AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, 1945
On a remote and isolated island, ten people - 8 invited guests and two servants - find themselves facing their own deaths. Their unidentified host informs them, via a gramophone record, that as they have all been responsible for someone's death, they in turn will die before the weekend is out. There is no way for any of them to flee the island, so they set about trying to determine who their hidden host might be and where he might be hiding. One by one, the guests are killed and one of them suggests that the killer is likely among them.
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One of English writer Dame Agatha Christie's whodunit novels is adapted into a screenplay, "And Then There Were None" (1945). The first edition of the novel featured the title, "Ten Little Niggers," (1939) which was also a children’s nursery rhyme. The origin of the title is based on a song "Ten Little Indians," written by a Philadelphia songwriter, Septimus Winner in the late 19th century. The title of the rhyme varies from decade to decade and country to country. When the novel was released in the United States in 1940, the Dodd, Mead and Company publishing company changed the title to "And Then There Were None." The novel has also been published and filmed under the title, "Ten Little Indians." Today, "And Then There Were None" is the title most commonly used and the story has been adapted into several plays, films, and even a video game.
Directed by French filmmaker René Clair and brilliantly played by an ensemble cast, “And Then There Were None” is a fictional detective story about ten unrelated people of different social statuses are brought to Indian Island for the weekend. Starring Barry Fitzgerald as Judge Francis J. Quinncannon, Walter Huston as Dr. Edward G. Armstrong, Louis Hayward as Philip Lombard, and Roland Young as Detective William Henry Blore, ten guests are lured to the island from a letter they each received. They soon discover they are stranded on the island by a by Mr. U.N. Owen who at dinner accuses each of them of murder on a gramophone. Then, one by one, the guests are murdered. It seems to be that one of the guests is the murderer. All the deaths coincide with the nursery rhyme; for instance, when Prince Nikita 'Nikki' Starloff (Mischa Auer) dies from drinking poison that was in his beverage: “Ten little Indians boys went out to dine; one choked his little self and then there were nine.” Whenever the guests believe that one is a suspect, that person seems to be the next one murdered, until eventually only two people are left.
The atmosphere of the murders are “light” and this adds some humor to ease the tone of the story compared to the novel which has a dark subject matter. “And Then There Were None” has comedic performances that veers into enjoyable black comedy at times; one being Louis Hayward's snappy dialogue to Roland Young's inept conclusion: "And then he takes the chopper and splits open his own cranium. Fact. I'd like to see you do that yourself." Dame Judith Anderson as Emily Brent, dominates her scenes as a sinister spinster who doesn’t seem fazed about the murders. Unforgettable Richard Haydn as Thomas Rogers, is amusing as a clumsy and petrified butler. The characters that really stand out are Academy Award winners, Walter Huston and Barry Fitzgerald. Their characters both have the same type of personality; they’re perceptive, clever and somewhat devious.
In Christie's book, all ten of the characters are guilty of the crimes of which they are accused and they all perish. The ending was changed in the film because there would be no one left to tell the tale. Without any survivor the mystery would be unsolved. Apparently Christie changed the novel's ending to make it more suitable for the stage. What’s nice about this story is the “detective” character doesn’t gets in the way of the story, compared to the Miss Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot films. Despite the altered ending, “And Then There Were None” has everything that makes a good mystery: a good plot, suspense and excellent characters with witty remarks.
AND THEN THERE WERE NONE