture … 20th Century-Fox
Best Supporting Actor … Clifton Webb
Best Art Direction (Black and White) … Richard Day