And Then There Were None is a 1945 mystery thriller about ten people who are invited for the weekend on a remote island by Mr U.N. Owen. Unfortunately, they discover that their mysterious host has planned to kill them, one by one.
Produced and directed by René Clair [as Rene Clair] (I Married a Witch; The Ghost Goes West; The Phantom of the Moulin-Rouge) from a screenplay written by Dudley Nichols, based on Agatha Christie’s best-selling novel, the Popular Pictures production stars Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Louis Hayward and Roland Young.
The soundtrack score was composed by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (I Love a Mystery; The Return of the Vampire; Fingers at the Window).
Eight people, all total strangers to each other, are invited to a small, isolated island off the coast of Devon, England, by a Mr Owen and Mrs Owen. Ferried over by a sailor called Narracott, they settle in at a mansion tended by two newly-hired servants, Thomas and Ethel Rogers, however, their hosts are absent.
When the guests sit down to dinner, they notice the centrepiece, ten figurines of Indians in a circle. Afterwards, Rogers puts on a gramophone record, from which a voice accuses each one of them of being a murderer…
“It is dark and atmospheric blending the noir with a gothic style. Due to censorship and movie rules at the time, it is very “family-friendly”. The ending of the film and some of the backstories of the characters were also altered to make it more acceptable for audiences (and the changes have generally stuck over time).” Basement Rejects
” ….And Then There Were None, while melodramatic and more than a bit hyperbolic at times, is grounded in a certain realism, though one suffused with an almost dreamlike state some of the time. Clair makes beautiful use of some second unit footage which gives the impression of people stranded on an inhospitable island, and the shadowy interiors of the island’s huge mansion create an extremely evocative, spooky ambience.” Blu-ray.com
“Often overrated version of Agatha Christie’s play […] The macabre humour is the best thing about the movie, with the suspense rarely tightening the screws and some of the performances (Fitzgerald in particular) tending towards cartoonish caricature.” DVD Beaver
“Other than being a very good adaptation, And Then There Were None also has a beautiful score, an oppressive atmosphere, a beautiful black and white photography and very effective settings. And then there is the cast. Each actor portrays their character pretty well and I’m glad Hollywood stars weren’t cast: that would have ruined the ending because of course, they would survive.” A Film a Day
” …this is truly a seamless ensemble piece, with no one performance standing out above the other (though the interactions between Walter Huston as Doctor Armstrong and Barry Fitzgerald as Judge Quinncannon are especially fun). Clair’s creative direction — beginning with the cleverly shot silent opening sequence on the boat, and extending through the exposure of each murder — is seamlessly fluid…” Film Fanatic
“Despite a streak of comedy as black as coal, and one or two moments that border on the farcical, this is a pretty straight murder mystery. It is also, until the final reveal and explanation, quite simple. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, however, and many fans will enjoy the brilliant purity of the premise, a template that has been oft-repeated with wildly varying results.” For It Is a Man’s Number
“Clever touches like the judge’s pool table demonstration of the murderer’s plan and the recurring image of a cat playing with Judith Anderson’s ball of yarn (which pays off with a terrific visual punchline) provide a fascinating cinematic counterpoint to Christie’s witty, precise writing style (though the script includes several brilliant lines of its own).” Mondo Digital
“Clair’s camera seems as interested as we are in getting to the bottom of this mystery, and can be seen peeking through keyholes and around corners as it spies on the guests, who are usually found to be spying on yet another guest. The director is ceaselessly inventive visually, and the games that he continuously plays with the audience never hamper the thrills: they only leave us wanting more.” Movie Martyr
“The screenplay by Dudley Nichols has a perplexing farcical spirit, which often negates the encroaching suspense of the story and creates a number of strange, offbeat scenes that seem at odds with the rest of the movie. However, it’s the ending that sinks the movie, as it rewrites the very purpose of the story and turns it into a conventional Hollywood thriller with a baffling and inappropriate happy ending.” Pop Culture Thoughts
“Clair turns in near-Hitchcock level direction in the comedy-romance-suspense vein, and the cast is roses. Barry Fitzgerald and Walter Huston sparkle as the leads, Judith Anderson is brilliant as always as one of the guest/victim/suspects, C. Aubrey Smith offers an agreeably demented take on his Commander McBragg routine, and Roland Young […] is a hoot as a private detective whose brain works at half speed.” Washington Monthly
“Rene Clair has produced an exciting film and has directed a splendid cast in it with humor and a light macabre touch.” Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, November 1st 1945
Judge Quincannon: Don’t forget the old proverb, doctor. Never trust a man who doesn’t drink.”
Thomas Rogers: “At a time like this, I wouldn’t open the door even if it was… Santa Claus.”
Emily Brent: “Very stupid to kill the only servant in the house. Now we don’t even know where to find the marmalade.”
Cast and characters:
- Barry Fitzgerald … Judge Francis J. Quincannon
- Walter Huston … Doctor Edward G. Armstrong
- Louis Hayward … Philip Lombard
- Roland Young … Detective William Henry Blore
- June Duprez … Vera Claythorne
- Mischa Auer … Prince Nikita Starloff
- C. Aubrey Smith … General Sir John Mandrake (as Sir C. Aubrey Smith)
- Judith Anderson … Emily Brent
- Richard Haydn … Thomas Rogers
- Queenie Leonard … Ethel Rogers
- Harry Thurston … Fred Narracott
Samuel Goldwyn Studios – 7200 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, California
Though it was distributed by a major studio, 20th Century Fox, the copyright was allowed to lapse and the film is now in the public domain.
Other movie versions:
Ten Little Indians (1965), And Then There Were None aka Ten Little Indians (1974) and Ten Little Indians (1989) were all produced by Harry Alan Towers. Desyat Negrityat is a 1989 Soviet version, There was also a three-part TV mini-series in 2015.
Some images: DVD Beaver