And Then There Were None (1945)
And Then There Were None is a 1945 film adaption of Agatha Christie’s best-selling mystery novel And Then There Were None directed by René Clair.
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.
The film begins with ten strangers 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 guests vehemently deny any wrongdoing, 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. 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 has broken.
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 canvass 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….
- Barry Fitzgerald…Judge Quincannon
- 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 Starloff
- C. Aubrey Smith…General Mandrake
- Judith Anderson…Emily Brent
- Richard Haydn…Thomas Rogers
- Queenie Leonard…Ethel Rogers
- Harry Thurston…Fred Narracott
The film won best film at the Locarno International Film Festival.