Action for Slander

Last updated

Action for Slander
Action for Slander FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Tim Whelan
Written by Ian Dalrymple
Miles Malleson
Based on Action for Slander by Mary Borden
Produced by Victor Saville
Alexander Korda
Stanley Haynes
Starring Clive Brook
Ann Todd
Margaretta Scott
Cinematography Harry Stradling
Edited by Hugh Stewart
Music by Muir Mathieson
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
  • 21 January 1937 (1937-01-21)
Running time
83 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Action for Slander is a 1937 British drama film directed by Tim Whelan and starring Clive Brook, Ann Todd and Googie Withers. The plot is about an army officer who is falsely accused at cheating at cards by a man whose wife he had an affair with and struggles to clear his name. It was an adaptation of the 1937 novel Action for Slander by Mary Borden.



Major George Daviot is left by his wife Ann due to their growing estrangement and her knowledge that he has fallen in love with another woman, Josie Bradford, the wife of one of his fellow officers. Daviot goes off with friends for a weekend party at a country house attended by a number of prominent figures including businessmen and politicians as well as Captain Bradford and his wife. The tension between Bradford and Daviot is obvious during grouse shooting as Bradford is clearly aware of Daviot's affair with his wife.

That evening, during a game of cards played for high stakes, Daviot is accused of cheating by Grant, a drunken player who has lost large amounts of money, a charge that is dismissed out of hand by the other players until Bradford seconds it. None of the other players believe the accusation, even though they are unaware of the grudge that Bradford has against Daviot. Bradford sticks to his story, even in the face of legal action from Daviot.

The other guests frightened of their own reputations if the scandal becomes widely known, persuade all to hush the matter up. Daviot agrees to keep quiet for all their sakes, even though he still wants to clear his name. Daviot proposes to Josie that she leave her husband and live with him in spite of the scandal, but her lukewarm response leads him to realise that her interest in him is shallow. She subsequently reconciles with her husband and they go abroad to spend time together.

Daviot tries to continue, but rumours about the affair begin to spread. Over the following year, his life disintegrates. He no longer finds himself welcome in his regiment or at his gentlemen's club and his friends begin to cut him socially, including those at the house party who know him to be innocent. Hounded out of his society, Daviot retreats to a cheap boarding house in Bayswater where he ceases to go out or even open letters. His one remaining hope, of receiving a transfer to the Indian Army serving on the Northwest Frontier is dashed and he begins to consider suicide.

Ann Daviot, meanwhile, has been touring around Continental Europe aimlessly, possibly never to return to Britain. As soon as she hears he is in trouble she returns to help him, but he is unresponsive and derides her as an "Angel of Mercy". Eventually she goads him into facing his accusers, and he initiates court proceedings on the understanding that if he loses he will be allowed to take gentlemen's way out with a pistol. With the help of his barrister Sir Quinton Jessops, Daviot attempts to clear his name by suing Bradford and Grant for slander.



The film was made independently at Denham Studios by Victor Saville with backing from Alexander Korda's London Film Productions. [1] [2] It was adapted from the novel Action for Slander by Mary Borden that was released the same year. [3] [4]


The film was popular at its release and it was re-released several times during the 1940s. However, it has later been criticised as "stilted". [5] Rachael Low describes it as being "well-made and acted" although the "behaviour of the characters was too far-fetched to carry conviction". [1]

Writing for Night and Day in 1937, Graham Greene gave the film a mildly good review, summarizing the film as "a picture of which we needn't feel ashamed if it reaches the United States, even though the story is novelettish in the extreme". Despite expressing the view that Selten had been "badly miscast" for the role of the Judge, Greene generally praised the cast's acting and the direction which allowed "people on the whole [to] behave naturally - and shabbily", and noted that the "love scene for once is not written in". [6]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Googie Withers</span> British actress and entertainer

Georgette Lizette "Googie" Withers, CBE, AO was an English entertainer. She was a dancer and actress, with a lengthy career spanning some nine decades in theatre, film, and television. She was a well-known actress and star of British films during and after World War II.

<i>Dead of Night</i> 1945 British film

Dead of Night is a 1945 British anthology supernatural horror film, made by Ealing Studios. The individual segments were directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden and Robert Hamer. It stars Mervyn Johns, Googie Withers, Sally Ann Howes and Michael Redgrave. The film is best remembered for the concluding story featuring Redgrave and an insane ventriloquist's malevolent dummy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ann Todd</span> English actress (1907–1993)

Dorothy Ann Todd was an English film, television and stage actress who achieved international fame when she starred in The Seventh Veil (1945). From 1949 to 1957 she was married to David Lean who directed her in The Passionate Friends (1949), Madeleine (1950), and The Sound Barrier (1952). She was a member of The Old Vic theatre company and in 1957 starred in a Broadway play. In her later years she wrote, produced and directed travel documentaries.

<i>Night and the City</i> 1950 film directed by Jules Dassin

Night and the City is a 1950 film noir directed by Jules Dassin and starring Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney and Googie Withers. It is based on the novel of the same name by Gerald Kersh. Shot on location in London and at Shepperton Studios, the plot revolves around an ambitious hustler who meets continual failures.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clive Brook</span> English film actor (1887–1974)

Clifford Hardman "Clive" Brook was an English film actor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Griffith Jones (actor)</span> English actor (1909–2007)

Griffith Jones was an English film, stage and television actor.

