Sunday, July 13, 2014

And Then There Were None (1945) Ten...Nine...Eight...

Produced by brothers Leo C. Popkin and Harry H. Popkin, The Popkin Brothers  (Impact; D.O.A.; The Well) produced the film adaptation of Dame Agatha Christie’s 1945 film version of her thriller And Then There Were None, with great success.   And Then There Were None was produced by 20th Century-Fox and directed by the great Rene Clair, and based on Agatha Christie’s best-selling suspense novel, blending chilling suspense and wry humor.  However, Mrs. Christie’s original British version of the novel was originally titled Ten Little Niggers, which didn’t go over well with us Yanks!

Just as well, as screenwriter Dudley Nichols (Stagecoach; Scarlet Street) did a swell job of of adapting Mrs. Christie’s worldwide smash, adding more wickedly witty bits of wry dark humor!





Thank goodness we’re about to dock!
I've still got the willies from that ordeal with the U-Boat
and Connie Porter!
 As the film begins, the all-star cast slowly thaws the ice as the characters arrive in a boat, most of them being English.

The characters don't talk much, at least at first; they just smile and nod politely, no small feat when many of them are trying not to toss their cookies after that boat ride!  The crashing waves over the opening credits work perfectly; I was tempted to get my snorkel! Let’s meet our travelers, shall we?

  • Barry Fitzgerald  from Mark Hellinger’s The Naked City; The Quiet Man) as Judge Quincannon.
  • Walter Huston (Oscar-winner for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; Dodsworth; The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, as Dr. Edward G. Armstrong). (Mind you, this was before his son John Huston became a writer and director!)
  • Mischa Auer (You Can’t Take it With You; My Man Godfrey) as Prince Nikki Starloff.
  • June Duprez (The Thief of Bagdad; None But the Lonely Heart) as Vera Claythorne.
  • Louis Hayward (Ladies in Retirement; The Man in the Iron Mask)  as Phillip Lombard.
  • Roland Young   (Topper; The Philadelphia Story) as Detective Blore.
  • Judith Anderson from Laura; Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, as Emily Brent.
  • Sir C.Aubrey Smith  (Tarzan the Ape Man; Rebecca) as General Mandrake.
And of course, the guests have to eat, don’t they?  That’s where the servants, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers, come in:  Mr. Rogers is played by Richard Haydn from Ball of Fire; The Sound of Music; Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.  Mrs. Rogers is played by  Queenie Leonard (from the original animated Disney version of 101 Dalmations, as well as  the film noir The Narrow Margin; Queenie sure had range!  Of course, we also fell in love with Haydn’s comedic voice for various Looney Tunes, especially Team Bartilucci’s favorite, Super-Rabbit (1943)!     

Mischa Auer's Prince Nikki chokes to death on
a small piece of scenery. 
Nikki’s macabre ditty seems about down to the final verse of the “last little Indian" as per the 10 Little Indian rhyme-- but in fact, it’s only the beginning when a male voice accuses them all of various killings!  The deaths involve elderly General Mandrake, who was accused of murdering his rival for the woman he loved, and now seems to have Alzheimer's; Emily Brent’s teenage nephew was put in jail because his heartless Auntie Emily thought he had it coming, resulting in the desperate young man hanging  himself in prison; Nikki’s hit-and-run killed a young couple;  Dr. Armstrong is accused of drunkenness that killed one Mary Cleves; Judge Quincannon is accused of being a “hanging judge” for his own selfish motives; Blore had been hired to watch the guests, though he's not exactly James Bond; Vera is accused of killing her own sister’s fiancee -- jeepers, now that’s sibling rivalry!  What’s more, how can we be sure at least some of the accused might be getting a raw deal?  Curiouser and curiouser!

A dune to a kill!
Will there be a body count in the guests’ futures, if not lawsuits?  Where’s Kayak.com when you really need it? Rogers does what he can as the weekend slowly unravels in terror, what with the guests slowly but surely coming unglued, especially with the body count climbing as each guest is murdered by each new macabre killing, including poor Mrs. Rogers becoming one of the early casualties, supposedly from heart failure. The body count climbs as General Mandrake pushes up daisies; an accidental overdose of his medicine, or something more sinister?  Time to face facts:  the killer is one of the guests!

