The End of the Affair (1955)

The End of the Affairaffair poster
Directed by Edward Dmytryck
Written by Lenore J. Coffee from a novel by Graham Greene
1955/UK
Coronado Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant

Sarah Miles: If there is a god, then he put the thought of that prayer in my mind, and I hate him for it.

This movie made me want to read the source novel and see the 1999 remake with Ralph Fiennes.  That’s another way of saying that I thought Van Johnson weakened this version of the story.

The setting is London during the tail end of WWII while V2 rockets are still flying.  Maurice Bendrix (Johnson) is an American war correspondent.  He is writing a novel about the British civiil service and gets friendly with Henry Miles (Peter Cushing) while looking for background.  At a party hosted by the Mileses, he looks in a mirror sees Henry’s wife Sarah (Deborah Kerr) kissing a man.  This leads him to invite her to lunch for more “background” and they begin a love affair.

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The affair is passionate on both sides but Maurice is filled with doubts and jealousy.  Finally, they are able to spend five days alone together while Henry is traveling.  The house is hit by a V2 while Maurice goes off by himself to investigate something.  When he returns after the explosion Sarah flees and thereafter refuses to answer his calls or see him.

It turns out that Sarah thought Maurice had been killed and in her prayer promised God that she would end the affair if he lived.  Sarah is not a churchgoer and the rest of the movie deals with her crisis of faith and Maurice’s bitterness and attempts at reconciliation.

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I was looking forward to this one for the subject matter.  I think Johnson was all wrong for his part.  I never got his attraction for Sarah or his anguish properly.  The movie was a bit more of a melodrama than I was ready for.  It needed some more bite or something.  I’m not sorry I saw it, however.

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8 thoughts on “The End of the Affair (1955)

  1. So glad you saw and enjoyed this too – I liked Johnson in the role more than you did, but agree he wasn’t ideal casting. I hope you enjoy the Colin Firth audiobook – this is one of my all-time favourite novels and I’ve just reread it, so am always happy to hear of others reading it too.

    • I mentioned before that Graham Greene’s name attached to a film almost guarantees I will enjoy it! Loved Heart of the Matter recently as well. I’ve been thinking more about the Van Johnson casting. How about Ralph Richardson in the role? He may have been too old by this point. Imagine, though, that as usual they wanted an American star to attract an audience here. I can even see Cary Grant in the part. Johnson just seems so … bland??? I don’t know. I didn’t absolutely hate him but he wasn’t sensitive enough or something for me.

      • I love Graham Greene too, and have been trying to read all his books in order, though I’m taking my time over it! Re the casting, maybe Michael Redgrave would have been another option? I don’t really find Johnson bland, though, and I think he makes an interesting contrast with Peter Cushing, who is super-sensitive in this.

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