<i>Fire Over England</i> 1937 British film by William K. Howard

Fire Over England is a 1937 London Film Productions film drama, notable for providing the first pairing of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. It was directed by William K. Howard and written by Clemence Dane, nominally from the 1936 novel Fire Over England by AEW Mason. Leigh's performance in the film helped to convince David O. Selznick to cast her as Scarlett O'Hara in his 1939 production of Gone with the Wind. The film is a historical drama set during the reign of Elizabeth I focusing on England's victory over the Spanish Armada.

<i>The Magic Box</i> 1951 British drama film by John Boulting

The Magic Box is a 1951 British Technicolor biographical drama film directed by John Boulting. The film stars Robert Donat as William Friese-Greene, with numerous cameo appearances by performers such as Peter Ustinov and Laurence Olivier. It was produced by Ronald Neame and distributed by British Lion Film Corporation.

<i>They Wont Forget</i> 1937 film

They Won't Forget is a 1937 American drama film directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Claude Rains, Gloria Dickson, Edward Norris, and Lana Turner, in her feature debut. It was based on a novel by Ward Greene called Death in the Deep South, which was in turn a fictionalized account of a real-life case: the trial and subsequent lynching of Leo Frank after the murder of Mary Phagan in 1913.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sarah Lawson (actress)</span> English actress (1928–2023)

Sarah Elizabeth Lawson was an English actress, best known for her film and television roles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mary Borden</span> American-British novelist and poet (1886–1968)

Mary Borden was an American-British novelist and poet whose work drew on her experiences as a war nurse. She was the second of the three children of William Borden, who had made a fortune in Colorado silver mining in the late 1870s.

Nickel Queen is a 1971 Australian comedy film starring Googie Withers and directed by her husband John McCallum. The story was loosely based on the Poseidon bubble, a nickel boom in Western Australia in the late 1960s, and tells of an outback pub owner who stakes a claim and finds herself an overnight millionaire.

<i>This Is Your Life</i> (British TV series) British television series

This Is Your Life is a British biographical television documentary, based on the 1952 American series. It was hosted by Eamonn Andrews from 1955 until 1964, and then from 1969 until his death in 1987. Michael Aspel then took up the role of host until the show ended in 2003. It briefly returned in 2007 as a one-off special presented by Trevor McDonald.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Morton Selten</span> British actor (1860–1939)

Morton Selten was a British stage and film actor. He was occasionally credited as Morton Selton.

<i>The Girl in the Crowd</i> 1935 British film

The Girl in the Crowd is a 1935 British comedy film directed by Michael Powell starring Barry Clifton, Patricia Hilliard, and Googie Withers.

<i>Derby Day</i> (1952 film) 1952 British film

Derby Day is a 1952 British drama film directed by Herbert Wilcox and starring Anna Neagle, Michael Wilding, Googie Withers, John McCallum, Peter Graves, Suzanne Cloutier and Gordon Harker. An ensemble piece, it portrays several characters on their way to the Derby Day races at Epsom Downs Racecourse. It was an attempt to revive the success that Neagle and Wilding had previously enjoyed on screen together. To promote the film, Wilcox arranged for Neagle to launch the film at the 1952 Epsom Derby. In the United States, the film was released as Four Against Fate.

<i>Busmans Honeymoon</i> (film) 1940 film by Arthur B. Woods

Busman's Honeymoon is a 1940 British detective film directed by Arthur B. Woods. An adaptation of the 1937 Lord Peter Wimsey novel Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers, Busman's Honeymoon stars Robert Montgomery, Constance Cummings, Leslie Banks, Googie Withers, Robert Newton and Seymour Hicks as Mervyn Bunter.

Pearls Bring Tears is a 1937 British comedy drama film directed by Manning Haynes and starring John Stuart, Dorothy Boyd and Googie Withers.

<i>Smash and Grab</i> (1937 film) 1937 British film

Smash and Grab is a 1937 British comedy crime film directed by Tim Whelan and starring Jack Buchanan, Elsie Randolph, with Arthur Margetson and Anthony Holles. The film was released in the United States as Larceny Street. The film was shot at Pinewood Studios with sets designed by the art director Douglas Daniels.

<i>Action for Slander</i> (novel)

Action for Slander is a drama novel by the Anglo-American writer Mary Borden. It was first published in 1936 by William Heinemann. A British army officer faces disgrace when he is falsely accused of cheating at cards by a fellow officer whose wife he has had an affair with.


  1. 1 2 Low p.224
  2. "Action for Slander (1937)". BFI. Archived from the original on 23 August 2018.
  3. White p.38
  4. Borden, Mary (23 April 1937). Action for slander; a novel. Harper. OCLC   2124879 via Open WorldCat.
  5. "Action for Slander". Time Out Worldwide.
  6. Greene, Graham (16 September 1937). "Action for Slander/Brief Ecstacy". Night and Day . (reprinted in: Taylor, John Russell, ed. (1980). The Pleasure Dome. Oxford University Press. pp. 167, 170. ISBN   0192812866.)