Janet! Dr. Scott! Janet! Brad! Rocky!
Emily Brent is the most cold-hearted, if you ask me, not giving a rat’s rectum about her young nephew killing himself; all she cares about is where her next jar of marmalade is coming from!   I think it’s safe to say this inn won’t be giving out any five-star ratings anytime soon from Booking.com, even if the guests do even live that long!  Suspense blends with deft wit.  I especially enjoyed Richard Haydn and his delightful daffy delivery.  Even when the body count rises, there’s plenty of comedy along with the dread and suspense.






   
Who will survive?  Watch And Then There Were None  on July 21 -- and the 1965 version, too, coming ever so soon!

25 comments:

  1. I love this version of the Christie story. Terrific cast.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your positive feedback, Vienna!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're most welcome, Vienna; feel free drop by at TotED anytime! :-D

      Delete
  3. This is not necessarily my favorite Agatha Christie story, but it's such a neat little thriller that I have seen every adaptation ever made. Yes, even the atrocious 1989 version which featured Donald Pleasance, mainly because well . . . it featured Donald Pleasance.

    (But what a monumental error in casting. Understand I absolutely loved Pleasance in everything he did. But you put him in a ten person line-up, ask people to point out the villain, and all fingers automatically go to Pleasance. Halfway during the film I almost expected someone to walk past and ask Pleasance: "How're the murders going?" "Oh fine," Pleasance automatically answers, then suddenly catches himself. "Oh, bugger it!")

    (Yes, welcome to another episode of "Ramble On", starring Uncle Mikey.)

    In regards to this Christie story, both Jeremiah and I tend to prefer the 1965 version, but I'm trying to get him to take a peek at this production which, as you've pointed out, has definite merits of its own. And your commentary certainly didn't do the film any disservice. " As the film begins, the all-star cast slowly thaws the ice as the characters arrive in a boat, most of them being English. The characters don't talk much, at least at first; they just smile and nod politely, no small feat when many of them are trying not to toss their cookies after that boat ride! The crashing waves over the opening credits work perfectly; I was tempted to get my snorkel!." Every time I see that scene I almost expect one of the people in the boat to be Tallulah Bankhead (which would've been a casting mistake, as she would've been my choice for the murderer . . . presuming Pleasance wasn't around).

    "Let’s meet our travelers, shall we?" Well the truth finally comes out. Dorian was TV host Jim Lange in a previous life. But I read that and briefly had a flash of "Ten Little Indians" being filmed as some sort of weird television game show. It certainly wouldn't be any stranger than, say, having ten totally unassociated people accepting an invitation to spend a weekend on a remote island in the home of someone they've never met. I know I'm a social wallflower, but if I were to get a mysterious invite from someone named "U.N. Owen" I think I'd suddenly remember an important toenail trimming I had to attend to. I'll just stay home and wait for the movie to come out.

    (Oh, wait . . . I did, didn't I?)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Michael, all of us here at Team Bartilucci HQ always look forward to your witty comments and your own erudite yet playful comments! I especially got a kick out of your Donald Pleasance; ! comments! :-D

      Delete
  4. (Part-2 . . . since the persnickety system set a maximum word count. Well!)

    Anyway: ANNOUNCING SOME WHACKING BIG SPOILERS AHEAD. I REALLY MEAN IT. IF YOU DON'T WANT ANY BEANS SPILLED THEN SKIP AHEAD TO THE NEXT COMMENT ON THE LIST. NO, I WON'T BE INSULTED. I'VE SEEN MORE THAN ONE ADAM SANDLER FILM, AS WELL AS QUITE A NUMBER OF MOVIE ADAPTATIONS OF TELEVISION SHOWS FROM THE 1960S, SO INSULTING ME WOULD BE A DIFFICULT JOB AT BEST.

    Well . . .

    Dorian, are you always as floored as I am to learn that Barry Fitzgerald is the murderer? No kidding: every time I see the denouement I keep thinking "But he CAN'T be the murderer. No! He's really on his way back to the Old Sod to teach classes in Turkey Eating and Hedge Jumping to the other residents at the Retirement Center for Adorable Catholic Priests. Located in County Sligo. Visit the Gift Shop. Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra!"

