expo63: (smoke ladder 1)
[personal profile] expo63
kristinaa1 just asked me about this in my earlier post/thread over on mr_edna_may. My reply came out really long, so I'm re-posting it here in case anyone else feels like joining in/debating this:

In the movie scudder tells Maurice that he knows about him and Clive. I don't get how he could know though. Is it explained in the book? Or do we infer that scudder just has Really good gaydar?

There's a short answer – and a lo-oo-ong answer:


The short answer: Most/all the servants at Penge [book]/Pendersleigh [film] almost certainly know about Clive/Maurice. Even though Alec has only been working there for six months [book: see his dialogue in the hotel scene] when he gets off with Maurice, he'd have heard the gossip pretty fast from other servants.

The upper classes behaved as if their servants were invisible/non-existent, so servants would witness all kinds of 'private' events. At the same time, servants had no power, and it was a condition of employment that they would never speak publicly of what they had seen (apart from gossip among themselves). If they did, they'd lose both their job and their 'character' (= they would be denied a character reference from the former employer), making it extremely difficult to find new employment.

Now for a MUCH more detailed answer!

If you watch the film carefully, we're given a trail of clues about how Alec 'knows' (though it's perhaps clearer if you watch Deleted Scene 4 of Alec with the maids, and certainly clearer if you read the book):

1) Clive/Maurice are seen together by Milly the maid (5:47–6:14). When Maurice first visits Clive at Penge/Pendersleigh, Milly sees them lying together on the bed in the Blue Room. But, because she's a servant, they ignore her and she makes no eye contact.

2) Clive/Maurice are seen together by Simcox the butler (8:56–9.24). In the scene where they go riding and (kind of) make out outside the 'goblin house' in the Penge/Pendersleigh grounds, Simcox cycles past, sees them, and they glare back at him. At this stage in the story, class privilege protects Clive from caring that they have been seen. This changes, however, with Lord Risley's arrest ...

3) ... Following Risley's arrest, Simcox makes an insinuating comment directly to Clive (4:36–5.23) (now panic-stricken and hysterically ill). It's clear from Simcox's choice of words that he 'knows something' ('Like yourself, sir' implies that Clive is 'like' Risley in more ways than both of them studying at Cambridge) and he is threatened with dismissal by Clive as a result:

     Simcox: A terrible affair about Viscount Risley, sir. And him a parliamentary private secretary, too. I did read he was at
     Cambridge. [Meaningful pause.] Like yourself, sir.
     Clive: You will never mention that subject again, Simcox, while you remain in employment here.

4) Alec's scenes in the film suggest that he spends quite a lot of time with both Simcox and Milly - so he'd almost certainly know the same things they 'know' about Clive/Maurice

4a) In Deleted Scene 4 (and in the novel), Alec is bisexual and has a flirtation (at the very least) going on with Milly. A trace of this remains in the film in the piano-moving scene (1:32–): Mrs Durham has to 'ring twice. TWICE' to summon any servants, and when Milly arrives, Alec is with her.

4b) The brilliant scene between Alec and Simcox (6:54–7.38) in the servant's quarters on the night Alec climbs up to Maurice in the Russet Room – in which Alec's body language shows how impatient he is for Simcox to go home, and his feelings for Maurice show in his response to Simcox's comment – also contains some giveaways:

     Simcox: I'm off, then. An easy start tomorrow, with only Mr Hall's pleasure to wait upon.
     Alec [indignant]: Mr Hall's a gentleman!

On my reading, 'Mr Hall's pleasure' is a kind of double-entendre. It implies that Simcox not only 'knows' about Maurice's sexuality, he may even have an idea what Alec is up to (as Alec is literally about to 'wait upon' 'Mr Hall's pleasure'!!)

5) Alec may - or may not - also pick up clues on the nights he observes Maurice (through the open window of the Russet Room) from the grounds in the rain. e.g. I'm not sure if we're supposed to think Alec has seen Clive kiss Maurice's hand (3:35–7:31), but it's possible, isn't it?

6) In Forster's 1914 manuscript version of the British Museum blackmail scene (but not the 1971 published novel or film) Alec explicitly says to Maurice: 'You and the squire – half the servants know ... Not bring in that, eh? Why not? Why not?'

There's also been some discussion on this on the IMDb Maurice board...
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