And Then There Were None (1945 film)
|And Then There Were None|
Original film poster
|Directed by||René Clair|
|Produced by||René Clair
Harry M. Popkin
|Written by||Dudley Nichols
Agatha Christie (Novel)
C. Aubrey Smith
|Music by||Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco|
|Cinematography||Lucien N. Andriot|
|Editing by||Harvey Manger|
|Distributed by||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
|Running time||97 minutes|
The film changes certain characters' names and adheres to the ending of the play rather than that of the novel. Though its subject matter is dark, the screenplay injects considerable humor into the proceedings, lightening the tone of Christie's grim book. It was directed by René Clair from a screenplay by Dudley Nichols. Its cast featured Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Louis Hayward, Roland Young, June Duprez, Mischa Auer, C. Aubrey Smith, Judith Anderson, Richard Haydn and Queenie Leonard as the people stranded on the island. The film could arguably be seen as a precursor to the modern slasher film, though it certainly isn't gory, and the deaths are not played up for their horror, as they are in slasher films today.
Though it was produced by a major studio, 20th Century Fox, the copyright was allowed to lapse and the film is now in the public domain. Several different editions of varying quality have been released to home video formats.
Eight people, all total strangers to each other, are invited to Indian Island, a small, isolated island off the coast of Devon, England, by Mr. and Mrs. Owen. They settle in at a mansion tended by two newly hired servants, Thomas and Ethel Rogers, but their hosts are nowhere to be found. Thomas informs them that they have not arrived. When the guests sit down to dinner, they notice a centerpiece on the table, a group of ten figurines of Indians in a circle. Afterward, they are relaxing when suddenly a voice on a gramophone record proceeds to accuse all of them of past murders that the law was unable to prosecute them for:
- General Sir John Mandrake (C. Aubrey Smith), of ordering his wife's lover, a lieutenant, to his death
- Emily Brent (Judith Anderson), of causing the death of her young nephew
- Dr. Edward G. Armstrong (Walter Huston), of drunkenness which caused the death of a patient
- Prince Nikita Starloff (Mischa Auer), of killing a couple
- Vera Claythorne (June Duprez), of murdering her sister's fiance
- Judge Francis J. Quinncannon (Barry Fitzgerald), of being responsible for the hanging of a man
- Philip Lombard (Louis Hayward), of killing 21 men, members of an East African tribe
- William H. Blore (Roland Young), of perjury, resulting in the death of a man
- Thomas (Richard Haydn) and Ethel Rogers (Queenie Leonard), of the death of their previous, invalid employer.
It turns out that none of the ten know or have even seen "U. N. Owen" (as he signed the letter of instruction to Thomas). They decide to leave, but Thomas informs them that the boat only comes twice a week. It is Friday and the boat will not return until Monday.
Starloff admits speeding in his car and driving over the couple. Then he takes a drink and dies. Dr. Armstrong confirms that there was poison in Starloff's glass. The next morning, the guests gather for breakfast, only to be greeted with ominous news: Mrs. Rogers has died in her sleep. Quinncannon reports that Rogers found one figurine broken after Starloff's demise. Now another is missing. With two deaths in twelve hours matching the nursery rhyme, four of the men search the island for Mr. Owen without success. Next, General Mandrake is found a knife protruding from his back. It is the judge who arrives at the only explanation: Mr. Owen is one of them.
Another day passes. Quinncannon holds a secret vote, whereby everyone writes down their suspect and puts it into a hat. Rogers receives two votes, more than anyone else. The guests decide that they would feel safer with him not sleeping in the house, so Rogers spends the night in the woodshed. After locking the dining room (and the figurines), they give the key into Roger's keeping. The next morning, however, they find Rogers dead, his head split open with an axe, and another little figure missing.
As Vera prepares breakfast in the kitchen, she manages to persuade Miss Brent to reveal that she had her nephew placed in a reformatory, where he hanged himself. Later that day, Miss Brent's lifeless body is found in her room. A hypodermic needle is found nearby. Dr. Armstrong searches his medical kit and discovers his is missing. Lombard admits he has a revolver, but it is now gone as well.
As everyone sits down to dinner that night, Quinncannon confesses he sentenced an innocent man to death in order to ruin the reputation of his defending counsel. Armstrong then admits to being drunk when he operated on a patient, with fatal results. Though hesitant at first, Blore admits to perjuring himself to have an innocent man put in prison, where he died. Lombard merely states that the accusation against him is true. But when it comes time for Vera to tell her story, she says that she is cold and goes to her room to get a coat. After a few moments they hear her terrified shriek and rush out of the room. In the confusion of the moment a single gunshot is heard. They find Vera cowering in a corner of the hallway, and she tells them that when she went into her room she felt something like a cold hand. Blore goes to investigate and finds a piece of seaweed that Miss Brent had brought back to the house earlier hanging from the ceiling of Miss Claythorne's room. They then realize that Quincannon is not among them. Blore believes that the judge fired the shot at one of them in the dark. They make their way downstairs and discover Lombard's gun on the staircase. They make their way back to the dining room and find Quincannon dead from a gunshot to the head.
