And Then There Were None: Roland Young’s Tweed as Blore

Roland Young as William Henry Blore in And Then There Were None (1945)


Roland Young as William Henry Blore, oblivious private investigator

Devon, England, Summer 1945

Film: And Then There Were None
Release Date: October 30, 1945
Director: René Clair
Costume Designer: René Hubert (uncredited)

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!


The great English character actor Roland Young died 70 years ago today on June 5, 1953. Perhaps best known for his Academy Award-nominated performance as Cosmo Topper in Topper (1937) and its two subsequent sequels, Young was also a memorable performer among the ensemble cast of René Clair’s 1945 adaptation of And Then There Were None.

Based on Agatha Christie’s masterpiece thriller novel, this first cinematic version of And Then There Were None was adapted by American screenwriter Dudley Nichols to more closely follow the plot of the stage play, which Christie had adapted herself in 1943 with a more positive ending to better appeal to wartime audiences… a “more positive” ending that still resulted in eight deaths, that is.

Though the war had been over for months when And Then There Were None was released in 1945, it retained this version of the ending, setting a precedent for the subsequent adaptations that would be released in 1965, 1974, and 1989; only a Soviet-made 1987 and a faithfully adapted 2015 BBC miniseries retained Christie’s original English island setting and grim ending.

I love how the original 1945 movie balances Christie’s signature blend of horror and dark humor, with the latter significantly helped by Roland Young’s performance as the blustering Blore, a man appropriately derided as “my good blockhead” by Philip Lombard in the novel. Young presents him as just that, perhaps a competent enough investigator at his detective agency in Plymouth but considerably out of his element against the unknown U.N. Owen.

Overly suspicious yet completely oblivious, Blore remains blusteringly sure of himself, even after his lack of familiarity with electrical mechanics shorts out the power to the house and leaves everyone literally in the dark for their final evening on Indian Island. Nothing can get in the way of Mr. Blore’s indefatigable confidence in his own abilities, loudly punctuating his own conclusions with “I get it!”, though he’s not above the humility of admitting “no, I don’t,” seconds later in the rare instances when he can prove himself incorrect.

It’s fun to watch Young’s Blore struggling to mentally keep up with the dwindling group of survivors, likely seeing himself as their de facto leader despite lacking the natural leadership qualities of Judge Quincannon (Barry Fitzgerald) or the suave Philip Lombard (Louis Hayward) and without the willingness shown by Dr. Armstrong (Walter Huston) to retreat into the supporting role of a “respectable fool”. In fact, it seems almost by accident that Blores survives as long as he does—though, of course, there are no accidents with the mysterious Mr. Owen.

What’d He Wear?

Agatha Christie’s novel doesn’t provide much insight about Blore’s wardrobe, mentioning only a tie, trousers, and wristwatch over the course of the weekend, giving the filmmakers free rein to dress Blore to their vision. A simple-minded and unimaginative investigator, Blore presents himself with a more limited wardrobe than his fellow guests; with the exception of the tuxedo he wears for dinner the first evening, Blore spends the entire weekend dressed in the same tweed jacket and tie that he wore when he arrived.

Roland Young in And Then There Were None (1945)

Rogers’ butcher knife encourages Blore to change his interrogation tactics.

Blore’s single-breasted sports coat is made from herringbone tweed, likely in a duo-tone weave of brown and cream or taupe and tan as these earthy combinations were conventional for country attire. The jacket has a 3/2-roll, with the wide notch lapels rolling over the top button to cleanly show the center button, which is the only one that Blore wears fastened. The jacket has a long, somewhat flared skirt, and the back is ventless as expected for a traditional English sport jacket.

The jacket’s sporty nature is indicated by its loose—but still tailored—fit and the four inverted box-pleat pockets, each with a rectangular flap that closes through a single button, though Blore often wears these haphazardly closed in a manner that adds to his scrappy appearance. All of the buttons—including the three on the front, the three decorating each cuff, and those on the pockets—are all dark nut shank buttons.

Roland Young as William Henry Blore in And Then There Were None (1945)

Blore wears a white cotton shirt with a long point collar, front placket, and button cuffs. He could have added variety to his costume with a rotation of neckwear but instead wears only the same dark four-in-hand tie with its clustered pattern of floral-like spots.

