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The Razor's Edge

From Academic Kids

This article is about the book and movies. For the 1990 AC/DC album, see The Razor's Edge.

The Razor's Edge is a 1944 novel by W. Somerset Maugham. Its epigraph reads, "The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard. —Katha-Upanishad"

The Razor's Edge tells the story of an American, Larry Darrell, who is nearly shattered by his experience in World War I and upon returning to America breaks off his engagement in order to travel and attempt to find answers. He eventually ends up in India, where he finds enlightenment. He and his former fiancée are reunited several years later in Paris, after her marriage to another man, and when Darrell tries to start a relationship with another woman, his former fiancée tries to destroy his new relationship.

The book has twice been made into a movie. The first film was released in 1946 and stars Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, Herbert Marshall, Lucile Watson, Frank Latimore and Elsa Lanchester. Its screenplay was adapted by Lamar Trotti from the novel and it was directed by Edmund Goulding. For her role as Darrell's new love interest, Baxter won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and Webb as the worldly Uncle Elliott was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The film was also nominated for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White and Best Picture.

The remake was released in 1984 and stars Bill Murray, Theresa Russell, Catherine Hicks, Denholm Elliott and James Keach. Its screenplay was adapted by John Byrum and Murray from the novel, and it was directed by Byrum. Murray induced Columbia Pictures to go forward with the remake as a condition for his appearing in the movie, Ghostbusters, which was filmed after the remake but released before it. In this version, the book's epigraph is dramatized as advice given to Darrell by a Tibetan monk: "The path to salvation is narrow and is difficult to walk as a razor's edge."

Maugham included an introduction in the book that suggested his story was based on actual people, and there has been speculation on who might have served as models for Maugham's characters. It has often been suggested, for example, that the character of Darrell was based on a man named Guy Hague, though there are also other opinions (http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/bodhidharma/mentor.html). Of Darrell, Maugham muses in that introduction:

"The man I am writing about is not famous. It may be that he never will be. It may be that when his life at last comes to an end he will leave no more trace of his sojourn on earth than a stone thrown into a river leaves on the surface of the water. But it may be that the way of life that he has chosen for himself and the peculiar strength and sweetness of his character may have an ever-growing influence over his fellow men so that, long after his death perhaps, it may be realized that there lived in this age a very remarkable creature."de:Auf Messers Schneide
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