W. Somerset Maugham Reading the Three Fat Women of Antibes. Gigolo & Gigolette

This is a short review of an historic audio book recording, of Maugham reading his two of his own short stories: "The Three Fat Women of Antibes"and "Gigolo and Gigolette."

This is a terrific object to possess for Maugham's admirers. For an hour one listens to how Maugham reads his own stories with a variety of tones and cadence. The experience is simply wonderful. The three women came impressively to life. The audience simply has to adore and laugh at them at the same time.

Garson Kanin mentions in his magnificent book Remembering Mr. Maugham the circumstance of this recording. As is well-known, Maugham, since he was a child, suffered from stammer. After knowing that King George VI overcame the same difficulty under the coaching of Dr. Lionel Logue (the events of which, not long ago, have been made into the movie The King's Speech (2010), not a favourite of mine though), Maugham sought him out.

Maugham appeared to feel much more comfortable afterwards in public appearances and in 1950, Maugham was the first author to record his own work for the Columbia Literary Series. Kanin helped to further ease Maugham's anxiety:
I explained to him [Maugham] that the recording would probably be done on tape and that any slips of errors could be easily erased and corrected. He was at once fascinated by the technical aspects and giggled like a child when I told him of opera singers beginning a session (while fresh) with the most difficult passages, and of the famous diva who sang more than twenty high A's before the recording supervisor got one he considered good enough.
"I shan't provide more than three of my high A's no...matter what they say!" said Maugham.
On October 24, 1950, WSM recorded (easily) seven of his stories, of which two—THE THREE FAT WOMEN OF ANTIBES and GIGOLO AND GIGOLETTE—are included in the album.
According to Goddard Lieberson [president of Columbia Records], a minimum of retakes was required, no more than usual. It would seem that because WSM knew that correction was possible, he was relieved of some of the strain and tension. Without the net below, he might have fallen. With its reassuring presence, he triumphed. (14)

Maugham certainly does a much better Stella Cotman than Glynis Jones, and is able to convey the anguish and dilemma of the character, which the reader can do nothing but pity. The most dramatic line (which is the last in the story but three quarters in the film) is delivered with such force, disdain and dignity mingled together, that makes Stella at the same time admirable.

The downside is that it is difficult to find copies in the market. It was issued in vinyl and audio cassettes. Check back at Amazon for W. Somerset Maugham Reading the 3 Fat Women of Antibes. Gigolo & Gigolette from time to time, or visit local garage sales!

[UPDATE 16 October 2013: This album is now available in iTunes store very cheaply.]

You will find the texts of these short stories on the free ebooks - short stories page.


  1. My copy of this record has a different cover - a photo of Maugham in front of the studio microphone, thoughtfully writing something down.

    1. I would assume that mine is a later copy. The copyright's dated as 1983 Caedmon. Does yours have any indication of the date?

  2. It's 1953. Columbia.

  3. Hi, For some reason I bid, and won an LP of a W. Somerset Maugham "The Lotus Eater" LP read by Alan Howard for $8.99. It's on its way. I don't know who Alan Howard is, but I thought it cool that it was put out on vinyl as opposed to a tacky books-on-tape production.

    1. I don't know either, not much of a fan of audio books... How old is it? "The Lotus Eater" is one of my top favourites.

  4. It looks to be from the 60's or 70's but I could be wrong. I hope this Alan Howard in British. I wouldn't be right otherwise.


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