After depositing Quincannon's body in his room, Dr. Armstrong asks Vera for the truth about her sister's fiance. Though reluctant, she insists that she is innocent of the accusation and goes to her room. Armstrong tells Blore and Lombard that to his mind this indicates Vera is quite likely to be Mr. Owen. Armstrong says that prior to his death, Quincannon advised him that only the person who had not committed a crime would be interested in meting out "justice". Blore seems to accept this explanation, but Lombard is highly skeptical. They all retire to their rooms. Later that night Vera wakes up to find Lombard standing outside her patio, wanting to be let in. She admits him only after he lets her take his gun for protection. Philip says that he wants to be with Vera when the real Mr. Owen comes into the room, which he suspects will be very soon. In the meantime he asks her again about the accusation against her, and Vera repeats that she is innocent of the crime. She explains to him that it was her sister who killed the man, and she helped conceal the murder and took care of her sister until she died. They then hear someone walking around outside the room, and Philip goes to investigate. Before leaving, however, he reveals that he is not really Philip Lombard. Vera and Philip go to Blore's room and find him there, but Armstrong is missing from his room. When the three of them go to the dining room they discover another missing figure, but they believe that Armstrong is trying to make them believe he is dead.
The next morning Blore is checking around the house with binoculars, as they all wait for the boat to arrive. He is murdered when a large stone structure falls on him. Lombard and Vera find his body, and Philip takes the binoculars and sees what the detective was looking at. He and Vera make their way to the island's beach and find Armstrong's corpse. Lombard states that he has been dead for hours, as there are no footprints around the body. As they are the only two left, Vera believes that Lombard is the murderer. Lombard, however, cannot bring himself to believe that Vera is a killer. He tells her that his real name is Charles Morley, and that he knew Philip Lombard very well. He found Mr. Owen's invitation and came to the island, impersonating Lombard to see if the invitation had anything to do with his friend's death. Charles tells her to aim the gun away from him and pull the trigger. When he falls she is to go to the mansion. She does so, he collapses, and she makes her way back to the house. Once inside she is confronted with the true culprit: Judge Quincannon, who tells her that all his life he searched for perfect human justice, and this weekend was his way to bring it about. After learning that he was terminally ill he concocted this plan. As part of his scheme he deceived Armstrong into thinking that the two of them could discover who the murderer was; together they faked the judge's death, but it wasn't until the last minute that Armstrong realized he had been made a fool of and Quincannon killed him. Quincannon drinks a glass of poisoned whiskey and tells Vera that she has two options. She can commit suicide by hanging herself here, privately, or wait to be convicted at trial (as the murders will undoubtedly be blamed on her, as she is the last person alive) and be hanged publicly. Right before he dies, however, Charles appears behind Vera and Quincannon realizes that two will survive and will be able to tell what actually happened on Indian Island. At that moment, the boatman, Fred Narracott, arrives to take them back to the mainland, thus the film ends on an oddly humorous coda as Vera and Lombard gleefully run to the boat, leaving a clueless Narracott to find a house full of dead bodies.
- Barry Fitzgerald...Judge Francis J. Quinncannon
- Walter Huston...Dr. Edward G. Armstrong
- Louis Hayward...Philip Lombard/Charles Morley
- June Duprez...Vera Claythorne
- Roland Young...Detective William Henry Blore
- Mischa Auer...Prince Nikita "Nikki" Starloff
- C. Aubrey Smith...General Sir John Mandrake
- Judith Anderson...Emily Brent
- Richard Haydn...Thomas Rogers
- Queenie Leonard...Ethel Rogers
Differences from the novel 
This adaptation of the novel took, overall, fewer liberties with Christie's plot than some of the other versions. Most of changes were made in order to comply with the strict censorship of the day, which included changing the backstories behind Miss Brent's and Vera Claythorne's crimes, since a film that would imply such themes as child murder and teenage pregnancy would never be allowed to be viewed by the general public.
The ending, though, is radically altered. Only the 1987 Soviet film version kept the novel's ending. This film, like all the other Western versions, changed the shooting of Philip Lombard (played by Louis Hayward) and the suicide of Vera Claythorne's character (played by June Duprez) in favour of a more upbeat ending. Vera pretends to shoot Lombard so that the real murderer will believe he is dead. In this, the film follows the altered denouement Christie herself had rewritten for her 1943 stage version of the book. There is one major alteration — in the play, Vera thinks she has shot Lombard, after which the murderer appears and attacks her; Lombard, who was only grazed, comes to at the last minute and shoots the murderer as he is about to strangle the terrified girl. The film, however, simply has Vera help Lombard fake his death, then confront the culprit who commits suicide after revealing his motive and murder techniques. All in all, the end result is the same; the two major characters are left alive and innocent of the crimes they were accused of. Later remakes in 1965, 1974, and 1989 (all using the title Ten Little Indians), also used one of these two revised finales.
One final alteration is the title. Christie's novel was originally titled Ten Little Niggers and then it was changed to Ten Little Indians, the title it is primarily known by today. Along with Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of the Narcissus the title stands as an indicator of the casual acceptance in the late 1890s through the 1930s of the virulently racist term.
See also 
Hurst, Walter (2008). Film Superlist: Motion Pictures in the U.S. Public Domain (1940-1949). Hollywood Film Archive. ISBN 0-913616-27-3.
- "Winners of the Golden Leopard". Locarno. Retrieved 2012-08-12.
- "And Then There Were None" at the Internet Archive Retrieved August 2, 2009
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: And Then There Were None (1945 film)|
- And Then There Were None at the Internet Movie Database
- And Then There Were None (1945 film) is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]