    Unless I miss my guess, this was the only time Fitzgerald's ever played a villain, and it still tends to bowl me over. He could easily play authoritative and clever characters (e.g. THE NAKED CITY). But evil? It's like seeing James Stewart snarling at everyone in FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX. Just a total slap in the face.

    Earlier I mentioned the 1965 version of the story. Between Fabian in that version, and Mischa Auer in AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, it's almost a toss-up as to who played the more obnoxious character. Upon reflection, though, I think Auer wins by a hair, and I confess to an enormous sense of relief when he's reduced to a corpse (I can almost imagine Christie, back when she was writing the story, going: "Yep! He'll be first.").

    On the other hand, I have to say I prefer Shirley Eaton's Ann Clyde to June Deprez's Vera Claythorne. No real reflection on Duprez, but really . . . could we be just a little more flavorless on screen? I always want to ask Louis Hayward "You're not really gonna fall for her, are you? Be shot at by her, yes . . . but fall for her? Ewww."

    And, like you mentioned, who could ever resist Richard Haydn? I think if he had been able to insert a "Hoy-toy-toy" somewhere in a line I'd automatically place AND THEN THERE WERE NONE among my Top Five Films. A wonderful character actor who hasn't nearly received all the accolades he deserved.

    A good write-up, Dorian, and thanks for the heads-up on the upcoming showings of both this and the 1965 version.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, what a cast! I can't wait to see it. My library just bought it and I am waiting for it to arrive. I've recently been watching Walter Huston and coming to appreciate him a lot, and I always love Richard Haydn and Judith Anderson.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Christina, I'm delighted to hear you'll soon be watching AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, and I think you'll find it to be a wonderfully wicked treat! With that cast, you can't go wrong, I'd say! The whole cast is terrific, though I admit Richard Haydn and his unmistakable way of speaking always gets our family smiling! We're betting you'll enjoy it as much as we did! :-D

      Delete
  6. Michael, my friend, you've proven to have great taste in Agatha Christie adaptations! :-) While I liked the some of the film's elements more than you did when it came to June Duprez, I nevertheless have a soft spot for her performance in THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD! :-) In any case, I was delighted that you caught the LIFEBOAT gag! I was also glad to see I wasn't the only who was *SPOILER ALERT!* gobsmacked to discover that Barry Fitzgerald was the true culprit! Oh, and keep in*End Spoiler Alert* that even James Stewart could be an ornery varmint sometimes, especially in films like WINCHESTER '73! I'm pleased that you love Richard Haydn as much as we do here at Team Bartilucci HQ! And yes, I admit that while I love both of these versions of the story, my favorite version is still the 1965 version; especially with Bond Girl Shirley Eaton, not to mention Daliah Lavi! :-D Thanks for your kind words, my friend -- and keep an eye out in two weeks for TEN LITTLE INDIANS! :-D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Characters are dropping like flies and it's so terribly, terribly delightful. What a cast! What a treat!

      So happy you took your pen to "And Then There Were None". It will be just as if we are watching it together when it pops up on TCM next week.

      Delete
  7. Paddy, my friend, I shall think of you as we watch AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, kinda like some kind of cool coast-to-coast broadcast! Thanks for your kind kudos for my post! :-D

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh those Popkins. Love this film and story. Things always are more spooky with the Brits. I love that the beautiful June Duprez is here - she is a rare treat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marsha, you're truly a gal of superb taste in awesome Agatha Christie adaptations -- brava, my friend! You're right, there's something about those wonderfully spooky Brits that gets your spine tingling! Let's hear it for Christie thrillers, and the Popkin Brothers for knowing great movies when they saw them -- and of course, keep an out out in a couple of weeks for The Brothers Popkin again for the 1965 version of TEN LITTLE INDIANS, both at TotED and on TCM! Thanks a million for your kind kudos, pal! :-D

      Delete
  9. Great review, Dorian, and I do like this version. However, I'm still a bigger fan of the underrated '65 version and am looking very forward to that review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I'd say that as good as the 1945 version AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, the upcoming TEN LITTLE INDIANS from 1965 surely seems to be the version to beat, especially with sexy stars like Shirley Eaton and Hugh O'Brian and so much more! :-) But hey, they're all great in their different ways! We hope you'll enjoy it, and we're glad you dropped by to join the thrilling fun! :-D