Roland Young as William Henry Blore in And Then There Were None (1945)

“I get it!”

Blore perfectly complements his tweedy top half with dark flannel pleated trousers that effectively contrast the lighter jacket while texturally harmonizing with its coarse finish. The pleats contribute to the trousers’ bagginess that works with the fit of the jacket. The proportions are excellent, with the long rise of the trousers meeting the jacket’s buttoning point perfectly over Roland Young’s natural waist. He holds up his trousers with a dark leather belt that may be a shade of brown to match his dark brown leather lace-up shoes.

Roland Young as William Henry Blore in And Then There Were None (1945)

Blore wears a hole into the carpet as he paces through the living room, considering theories about Mr. Owen’s identity while keeping a watchful eye on Philip Lombard and Vera Claythorne out on the terrace.

Blore’s coat and hat complete the image of the stereotypical 1940s investigator. His calf-length balmacaan raincoat is likely a light khaki, styled with a soft Prussian collar and raglan sleeves that are finished at each cuff with a short strap that closes through a button. Four buttons close under a covered fly, with an additional exposed top button to close through the neck.

Roland Young as William Henry Blore in And Then There Were None (1945)

Blore wears a dark felt fedora, uniquely styled with a flat-topped crown with very little pinch. The narrow grosgrain band is as dark as the rest of the hat, likely also the same color.

Blore wears a rectangular-cased wristwatch on a dark leather strap that jumps from his right wrist to his left wrist, in addition to a pinky ring on his left hand.  Somewhat less ordinary than these typical accessories for the mid-century everyman is a thin bracelet of small wooden beads encircling his right wrist. At first, I thought this was the more expected chain-link bracelet that Roland Young was photographed wearing around the same time that And Then There Were None was produced, but the bracelet on Blore’s wrist while smoking his pipe en route Indian Island is clearly wooden beads and not a metal chain.

Roland Young as William Henry Blore in And Then There Were None (1945)

The fedora’s boxy crown and Blore’s buttoned-up coat complete a fitting image for the man Philip Lombard had described in the novel as “my good blockhead.”

Blore’s type of white wide-ribbed cotton sleeveless undershirt had been innovated about a decade earlier by Jockey as the “A-shirt” (for “athletic shirt”). A widely repeated story holds that this style of undershirt received its perjorative “wife-beater” moniker just two years after Young wore his in And Then There Were None when a man named James Hartford Jr. was arrested for beating his wife to death, sporting a bloody A-shirt in his mugshot that went the 1947 equivalent of viral after it was featured in newspapers.

Given the fact that I’ve never actually seen physical evidence of these newspapers or the mugshot, I think it’s time for this type of undershirt to be culturally rebranded. Since Bruce Willis so visibly wore one while fighting terrorists in Die Hard, maybe the term “Gruber-beater” will catch on instead?

Louis Hayward and Roland Young in And Then There Were None (1945)

Somehow, the sight of 57-year-old Roland Young in his sleeveless undershirt didn’t quite have the same impact on undershirt sales as a bare-chested Clark Gable did ten years earlier.

How to Get the Look

Roland Young as William Henry Blore in And Then There Were None (1945)

In his rumpled raincoat over an unchanging jacket and tie, Roland Young’s Blore could present the image of an English World War II-era Columbo, though Blore is considerably less imaginative than Peter Falk’s scrappy detective and instead may just wear the same clothes all weekend as he lacks the creativity to deviate from them. That said, there’s a comfortably broken-in dignity about Blore’s tweed four-pocket sports coat in a style that I’d love to see make an overdue renaissance.

  • Herringbone tweed single-breasted 3/2-roll sport jacket with wide notch lapels, four inverted box-pleat pockets with rectangular button-down flaps, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
  • White cotton shirt with long point collar, front placket, and button cuffs
  • Dark tie with floral spots
  • Dark flannel pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • Dark brown leather belt
  • Dark brown leather lace-up shoes
  • Dark felt flat-crowned fedora with narrow grosgrain band
  • Light khaki gabardine balmacaan-style raincoat with soft Prussian collar, covered 4-button fly with exposed top button, and raglan sleeves with strap-buttoned cuffs
  • Bracelet of thin beads
  • Pinky ring
  • Rectangular-cased watch with light-colored dial on dark leather strap

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

I get it!

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