None but the Lonely Heart (film)

None But the Lonely Heart

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Clifford Odets
Produced by David Hempstead
Written by Clifford Odets
Based on None but the Lonely Heart
1943 novel
by Richard Llewellyn
Starring Cary Grant
Ethel Barrymore
Barry Fitzgerald
June Duprez
Jane Wyatt
George Coulouris
Dan Duryea
Music by Hanns Eisler
Cinematography George Barnes
Edited by Roland Gross
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • October 17, 1944 (1944-10-17)
Running time
113 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.3 million[1]

None but the Lonely Heart is a 1944 American drama romance film which tells the story of a young Cockney drifter who returns home with no ambitions but finds that his family needs him. Adapted by Clifford Odets from the novel by Richard Llewellyn and directed by Odets, the movie stars Cary Grant, Ethel Barrymore, and Barry Fitzgerald.

The title of the film is taken from one of Tchaikovsky's best-known songs, which is featured in the background music.


Ethel Barrymore and Cary Grant in None but the Lonely Heart

Ernie Mott (Cary Grant) is a restless, irresponsible, wandering Cockney with a good musical ear. On Armistice Day, Ernie visits the tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, which memorializes those who died in World War I, including his father. Ernie wants a better life but does not want to settle down or work for it. When he returns home, Ma Mott (Ethel Barrymore) asks why he has returned after so long, and she gives him an ultimatum that he must stay home now or leave forever. He informs her that he will then be leaving next morning, and goes out to get a drink. He meets fellow musician Aggie Hunter (Jane Wyatt) outside the bar, but instead prefers the company of a gangster's fickle former wife, Ada Brantline (June Duprez). However, when Ernie becomes smitten with Ada she rejects his offer of a date when he tells her he will be leaving town tomorrow.

The next morning, Ma Mott tells her pawnbroker friend, Ike Weber (Konstantin Shayne), that she has cancer. Ma and Ernie get into another fight, but after he storms out, Ike shares with him that his mother needs him in her battle with cancer. Ernie returns and says that he will stay with her at home and help her run her shop.

A month passes, and Ernie continues to pursue Ada. However, when gangster Jim Mordinoy (George Coulouris) informs him that she's still his wife, Ernie doesn't believe Ada when she says that's a lie and he cuts her off socially. Ernie begins to notice the poverty surrounding him in London, and chooses to accept Mordinoy's offer to join his activities, even against Ada's pleas. Ernie begins to steal cars, and he is involved in a police chase until his car collides with a truck and explodes into flames. Ada implores him to run away with her, but he does not want to leave his dying mother.

When Ernie is eventually bailed out of jail by Ike, he finds out that after the police find Ernie's platinum cigarette case—his birthday gift from Ma—was stolen, the police arrest her and put her in prison. She begs for forgiveness for shaming the family, and dies in prison hospital. When he returns home, he learns via a letter from Ada that she decided to stay with Mordinoy because that would make her life easier. Ernie is crushed, and walks along the street until he gets to Aggie's door and walks in.



None but the Lonely Heart and 1935's Sylvia Scarlett were the only two films in which Cary Grant used a Cockney accent, though that was not his original accent, as he was from Bristol. The unique vocal intonations with which he spoke in every other film were the results of an unsuccessful attempt to go from an English to an American accent so that he wouldn't be limited to playing British roles in American movies.

RKO Pictures head Charles Koerner bought Richard Llewllyn's book as a starring vehicle for Cary Grant. Koerner also suggested that playwright Clifford Odets direct the picture. This was the first feature film that Odets directed, and he would direct only one other picture in his career, the 1959 film The Story On Page One. To secure Ethel Barrymore's availability to complete her scenes, RKO had to pay all the expenses incurred by temporarily closing the play The Corn Is Green, in which she was starring on Broadway.[2]

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the East End London road set in this film was the largest and most complete external set constructed inside a sound stage at that time. The set measured 800 feet long and extended the length of two sound stages.[2]


Lela Rogers, the mother of Ginger Rogers, denounced the script of None but the Lonely Heart at a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing as a "perfect example of the propaganda that Communists like to inject" and accused Odets of being a Communist. Rogers cited the line spoken by "Ernie" to his mother, "you're not going to get me to work here and squeeze pennies out of little people who are poorer than I am," as an example of Communist propaganda.[2] Hanns Eisler, who was nominated for an Academy Award for composing the film's score, was also interrogated by HUAC and was designated as an unfriendly witness for his refusal to cooperate.[2]

Box office

The film recorded a loss of $72,000.[1]

Academy Awards

17th Academy Awards:



Musical comedian and parodist Spike Jones recorded a three-minute spoof of radio soap operas entitled None but the Lonely Heart (A Soaperetta) in the 1940s.


  1. 1 2 Richard B. Jewell, Slow Fade to Black: The Decline of RKO Radio Pictures, Uni of California, 2016
  2. 1 2 3 4 "None But the Lonely Heart". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  3. "The 17th Academy Awards (1944) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2014-03-01.
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