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Charles Strickland (Olivier), a London stockbroker leaves his wife and children for a life in Paris as a starving painter. He stays in run-down hotels and is near death when Dutch painter, Dirk Stroeve, helps him recover. Dirk is repaid by having his wife, Blanche, abandon him for Strickland, who later discards her; all he really sought from Blanche was a model to paint, not serious companionship. Broken hearted Blanche then commits suicide – yet another human casualty in Strickland’s single-minded pursuit of art and beauty.