Film of the Month

The Tenth Man (1936)

A businessman and politician likes to sail too close to the wind, particularly when it comes to his marriage, but when his wife threatens to leave him he resorts to blackmail to keep her.

There's a curious little coda at the end of the DVD release of The Tenth Man:

You have just seen JOHN LODGE in his second important British film. His first, of course was 'OURSELVES ALONE'. YOU have made him a star WE have signed him on a long term contract Watch for his next film "SENSATION"

It's a little glimpse into the effort put into developing stars in the 30s, something the British industry was never terribly systematic at doing. Lodge was a rising star in Hollywood having just played opposite Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress, though the box office failure of that film may have damaged his chances. Still, he was a "name" and they were in short supply and BIP still had hopes of breaking into the US market in a big way. For much of Britain's cinema history, importing American actors to help sales there was often seen as helpful, though it wasn't until the 50s that the policy really became ubiquitous.

The Tenth Man really is a star vehicle for John Lodge. The rest of the cast have little to do but slot into their various "types" efficiently. Lodge is given little more than a Yank-on-the-make stereotype to work with but at least it's all about him and he acquits himself well, having both the looks and the energy necessary to persuade us he could get away with what he does.  

The basis of the plot is the businessman's belief that nine out of ten men are either fools or knaves; then he meets the tenth man and his schemes unravel. Clifford Evans plays the tenth man but his role is insufficiently developed, with the film skewed towards Lodge's disintegrating marriage. Therefore the climax focusing on the two men feels unearned.

One interesting facet of the film is its glimpse at 30s politics. Of course, being the 1930s, the censors wouldn't allow any actual politics to be seen and we have no idea to which party Lodge's character is meant to belong. However the film does seem to capture the atmosphere of a provincial election.

Lodge never became a massive star and his career ended with the war. He then became a politician and Governor of Connecticut. I doubt if he often showed The Tenth Man to his supporters. 

Script adapt.: Geoffrey Kerr, Dudley Leslie, Marjorie Deans, Jack Davies. (o.a. Somerset Maugham)

Director: Brian Desmond Hurst

Players: John Lodge, Antoinette Cellier, Aileen Marson, Clifford Evans, George Graves, Frank Cochrane, Athole Stewart, Iris Hoey, Bruce Lister, Barry Sinclair, Anthony Holles, Hindle Edgar, Edith Sharpe, John Harwood, Aubrey Mallalieu, Kathleen Harrison, Mavis Clair


The Tenth Man DVD at Amazon UK 

The Tenth Man DVD at Amazon US