- And Then There Were None (1945 film)
name = And Then There Were None
caption = Theatrical release poster.
imdb_id = 0037515
writer = Novel:
Barry Fitzgerald Walter Huston Louis Hayward Roland Young
René Clair Harry M. Popkin
Lucien N. Andriot
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
October 31, 1945(U.S. release)
runtime = 97 min.
language = English
"And Then There Were None" (1945), directed by
René Clair, is one of several film adaptations of Agatha Christie's best-selling mystery novel" And Then There Were None" concerning several people summoned to an island retreat by a mysterious stranger, only to meet their ends one by one.
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
Rene Clairfrom a screenplayby Dudley Nichols. Its cast featured Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Louis Hayward, Roland Young, June Duprez, Mischa Auer, C. Aubrey Smith, Judith Anderson, Richard Haydnand Queenie Leonardas the people stranded on the island. The film could arguably be seen as a precursor to the modern slasher film.
Though it was produced by a major studio,
20th Century Fox, the copyright to the film was allowed to lapse and it has now fallen into the public domain. As a result several different editions are available of varying quality.
Barry Fitzgerald...Judge Francis J. Quincannon
Walter Huston...Dr. Edward G. Armstrong
Louis Hayward...Philip Lombard
June Duprez...Vera Claythorne
Roland Young...Detective William Henry Blore
Mischa Auer...Prince Nikita Starloff
C. Aubrey Smith...General Sir John Mandrake
Judith Anderson...Emily Brent
Richard Haydn...Thomas Rogers
Queenie Leonard...Ethel Rogers
Harry Thurston...Fred Narracott
The film begins with eight strangers (and two domestic servants) being summoned to Indian Island, a small island off the coast of Devon, by a mysterious note. Once there they discover that their unknown host, a certain "Mr. Owen", has not arrived yet. Though this fact is somewhat odd, they are told that Mr. Owen plans on arriving for dinner and so they all retire to their rooms to prepare for the evening.
When they all sit down to dinner Mr. Owen still has not arrived, so they eat their meal and then relax in the living room. 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. The accusations are thus: Gen. Mandrake, sent his wife's lover to his certain death during a WWI mission; Emily Brent, responsible for the death of her young nephew; Vera Claythorne murdered her sister's fiance; Judge Quincannon, sentenced an innocent man to hang; Dr. Armstrong, murdering a patient while operating on her under the influence of alcohol; Philip Lombard, accused of the deaths of twenty-one African natives; William Henry Blore supposedly perjured testimony against an innocent man, who subsequently died in prison; Thomas and Ethel Rogers are accused of murdering an invalid employer for financial gain; and Prince Starloff, stated to have murdered two young people.
The guests vehemently deny any wrong doing, and the decision is made to leave the island immediately. Rogers, however, tells them that there is no way to get the boat from the mainland. There is no phone on the island, and the boat only comes twice a week; it will not be back until Monday morning, while it is now only Friday night. At this point Starloff confesses that the accusations against him are true; he was driving drunk and ran over two people in the road, killing them. His only punishment was to have his driving license revoked. Soon thereafter he takes a drink of whiskey and chokes to death. Though Dr. Armstrong confirms that there was poison in Starloff's glass, he is unable to ascertain whether his death was murder or suicide. At the same time Rogers also discovers that one of ten little Indian figurines on the dinner table is missing.
The next morning the guests arise and prepare for breakfast, only to be greeted with ominous news: Mrs. Rogers has died in her sleep, victim of an apparent overdose of sedative (she became extremely upset due to the accusations of the night before). Another figurine is also missing. With two deaths in twelve hours, the remaining guests decide to form a search party and canvas the island, as they believe that Mr. Owen, whoever he might be, is hiding somewhere. But a search of both the house and the outside area proves fruitless, as no one is found. They come back to the house for lunch, only to discover the body of Gen. Mandrake, a knife protruding from his back. This time the evidence is conclusive: Mr. Owen has invited them here to exact punishment for their past crimes...but there is no one else on the island. It is the judge who arrives at the answer. Since there truly is no one else among them, there is only one explanation: Mr. Owen is one of them.
Their suspicions now aroused, the guests take care to remain in sight of each other at all times. Quincannon decides to hold 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. The guests ask him to keep the key to the dining room, which contains the Indian figurines, as they intend to lock him out of the house, and that way Mr. Owen will not have access to the figures in any possible way(if Rogers is the killer, he will not be able to get into the house, and if he is innocent, the "real" culprit will not have access either). But when they wake up the next morning they find Rogers dead, his head split open with an ax, and another little figure missing. They are suspicious of Miss Brent, who claims to have been out for a walk by the ocean that morning. As Vera prepares breakfast in the kitchen, Miss Brent advises her to be cautious of Lombard, who has taken a bit of an interest in her. Alone with Vera, Miss Brent tells her version of the story regarding the gramophone's accusation. She says that her young nephew had been quite rebellious, and since whipping did no good she had him placed in a reformitory; he then hanged himself. Later that day Miss Brent's lifeless body in found in her room, dead of a lethal injection. Dr. Armstrong searches his medical kit and discovers his hypodermic needle missing, apparently the same one used to kill Miss Brent. It is also established that Lombard carried a revolver to the island with him, but it is now missing as well.
With only five guests remaining tensions are running high. When the lights begin flicker Blore goes to check the generator, accidentally causing it to short circuit, and the house is plunged into darkness. Quincannon advises Armstrong that this was probably a ploy by the killer, but since he and Armstrong have been together the entire time, this means that they can trust one another. As everyone sits down to dinner that night Armstrong and Quincannon tell the others that they believe the best chance of surviving Mr. Owen's trap is to confess the truth. Quincannon reveals that the accusation against him is true; he sentenced Edward Seton, who was innocent, to death in order to ruin the reputation of his defending council. Armstrong also admits to the death of his patient due to being drunk. Though hesitant at first, Blore also confesses to perjuring his testimony against an innocent man. Lombard likewise states that the record's accusation against him was 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 while the others wait for her in the dining room. 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, and 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 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 statue falls over on him, crushing 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 the 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. Quincannon 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 by pushing him over the edge of the cliff. 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 arrives to take them back to the mainland.
Comparison with novel
This adaptation of the novel took, overall, fewer liberties with Christie's plot than some of the other versions. The ending, though, is radically altered. Only the 1987 Russian film version kept the novel's ending. This film, like all the other Western versions, nixed 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 happier Hollywood-ish ending. 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 outside the mansion, 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 1966, 1975, and 1989 (all using the title " Ten Little Indians"), also used Christie's revised finale.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.