Of Human Bondage

Director: John Cromwell
Music: Max Steiner

Main Characters/Players:

Philip Carey: Leslie Howard (Gone With the Wind)
Mildred Rogers: Bette Davis (Now, Voyager)
Mr. Athelny

Screenplay: Lester Cohen as adopted from the W. Somerset Maugham novel.

Plot Summary:

After having spent some time in Paris as an art student, Philip Carey learns that he will always be mediocre, never good. So he goes home to take up a career in medicine. Studying at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Philip is himself an interesting case study, for he has a club foot, about which he is painfully sensitive. One day Philip is introduced by a fellow student to a waitress in a little restaurant near the Hospital. He is fascinated, enthralled, enslaved by Mildred. He neglects his studies, invites her out to dinners, dreams of her constantly, and finally asks her to marry him. All throughout his puppy-like, clumsy wooing Mildred has treated Philip with a coldness bordering on disdain. On the night Philip asks her to marry him, Mildred tells him she will marry another suitor, Emil Miller.

Next we see him, Philip has been taken under the wing of another woman, Norah.Then Mildred returns, breaking into the flow of Philip and Norah's near-platonic romance. She tells Philip that Emil has left her, and that she will have a child. Philip leaves Norah. He devotes himself to Mildred: renting her an apartment, staying with her during her time at the hospital, and finding her a nurse afterward. She repays him by spurning his love and running off with Philip's classmate, Griffiths. Shortly afterward, Griffiths in turn abandons Mildred. Philip applies himself to his studies, and during his rounds among the patients meets an eccentric but friendly older gentleman, Mr. Athelny. He is invited home for Sunday dinner, and this visit begins a routine of many happy Sundays meals with the family. There is the added attraction of an especially pretty older daughter, Sally, who seems to be interested in Philip.

Then Griffiths brings Philip a message from Mildred: she is in again in need of help. Once more, Philip takes in Mildred and her baby, but in a reversal of their former positions, he now firmly resists her attempts to attract him. In a rage, she ruins his paintings and burns the money his uncle sent him to help him through medical school. Then she takes her child and leaves. Because he has lost his funds, Philip must leave medical school. Before he goes he has an operation on his foot. It is successful: now he is normal. But a normal foot is one thing, a decent job is another. He looks for a job and finds nothing. He runs out of money for rent and has to leave his apartment. At last Sally discovers his penniless, roomless condition. The Athelnys give him a place to stay and help him get a job.

Through a letter Philip hears from Mildred again. He visits her and sees that she has become a prostitute. Hearing her cough, he tells her that she probably has tuberculosis. Philip's uncle dies and leaves him a small legacy. He returns to school, graduates, and takes a job as a ship's physician. Just before he goes, Sally cries, and confesses her love for him. Philip asks her to marry him when he returns, if she still wants to. Coming in to the hospital for a last visit, Philip wants to see an interesting patient. It is Mildred. Griffiths warns him out of the room: no use; she is dead.

At last Philip is free. And at last he knows what he wants. He resigns his job on the ship, asks Sally to marry him immediately, and hails a taxi.

Three key scenes in the film

Scene Three

P: Poirot
C: Carey

P: Have you any money?
C: A little. Not enough to live on.
P: Then I must tell you. There is no talent here. Merely industry and intelligence. You will never be anything but mediocre, and it is very
cruel to discover one's mediocrity only when it is too late. I know. Do you see that? That name does not belong there. It belongs
somewhere else. Take you courage in both your hands and make something of your life! Have you anything in mind?
C: Well, you see, I have my limitations. My father was a doctor. I've always been interested in medicine. If one can't be great, at least one
can be of some use to people.

Scene Twenty-Nine

N: Norah
P: Philip

N: Of course, I knew you never loved me as much as I loved you.
P: Yes, I'm afraid that's usually the case. There is usually one who loves, and one who is loved.
N: Oh, it's always the same. If you want a man to be nice to you, you've got to be rotten to him. If you treat a man honestly-- Philip, there's someone else.
P: Yes.
N: Who is she?
P: Mildred. She's come back.
N: After all she's done. How could you?
P: That's what I'd like to know.
N: It's just as thought you were bound to her in some way.
P: Yes.
N: As I am to you. As she was to Miller.
P: As every human being is to something or other.

Final Scene

S: Sally
T: Taxi driver
P: Philip

S: Philip, you're free.
P: Yes, but suddenly, suddenly, there's nowhere to go.
T: Taxi, Sir?
P: No thanks, no. I had to be free to realize that. I had to be free to understand that all those years I dreamed of escape was because I was
limping through life.
T: Taxi, Sir?
: No, thank you! Because I was bound up with a person who was incredible to me. And that's all over. I'm not limping anymore, and my life's all
S: They why don't you go?
P: Because everything that's beautiful to me is right here. Won't you please marry me, Sally?
S: If you like.
P: But don't you want to?
S: There's no one else I'd marry.
T: How about a taxi, Sir?
P: What?
T: How about a taxi?
P: Yes!