The End of the Affair
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEdward Dmytryk
Screenplay byLenore Coffee
Based onThe End of the Affair
by Graham Greene
Produced byDavid Lewis
Starring
CinematographyWilkie Cooper
Edited byAlan Osbiston
Music byBenjamin Frankel
Color processBlack and white
Production
company
Coronado Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • 24 February 1955 (1955-02-24) (London)
  • May 1955 (1955-05) (United States)
Running time
106 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
LanguageEnglish

The End of the Affair is a 1955 British-American drama romance film directed by Edward Dmytryk, based on Graham Greene's 1951 novel of the same name. The film stars Deborah Kerr, Van Johnson, John Mills and Peter Cushing. It was filmed largely on location in London, particularly in and around Chester Terrace. The film was entered into the 1955 Cannes Film Festival.[1]

Plot

Writer Maurice Bendrix settles in London in 1943-44 after being wounded in the war. His affair with Sarah Miles, wife of civil servant Henry Miles, “grows into a deep and abiding passion”. Maurice becomes jealous. He wants to marry, but she won't leave Henry, yet.

The house Maurice lives in is hit by a buzz bomb. He revives, pulls himself from rubble to find Sarah kneeling on the floor of his room. “You. Oh God, Maurice, You're alive!” she cries. As she tends the wounds on his face, he asks why she was kneeling. She was praying. She was certain he was dead. He says he wasn't pinned down, and describes “such an odd sensation...a terrific sense of space and distance, like I'd been on a long journey.” She stares at him, her face wet with tears, then leaves abruptly. “Will I see you tomorrow?” he asks. “I don't know... It may not be safe,” she says. “Don't look so frightened, love doesn't end because we don't see each other.” She shuts the door and he runs after her to find the street empty. Maurice suffers from delayed shock and is bedridden for several days. When he recovers, he tries to reach Sarah, in vain, and his “jealousy turns to hate”.

A year later, the war is over. Maurice struggles with his book and his hate for Sarah. One rainy night, he sees Henry: “It was as if a hand plucked at my elbow...and said ‘speak to him'.” Henry is worried about Sarah, and invites Maurice home for a drink. Sarah, who "is out at all hours," returns home soaking wet, and is vague and detached with both of them.

Maurice confronts Sarah, who takes all the blame. Parkis, a private investigator, reports to Maurice in the darkened flat. He describes Maurice's meeting with Sarah in detail, interpreting it as a final parting and describing Sarah as “looking ready to weep her eyes out.” Maurice reveals himself, saying the parting was long ago.

Sarah has been visiting an R. Smythe. Parkis has the bottom of a discarded note in Sarah's handwriting that ends “nothing matters except that we should be together, now and forever.” Parkis obtains Sarah's journal, observing that she appears to be very ill.

Maurice reads the journal. We hear Sarah's voice describing the past year. Maurice lies in the rubble, under a door. She takes his hand, then returns to the apartment. Weeping, she prays: "I love him, I'll do anything...“I'll give Maurice up forever, only just let him be alive!” Maurice calls her name. She plans to tell him about her "hysterical" promise, but then he seems to remember what it was like to be dead. “Now the agony of being without you starts," she writes. Sarah confides in a Catholic priest. At home, Henry tells her that Maurice has been taken to hospital with delayed shock...

The war ends, and suddenly Sarah wants Maurice beside her. She returns to the priest. “Now that I'm what they call good I'm no good to anyone. What does God want with me?” She lights a candle and for the first time in months feels “a little tremble of happiness.” At home, she finds Maurice with Henry. It took “everything she had” to walk up the stairs. She writes a love letter, records it in the diary and tears it up, creating the scrap of paper Partridge found.

She tells her friend, Richard Smythe, that she is going back to Maurice because she believes that God will love her even if she breaks her vow. But when Henry tells her how much he needs her, she promises not to leave him. The diary ends with a cry of pain and love for Maurice. He closes the journal and phones her.

She begs him not to come. He pursues her to the church, through pouring rain, promising they will be together. Maurice comes to the house and finds Sarah is dying.

At home, he finds a letter from Sarah: She can never see him again. She has never loved as she loves him. She believes. “Have it your way Sarah.” Maurice says. “ I believe that you live and that He exists. But I'm tired. Just give me a little time...”[2]

Cast

Reception

The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther had harsh words for Lenore Coffee’s adaptation of the novel. “It is too bad the drama is so muddy, for the cast is good for this film. Miss Kerr is ideal for the lady and Van Johnson is apt for the man. Peter Cushing as the lady's cryptic husband and John Mills as a jaunty private-eye are also exceedingly potential in the only other fair-size roles. But the story just is not articulate, so no matter how diligently and well Edward Dmytryk has directed, it all comes out cluttered and cold."[3]

Release

Home media

This film was released on DVD on 16 May 2000. The DVD contains both the 1955 and 1999[4] adaptations of the novel, together with supporting material about their making.

References

  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The End of the Affair". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
  2. ^ The film ends here. The novel continues to describe the sometimes-miraculous circumstances Maurice encounters on his journey to faith.
  3. ^ Crowther, Bosley (29 April 1955). "Screen: 'End of the Affair'; Deborah Kerr, Johnson Play the Lovers (Published 1955)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  4. ^ "The End of the Affair (1999)". BFI.

Further reading