The short story is delightful, littered with Maugham’s clever dialogue and colourful imagery. I love the way he describes the Chinese woman residing with Hammond as being stout with a “broad, phlegmatic face”. Another example is the way Leslie’s face changes when confronted with the letter:
“… as she read a horrible change came over her. Her colourless face grew dreadful to look at. It turned green. The flesh seemed on a sudden to fall away and her skin was tightly stretched over her bones. Her lips receded, showing her teeth, so that she had the appearance of making a grimace.”
The 1940 film directed by William Wyler stars the brilliant Bette Davis at her melodramatic best as the plucky but plain Leslie Crosbie. The black and white cinematography punctuates the atmosphere, with mood lighting through venetian blinds or in the form of shadows from the full moon. The score by Max Steiner swells and flourishes to dramatic effect.
The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards including best picture, director, actress, supporting actor (James Stephenson as Joyce), cinematography, editing and score.