And Then There Were None (1945)

97 mins | Drama, Mystery | November 1945

Director:

René Clair

Writer:

Dudley Nichols

Producer:

René Clair

Cinematographer:

Lucien Andriot

Editor:

Harvey Manger

Production Designer:

Ernst Fegté

Production Company:

Popular Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

The working title of this film was Ten Little Indians . Agatha Christie's novel, which was published in the United States as And Then There Were None , was also serialized in SEP (20 May--1 Jul 1939). Christie's play, Ten Little Niggers , was based on the book and opened in London on 17 Nov 1943. Retitled Ten Little Indians for the United States, the play opened in New York City on 27 Jun 1944. The play marked the first time that Christie adapted one of her books for the stage.
       The following information about the production comes from the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library and contemporary news items: In 1941, RKO became the first studio to obtain the rights to Christie's novel. RKO later assigned its rights to Select Operating Corp., which apparently consisted of theatrical producers J. J. and Lee Shubert and director Albert P. DeCourville, who staged Christie's play in New York. In Jul 1944, independent film producer Samuel Bronston entered into an agreement with the Shuberts and DeCourville to purchase the rights to the novel and the play. Christie retained the rights to the title Ten Little Indians , however, and to the changes in the original story that she made for the play version. Bronston began pre-production plans, including hiring director René Clair (whose onscreen credit reads Rene) and writer Dudley Nichols, assembling the cast and entering into agreements with Samuel Goldwyn to provide studio space and ... More Less

