16 user 5 critic

The Scoundrel (1935)

Approved | | Drama, Fantasy | 30 April 1935 (USA)
A ruthless, cynical, hated publisher is killed in a plane crash, doomed to be a "restless" spirit for being unloved. A heavenly power gives him a month on Earth to find one person to shed a tear for him before his fate is sealed.


Ben Hecht (story), Charles MacArthur (story)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Noël Coward ... Anthony Mallare (as Noel Coward)
Julie Haydon ... Cora Moore
Stanley Ridges ... Paul Decker
Martha Sleeper ... Julia Vivian
Ernest Cossart ... Jimmy Clay
Alexander Woollcott Alexander Woollcott ... Vanderveer Veyden
Everley Gregg ... Mildred Langwiter (as Everly Gregg)
Rosita Moreno ... Carlotta
Eduardo Ciannelli ... Maurice Stern (as Edward Cinnelli)
Richard Bond ... Howard Gillette
Helen Strickland Helen Strickland ... Mrs. Rolinson
Lionel Stander ... Rothenstien
Frank Conlan Frank Conlan ... Massey
O.Z. Whitehead ... Calhoun
Raymond Bramley Raymond Bramley ... Felix Abrams


A ruthless, cynical, hated publisher is killed in a plane crash, doomed to be a "restless" spirit for being unloved. A heavenly power gives him a month on Earth to find one person to shed a tear for him before his fate is sealed.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

ghost | afterlife | curse | salvation | soul | See All (6) »


"Before I tell a woman I love her, I rattle six times, like a snake." (original poster)


Drama | Fantasy


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

30 April 1935 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ein charmanter Schurke See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This film won the Best Writing, Original Story Oscar for its only Academy Award nomination. See more »


Maurice Stern: Pity - that most vile of virtues - has never been known to you.
See more »


Piano Concerto No. 2
Music by Sergei Rachmaninoff
See more »

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User Reviews

THE SCOUNDREL (Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur & Lee Garmes, 1935) ***
10 February 2014 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

Oddly enough, for the longest time, I had believed that this movie was a recipient of the full four star rating on Leonard Maltin's film guide; ultimately, it only got three stars there, which nicely corresponds to the two allotted it by Leslie Halliwell. In any case, THE SCOUNDREL's inclusion in my ongoing Oscar marathon comes courtesy of its winning an Academy Award for Best Original Story. The sophisticated yet fanciful plot tells of a ruthless heel of a publisher who treats his equally callous writer clients terribly and his coterie of long-suffering client girlfriends abominably until he meets his comeuppance in a plane crash at sea; God allows him to return to earth for a month but, unless he can find someone there able to shed genuine tears for his demise, his soul will condemned to roam restlessly for all time.

The film marked the starring screen debut of British theatrical institution Noel Coward following a small role in D.W. Griffith's Silent WWI epic HEARTS OF THE WORLD (1918) and is notable for bringing him together with two of America's most renowned playwrights/screenwriters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (here making their sophomore directorial effort in Hollywood). For the record, Coward's erratic film career peaked with his WWII propaganda classic IN WHICH WE SERVE (1942; which he starred in, wrote, produced, composed and co-directed with a debuting David Lean!) but he did lend, albeit briefly, his legendarily suave presence to a few noteworthy films, namely Otto Preminger's BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965), Joseph Losey's BOOM (1968) and the cult caper comedy THE Italian JOB (1969); indeed, his only other starring role came 15 years after THE SCOUNDREL in Terence Fisher's THE ASTONISHED HEART (1950; which I own a copy of but have yet to watch).

With regards to the two directors, MacArthur only helmed three more movies, all in collaboration with Hecht – including CRIME WITHOUT PASSION (1934) and SOAK THE RICH (1936) which, again, are both in my unwatched pile; on the other hand, Hecht lasted for three more films (often in collaboration with celebrated cinematographer Lee Garmes), including SPECTER OF THE ROSE (1946) and ACTORS AND SIN (1952) which, you guessed it, I have yet to delve into. Interestingly, Garmes' name also crops up in THE SCOUNDREL where he is billed as cinematographer and "Associate Director"…as seems to have been the case with the duo's directorial debut the previous year.

The mainstay of the movie is undoubtedly Noel Coward's magnetic central performance forever quipping the vitriolic epigrams that the superb script is chock-full of. Yet, therein, lies the film's most glaring problem: being in the company of these disagreeably amoral and irredeemably cold-hearted characters – even if for a relatively slim 76 minutes – does wear the viewer down; indeed, even the one humane character here (Coward's latest conquest, a poetess played by Julie Haydon) is made to utter, "I just realized there IS a God" upon reading the newspaper headline of his death at sea! Still, having the cast peppered with a slew of Hollywood and Broadway notables helps immeasurably in removing the traces of bad taste: from Stanley Ridges to Harry Davenport (who suffer the most from Coward's egomaniacal antics) and from Lionel Stander to Edward(!) Cianelli to Alexander Woolcott (who, conversely, show the least remorse for his passing). Allegedly, the mystical final third of the film also has the directing duo and a debuting Burgess Meredith among the inhabitants of a flophouse Haydon visits in her desperate search for Ridges; although this segment might strike one as incongruously sentimental, the stylishness of the visual treatment in which it is rendered manages to smooth over such lapses in tone. In fact, according to a contemporary review of THE SCOUNDREL in "The New York Times", it is mentioned that the film fades out on a shot of "the River Styx and Mr. Coward presumably journeying across it into the great beyond" but this is nowhere to be seen in the copy I watched which ends more prosaically on a close-up of a ghostly Coward's grateful face turned upwards towards God for granting him eternal peace after all.

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