      Delete
  10. I was a big Christe fan when I was younger (I never could guess whodnnit) but I've only recently started seeking out some of the film adaptations. I've actually seen the 1965 version, but not this one - I'll keep an eye out for it as I'd like to compare.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Miss V., I'm pleased to hear you have been an Agatha Christie enthusiast, too; I had a hard figuring whodunit, too, but I enjoyed it anyway! :-) I hope you'll enjoy it when you get a chance to compare and contrast, too! :-D Thanks for dropping by in TotED, and we hope you'll get to catch up with it! :-D

      Delete
  11. Mischa Auer is a hoot. Always was. Always will be. :) This is my favorite version of Christie's story which to my mind should always be filmed in black and white. Count me in the minority but I was never a big Barry Fitzgerald fan, I found him and his accent fatiguing. But I know that's JUST ME. Later as a detective on The Naked City, somehow, I didn't seem to mind him as much. I know, I'm awful. I'm going straight to hell. Ha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yvette, dear friend, I've always found that both the 1945 version and the 1965 versions each have their own favorites, so I'm perfectly willing to play nice with both versions! :-) Besides, since I'm of Irish and Italian descent, I can't help having a bit of a soft spot for Barry Fitzgerald, so I'm delighted that you enjoyed him in the film version of THE NAKED CITY! Besides, being a Mischa Auer fan, too, you're too darn funny and charming to get to Hell, so no worries on that front, pal! By the way, I was pleased to see that both AND THEN THERE WERE NONE and TEN LITTLE INDIANS were both filmed in black and white, proving again we both have swell taste in movies -- but surely you knew that already! :-D Thanks for dropping by for joining the fun and frolic, Agatha Christie-style, and warmest wishes to you and your family!

      Delete
    2. I don't know why I keep remembering TEN LITTLE INDIANS being in color. The Hugh O'Brian one I mean. Thanks for the correction, Dorian. Sorry about the slip. Well, let's pretend it was in color and even if it wasn't (which it wasn't) I still wasn't crazy about that cast. I'll stick with Mischa Auer. Ha.

      Delete
  12. It's been a long while since I saw this but from what I remember it was enjoyable as is your take on the film. The excellent cast surely add to the pleasure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your kind kudos for Team B's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, John! By the way, you and the rest of the gang here will surely want to put on their DVRs and tune into TCM's awesome Agatha Christie lineup of Dame Agatha's movie adaptations tonight, starting at 8PM with AND THEN THERE WERE NONE; EVIL UNDER THE SUN; MURDER, SHE SAID; TEN LITTLE INDIANS; and Team Bartilucci special favorite, WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION! Check it out tonight! :-D

      Delete
  13. haha, i LOVE your cast gif, could you possibly fit anymore suspicious ideway glances in there? So glad to make it here finally and see that you and I share the love for this type of whodunit and for this fabulous cast. Here I go joining in the spoiling but as commenter Michael pointed out, Barry F was a surprise for sure, and that's fascinating he never played a villain anywhere else, probably why it WAS surprising. I dvr'd all those adaptations (even though I've seen the Poirot ones) and can't wait to get through them and read your next instalment! cheers and best to you all

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kristina, we're delighted that we caught up with each other's versions versions of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE at last -- hooray, we've outsmarted U.N. Owen at last! :-) We of Team Bartilucci are also glad you got a kick out of those sidelong glances and Hairy Eyeballs, courtesy of Vinnie, my hubby and GIF Master (*having already spilled a bean or 2 during this blog post, but we're all pals here, no worries)!* We're pleased as the proverbial punch that you enjoyed AND THEN..., my friend, and we hope you and the gang will enjoy our upcoming TEN LITTLE INDIANS post! Warmest wishes to you and yours, pal, as always! :-D

      Delete
  14. I can't believe I'm about to admit this, but I've never read or seen ANY adaptation of this story, although I'm familiar with the plot. This sounds like a wonderful version, especially with the charming Barry Fitzgerald as the murderer. (Yes, despite all the spoiler warnings, I read all the above comments! Doh!)

    I agree with Kristina – what a great gif of suspicious looks! Terrific!

    ReplyDelete