The working title of this film was Ten Little Indians . Agatha Christie's novel, which was published in the United States as And Then There Were None , was also serialized in SEP (20 May--1 Jul 1939). Christie's play, Ten Little Niggers , was based on the book and opened in London on 17 Nov 1943. Retitled Ten Little Indians for the United States, the play opened in New York City on 27 Jun 1944. The play marked the first time that Christie adapted one of her books for the stage.
       The following information about the production comes from the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts--Special Collections Library, the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library and contemporary news items: In 1941, RKO became the first studio to obtain the rights to Christie's novel. RKO later assigned its rights to Select Operating Corp., which apparently consisted of theatrical producers J. J. and Lee Shubert and director Albert P. DeCourville, who staged Christie's play in New York. In Jul 1944, independent film producer Samuel Bronston entered into an agreement with the Shuberts and DeCourville to purchase the rights to the novel and the play. Christie retained the rights to the title Ten Little Indians , however, and to the changes in the original story that she made for the play version. Bronston began pre-production plans, including hiring director René Clair (whose onscreen credit reads Rene) and writer Dudley Nichols, assembling the cast and entering into agreements with Samuel Goldwyn to provide studio space and with United Artists to distribute the completed film.
       According to HR news items, Bronston encountered problems obtaining funding when Christie threatened to file suit over the use of the title Ten Little Indians . In Dec 1945, the Shuberts and DeCourville withdrew the rights from Bronston and instead made a final sale to Popular Pictures, Inc., which was headed by Harry Popkin and Edward J. Peskay and received its production funds from a loan from Bank of America. The new company then purchased Nichols' completed screenplay and signed its own contract with Clair to direct. United Artists, which had agreed to distribute the picture as a Bronston production, decided not to sign a similar deal with Popkin and Peskay, and in Jan 1945, Twentieth Century-Fox agreed to distribute the picture. Popkin, a New York movie theater owner, and Peskay, a legal representative, made their producing debuts with And Then There Were None .
       In Apr 1947, Bronston filed suit against Peskay, whom he had hired in 1944 to help conduct negotiations for the rights to Christie's novel and play. Bronston alleged that while he was ill, Peskay took advantage of his absence during pre-production preparations to obtain the rights for himself. The disposition of Bronston's suit has not been determined.
       According to a 2 Aug 1944 HR news item, Bronston was interested in using "some or all" of the original New York stage cast for the film. In mid-Aug 1944, ZaSu Pitts was signed for the film, and other actresses considered for roles included Andrea Leeds and Sheila Stuart, according to HR . In late Nov 1944, HR announced that John Ireland had been cast in the picture. Barry Fitzgerald was borrowed from Paramount for the production, which was the final Hollywood studio film made by director Clair. Several HR news items noted that Clair was interested in changing the ending of the book and play "in order to maintain suspense" for audience members familiar with those versions. In Christie's book, all ten of the characters are guilty of the crimes of which they are accused, and "Vera" shoots "Philip" in the end, after which she hangs herself, and the judge, called Justice Wargrave, commits suicide in a manner that suggests murder. In the play, "Vera" and "Philip" are innocent of their crimes, but Vera believes that Philip is the killer and shoots at him. She misses, however, and Philip shoots Wargrave before he can hang Vera.
       According to modern sources, Christie changed the novel's ending to make it more suitable to the stage, but still remained faithful to an alternate ending of the "Ten Little Indians" rhyme, which states: "One little Indian livin' all alone/He got married and then there were none." Although an 8 Nov 1944 HR item stated that Clair was forbidden by the PCA to keep the two sweethearts alive at the end of the film, because they were also killers (as they are in the book), there is no mention of that prohibition in the PCA file on the film. The PCA did instruct, however, that "Judge Quincannon" could not commit suicide at the end in order to evade justice for his crimes. His suicide was approved only when it was made clear that he was doing so in order to incriminate Vera. The file also notes that the picture was rejected for distribution in British Columbia, although no reason was given other than that the film was "not suitable."
       In 1966 Tenlit Films produced another film version of Christie's novel and play, entitled Ten Little Indians . The 1966 version was directed by George Pollock and starred Hugh O'Brian and Shirley Eaton. In 1975, EMI/Filibuster produced Ten Little Indians , which was released in the United States as And Then There Were None . Peter Collinson was the director of the 1975 version, which starred Oliver Reed, Elke Sommer and Richard Attenborough. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
14 Jul 1945.
---
Daily Variety
11 Jul 45
p. 3.
Film Daily
11 Jul 45
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 44
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 44
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Sep 44
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Sep 44
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Sep 44
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Nov 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Nov 44
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Nov 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 44
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Nov 44
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Dec 44
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 44
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Dec 44
pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jan 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 45
p. 15.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jan 45
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Mar 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Mar 45
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Mar 45
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jul 45
p. 3, 6
Hollywood Reporter
6 Nov 45
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Apr 47
p. 4.
Los Angeles Examiner
15 Jul 1944.
---
Motion Picture Daily
11 Jul 1945.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
14 Jul 45
p. 2541.
New York Times
7 Jan 1945.
---
New York Times
1 Nov 45
p. 20.
Variety
11 Jul 45
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie (London, 1939).
SONGS
"Ten Little Indians," music by Charles Previn, lyrics by Frank Green.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Ten Little Indians
Release Date:
November 1945
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 31 October 1945
Production Date:
15 January--13 March 1945 at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Popular Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
27 September 1945
Copyright Number:
LP95
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
97
Length(in feet):
8,726
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
10878
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

On a stormy Friday afternoon, Judge Francis J. Quincannon, Dr. Edward G. Armstrong, Philip Lombard, Vera Claythorne, General Sir John Mandrake, Emily Brent, William H. Blore and Prince Nikita Starloff are taken on a fishing boat to Indian Island, off the coast of Devon, England, for a weekend visit with the mysterious U. N. Owen. The eight passengers, who are all strangers, are greeted by butler Thomas Rogers and his wife Ethel, the cook, who reveal that they have not met their new employer. While eating in the dining room, the guests become intrigued by the centerpiece, which consists of ten figurines of Indian boys. Vera begins to recite the nursery rhyme about ten little Indian boys who are killed, and Starloff continues the rhyme in the parlor. Rogers then puts a record on the phonograph, as he was instructed to do, and the guests are astonished to hear Owen accuse them of various crimes that led to the deaths of others. The guests are shocked by the accusations, although Starloff casually admits to knocking down two pedestrians while driving. After realizing that "U. N. Owen" means "unknown," the group decides to leave the island, but Rogers informs them that the next boat will not arrive until Monday morning. The drunken Starloff collapses, and Dr. Armstrong deduces that he has been killed with poison. Rogers then shows Quincannon that one of the Indian statues has been broken, and the upset guests retire. In the morning, Ethel fails to awaken, and Armstrong realizes that she has died from a sedative overdose. With only eight people and statues remaining, the group determines to ... +


