"The Scoundrel" Is Released
The Scoundrel (1935) is a drama film directed by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, and starring Noel Coward, Julie Haydon, Stanley Ridges, and Lionel Stander.
It was Coward's film debut, aside from a bit role in a silent film. It deals with supernatural redemption in a way rather similar to Ferenc Molnar's Liliom, and drew inspiration from the life of publisher Horace Liveright, who had died in September 1933.
This modern "Flying Dutchman" story stars actor/playwright Noel Coward as a class-A heel. Coward uses his position as a powerful publisher to break as many hearts as is humanly possible. When Coward does his usual hatchet job on poet Julie Haydon, she plants a curse on his head, praying that he'll die and that no one will mourn him. Within the week, Coward is killed in a plane crash. Slated for Purgatory, Coward is given a second chance; if he can find someone who will weep for him, his soul will be saved. As expected, the sole mourner turns out to be Haydon, whose fiance's life is saved by the repentant Coward. As with most of the Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur film productions of 1930s, The Scoundrel is hard to warm up to because the characters are so unappealing. Still, it's fascinating to see Noel Coward playing a villain, and to spot legendary critic/curmudgeon Alexander Woollcott in a supporting role. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide