Friday, September 16, 2016

And Then There Were None (1945)

Ten people are invited to an isolated island, only to find that an unseen person is killing them one by one. Could one of them be the killer?

That is the premise of one of my favorite mystery stories by the Queen on Crime, the great Agatha Christie. Originally written in 1939, the book, a best seller with over 100 million copies sold, has been made into a movie more times than any of Christie's other novels and has appeared as a television production even more, attesting to the popularity of the story through the decades. You can read more about the book and it's adaptations here.

The Island "prison."

The story was first adapted for the stage, with a alternate ending. This ending is the one mostly used in the film adaptations, the first of which was And Then There were None (1945) starring Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Roland Young, C. Aubrey Smith, Richard Haydn, and Judith Anderson. The young couple and romantic interest in the film is played by Louis Hayward and June Duprez. Like the book, the story takes place on an island (changed to the Alps in the 1965 film titled Ten Little Indians). A group of strangers are invited there by a Mr. U. N. Own (get it - "unknown"), of which none of them has ever actually met. They arrive by boat and are informed that it will be back to pick them up in a few days. The guests are met by two servants, husband and wife, whom they learn have just been hired and also do not know their mysterious host. Everyone is settled in their rooms and have dinner, where they begin to get to know one another. After dinner, a record begins to play. A voice identifies itself as their host and proceeds to tell them why they are there. It seems that everyone has a shady past, whether it was murder or some other sort of crime. The guests are indignant and attempt to tell their stories to clear their names of their supposed crime.

Judith Anderson, the perfect person to put in the middle of a Christie story.

It is then that things begin to get interesting. Prince Nikita Skarloff (Mischa Auer - the protégé from My Man Godfrey) begins drunkenly playing the piano and suddenly collapses, poisoned. Someone notices that one of the Indian statuettes they had only just been admiring on the dining room table has been smashed. They also realize that there is a statue for each of them, totaling ten. Vera Claythorne (Duprez) suddenly recalls a rhyme about "Ten Little Indians," in which the first choked to death. At first everyone thinks there is a killer hiding in the house but suspicion quickly turns to each other as one by one each person meets a terrible fate until finally there are only two people left alive.  Which one of them is the killer? Will he or she kill the other and then hang himself, as the poem says? You'll have to watch the movie or read the book to find out!

Here is the rhyme (the word Indians has since been replaced with Soldier Boys):

Ten little Indian boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.
Nine little Indian boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were Eight.
Eight little Indian boys traveling in Devon;
One said he'd stay there and then there were Seven.
Seven little Indian boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.
Six little Indian boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were Five.
Five little Indian boys going in for law;
One got into Chancery and then there were Four.
Four little Indian boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.
Three little Indian boys walking in the Zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.
Two little Indian boys were out in the sun;
One got all frizzled up and then there was one.
One little Indian boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none
Released on Halloween of 1945, the film was highly successful. Unfortunately it has fallen into the public domain so copies of the film are extremely poor.
Although I really like this movie, I highly recommend reading the book first, as it is superbly written and with a truly thrilling climax. You can watch the movie in its entirety below:
This post is part of The Agatha Christie Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and Little Bits of Classics. Be sure to read all of the other suspense-filled posts!


  1. Hi Phyl, I wasn't familiar with this adaptation before, even though I adore this book of Christie's and I've already seen its play version in theatre. Have you heard about last year's BBC adaptation? I've seen it and can only recommend it, it was absolutely thrilling!
    Your post will be up Sunday, thank you very much for joining :)!
    Domi (Little Bits of Classics)

    1. I vaguely remember hearing about the BBC version. I will have to look it up! Thanks for hosting :)

  2. It's a great book, isn't it? I don't remember seeing this particualr adaptation so thanks for highlighting it - I'll make time to watch it soon. I always think it's quite amusing the way the name has changed over the years - really shows how society has changed too, for the better, I hope! Great review! :)

    1. I know! I almost included a paragraph on the title but I wanted to stick to the movie. Thanks for reading!

  3. I viewed this film version many times before reading Christie's original novel. They both create a nice chilling atmosphere. I find I enjoy the film immensely over many viewings due to its highly professional ensemble. The book and its ending leave me with chills. Christie could manipulate her readers in so many different ways - a master.

    1. I just love her books! I'm always shocked at the end :)This version really has a stellar cast and it's very well done as a book adaptation. Thanks for reading!

  4. I confess I did it backwards...rather to my regret. I actually still haven't read the book (though I'm familiar with the original ending), but I keep meaning to read the book. Maybe this fall would be an ideal time. :)

    Judith Anderson is perfect, isn't she! My only regret was that her character couldn't have lived longer. :)

    Thanks so much for participating and covering this great film!

    1. I hope you get a chance to read it soon! And thanks so much for hosting! It was a fun idea :)

  5. I've always had such a weakness for this story of Agatha Christie, and am glad someone did a review of this film. Great post!

  6. This is one of my favourite Agatha Christie stories although I don't think I've seen this adaption. I thought the one made for TV and scheduled over Christmas last year was exceptionally good and in many ways knowing whodunit means you can concentrate on the other aspects.

    1. Glad to hear you enjoyed the TV one. I will have to look it up. This is a great adaptation that you can watch more than once too. Hope you get a chance to see it! :)