On a stormy Friday afternoon, Judge Francis J. Quincannon, Dr. Edward G. Armstrong, Philip Lombard, Vera Claythorne, General Sir John Mandrake, Emily Brent, William H. Blore and Prince Nikita Starloff are taken on a fishing boat to Indian Island, off the coast of Devon, England, for a weekend visit with the mysterious U. N. Owen. The eight passengers, who are all strangers, are greeted by butler Thomas Rogers and his wife Ethel, the cook, who reveal that they have not met their new employer. While eating in the dining room, the guests become intrigued by the centerpiece, which consists of ten figurines of Indian boys. Vera begins to recite the nursery rhyme about ten little Indian boys who are killed, and Starloff continues the rhyme in the parlor. Rogers then puts a record on the phonograph, as he was instructed to do, and the guests are astonished to hear Owen accuse them of various crimes that led to the deaths of others. The guests are shocked by the accusations, although Starloff casually admits to knocking down two pedestrians while driving. After realizing that "U. N. Owen" means "unknown," the group decides to leave the island, but Rogers informs them that the next boat will not arrive until Monday morning. The drunken Starloff collapses, and Dr. Armstrong deduces that he has been killed with poison. Rogers then shows Quincannon that one of the Indian statues has been broken, and the upset guests retire. In the morning, Ethel fails to awaken, and Armstrong realizes that she has died from a sedative overdose. With only eight people and statues remaining, the group determines to find Owen, whom they believe is hiding. After a fruitless day of searching, six of the remaining guests assemble for dinner, while Lombard looks for the missing Mandrake, who years before had caused the death of his unfaithful wife's lover. After Lombard finds Mandrake's corpse, with a knife in its back, Rogers informs the group that another statue is missing. The guests vote on who they think is guilty, and when Rogers receives two votes, the drunken, affronted butler, who confirms that he and his wife "helped" to end the suffering of their former employer, is locked in the woodshed. In the morning, the men find Rogers, who has been killed with an axe, and suspicion falls on Emily, who was walking on the beach. Emily denies their accusations, although she informs them that her nephew was killed after she sent him to a reformatory. Emily is soon found murdered with a hypodermic stolen from the doctor's bag, and the five remaining guests contemplate the five remaining statues. When the generator fails, Quincannon and Armstrong, who are alone together, decide that the incident clears them of suspicion. During dinner, the alcoholic Armstrong confesses to operating while drunk and Quincannon admits that he sentenced an innocent man to death in order to ruin the defending attorney's reputation. Blore reveals that his testimony sent an innocent man to jail, where he was killed, and Lombard carefully states that an explorer named Lombard was responsible for the death of many natives. Vera refuses to admit that she has committed a crime and rushes to her room. When she screams, Blore, Armstrong and Lombard race upstairs, only to discover that she was frightened by a piece of hanging seaweed. Upon their return to the dining room, the foursome discover that Quincannon has been shot in the head. Vera again refuses to discuss her "crime," but later that night, admits to Lombard that she took the blame when her sister killed her fiancé. Upon hearing footsteps in the hall, Lombard, Vera and Blore search the house for the missing doctor, and just as Blore sees something through his binoculars, he is crushed to death by bricks falling from the roof. When the couple then finds Armstrong's body on the beach, Lombard tells Vera that he is really Charles Morley, a friend of Lombard who came to the island to investigate after Lombard received a threatening note from Owen and committed suicide. Vera decides to trust Charles and accedes to his wish that she shoot his pistol in his direction, while he collapses. She then goes to the house, where a noose is hanging in the front hall. Quincannon greets her and reveals that he tricked Armstrong into helping him pretend to be dead, and that he committed the crimes in a search for "perfect human justice." Quincannon then states that he is dying from a serious illness, and, before swallowing a vial of poison, tells Vera to hang herself now, as she will surely be found guilty of killing him and the others. Just before Quincannon succumbs, Charles walks in, and the bitter judge observes that one should never trust a woman. Although the couple are still unsure about why they trusted each other, they happily embrace and dash toward the boat when the fisherman arrives to take them home. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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