Action for Slander
Directed byTim Whelan
Written byIan Dalrymple
Miles Malleson
Based onAction for Slander by Mary Borden
Produced byVictor Saville
Alexander Korda
Stanley Haynes
StarringClive Brook
Ann Todd
Margaretta Scott
CinematographyHarry Stradling
Edited byHugh Stewart
Music byMuir Mathieson
Distributed byUnited 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]


  1. ^ a b 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.)