Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Sadie A[euro]" Lady of the Night; Samoa Inspired Somerset Maughama[euro][TM]s Story and Three Movies

Newspaper article Coffs Coast Advocate (Coffs Harbour, Australia)

Sadie A[euro]" Lady of the Night; Samoa Inspired Somerset Maughama[euro][TM]s Story and Three Movies

Article excerpt

Byline: david ellis

ITaS by no means the wettest place in the world, but a visit to Samoa in 1920 convinced English author Somerset Maugham it was certainly one of them a so much so that when he penned one of his most famous short stories about the characters he encountered aboard ship from Hawaii, he titled it simply Rain.

Maugham is not the only author to come under the spell of Samoa: Robert Louis Stevenson chose to live and write there in the 1890s, and James A Michener was there with the US Marines during the war in the Pacific, keeping notes of people and events around him, which ultimately formed part of his classic Tales of the South Pacific that was published at waras end.

Somerset Maugham, however was travelling with his lover, Gerald Haxton on the steamer Sonoma from Honolulu to Tahiti in 1920 when the vessel was forcibly quarantined in Pago Pago because of an onboard case of measles.

Also aboard were a zealous missionary and his wife, and an American lady of questionable morals.

Maugham seized upon these characters as the crux for his highly successful Rain, the missionaries becoming the Scottish fire and brimstone Reverend Alfred Davidson and his overtly prudish wife (athe inhabitants of these islands will not be Christianised until every boy more than 10 years is made to wear trousersa[degrees]a she moans).

And the American prostitute became Sadie Thompson the colourful, well, prostitute.

Another in the short story, a Dr Macphail bears striking resemblance to Maugham himself: both he and Dr Macphail had served in the medical corps in the First World War and both had a hearty dislike of bigoted fundamentalist preachers.

Rain goes on to tell of the battle between the Rev Davidson and Sadie Thompson, whose soul he attempts to save and whom he coerces to repent a only to end up himself in her bed, and... well, you read the story.

And throughout it all it rains, just as it had when Maugham and Haxton had visited in 1920, in the story Maugham recounting how athe rain did not pour, it floweda[degrees] and fell in torrents.a

In fact Pago Pago records a whopping 3000mm-plus a year, and while the bulk of this falls between October and May, even in the mid-year adry seasona around 150mm drenches the place every month. …

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