Lloyd's of London (film)

Lloyd's of London is a 1936 American drama film directed by Henry King. It stars Freddie Bartholomew, Tyrone Power, Madeleine Carroll, and Guy Standing. The supporting cast includes George Sanders, Virginia Field, and C. Aubrey Smith. Loosely based on historical events, the film follows the dealings of a man who works for Lloyd's of London during the Napoleonic Wars. Lloyd's of London was a hit; it demonstrated that 22-year-old Tyrone Power, in his first starring role,[4] could carry a film, and that the newly formed 20th Century Fox was a major Hollywood studio.[5]

Lloyd's of London
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHenry King
Produced byDarryl F. Zanuck
Kenneth Macgowan
Written byWalter Ferris
Curtis Kenyon
Ernest Pascal
StarringFreddie Bartholomew
Madeleine Carroll
Guy Standing
Tyrone Power
Music byR.H. Bassett
David Buttolph
Cyril J. Mockridge
CinematographyBert Glennon
Edited byBarbara McLean
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
November 25, 1936 (1936-11-25)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$2 million[3]


In 1770, youngster Jonathan Blake (Freddie Bartholomew) overhears two sailors discussing something suspicious in his aunt's ale-house in a Norfolk fishing village. He persuades his more respectable best friend, Horatio Nelson (Douglas Scott), to sneak aboard the sailors' ship with him. They overhear a plot involving insurance fraud. When Jonathan decides to warn the insurers, Horatio cannot accompany him, because that same day he is invited to join the Royal Navy as a midshipman. Jonathan walks 100 miles to London to Lloyd's Coffee House, where the insurers conduct their business. Mr. Angerstein (Guy Standing), the head of one of the syndicates that make up Lloyd's of London, listens to him. Instead of a monetary reward, Jonathan asks to work at Lloyd's as a waiter. Angerstein explains to Jonathan that waiters at Lloyd's are also insurers and business promoters. Angerstein teaches him that news, "honestly acquired and honestly shared", is the lifeblood of the insurance industry.

Many years later, when he is a grown man and Lloyd's has moved and become Lloyd's of London, Jonathan shows Angerstein a system of semaphore telegraph apparatuses he has invented, which can relay messages across the English Channel in five minutes. Around the turn of the century, while gathering news in France disguised as a French priest, he rescues Elizabeth (Madeleine Carroll), a secretive young Englishwoman picked up by the French after Napoleon orders the arrest of all English people. On the boat trip back to England, they fall in love. Elizabeth departs before Jonathan learns her full name and residence, but he finds out her address from the driver who transported her. He calls on her uninvited and learns that she is Lady Stacy, married to Lord Everett Stacy (George Sanders), a caddish gambler who has been frequently refused admission to the syndicates at Lloyd's. Insulted at being dismissed by Stacy as a mere "waiter" at Lloyd's, Jonathan vows to make himself so rich and powerful that even the aristocracy will have to pay him respect.[n 1]

Within a few years Jonathan has succeeded in his own very successful syndicate and is known as "Lucky Blake", but his attitude becomes cynical and hardened, his transactions more like gambling than insurance. He meets Lord and Lady Stacy again and begins seeing her in secret. Stacy, with heavy gambling losses and hounded by creditors, inveigles Jonathan to give him a share of the profits of his syndicate by insinuating he will expose them. But war with France results in disastrous losses in 1805 that threaten to bankrupt Lloyd's. When the insurers raise their rates, British ship owners complain that the charges are exorbitant and refuse to sail unless the old rates are restored.

Angerstein proposes that the old rates be restored by persuading the Admiralty to provide armed escorts to the merchant vessels. But Horatio Nelson now commands the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet and Jonathan objects that such a course would reduce Nelson's fleet by half at a time when it needs to keep the French Fleet blockaded in Toulon, putting England's survival in the balance. He commits his syndicate to the old rates without escorts, single-handedly keeping British commerce going and Nelson's force intact. Stacy hounds Jonathan for funds but as the losses mount, the syndicate runs out of money and he refuses. Elizabeth agrees to give her newly inherited fortune to Stacy in return for a divorce. However the French fleet escapes Nelson's blockade anyway and Jonathan is abandoned by his syndicate members. Elizabeth forsakes her divorce and puts her fortune at Jonathan's disposal over his protests. Soon even this runs out.

Lord Drayton, First Lord the Admiralty and Stacy's uncle, agrees to order half of Nelson's fleet to convoy the merchant ships. Before the order can be sent, Jonathan receives a letter from Nelson thanking him for his sacrifices and urging him "at all costs" to protect his fleet from being divided. Determined to buy Nelson more time, Jonathan secretly sends a false message from France reporting a victory by Nelson. Stacy, however, learns that Jonathan was in Calais on the day the message was sent and goes to Angerstein, who warns him that if he denounces Jonathan as a traitor, he himself will be ruined too, since unbeknown to Stacy, Elizabeth's fortune is tied up in the syndicate as well. Stacy finds Jonathan and Elizabeth in each other's arms and shoots his rival in the back. Jonathan, however, has bought enough time for Nelson to win the Battle of Trafalgar, although Nelson dies in the conflict. A recovering Jonathan watches sadly from the window as his childhood friend's funeral procession passes by.



The New York Times wrote, "Lloyd's of London ... is a pleasing photoplay, crammed with authentic detail of the Georgian England where its scene is laid ... threaded by a semi-fictional story of romance and business daring. Under the graphic direction of the veteran Henry King, a cast that is capable down to its merest fishmonger and chimney sweep brings alive to the screen the London of the waning years of the eighteenth century and the early years of the next ...."[6]

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, one for Best Art Direction by William S. Darling and the other for Best Film Editing by Barbara McLean.[1][7] Lloyd's of London was the second of the 29 films directed by Henry King that McLean edited.


  1. The plot is loose with its historical references in this sequence. The order to arrest all Englishmen in France came in early 1803. During their boat escape, Jonathan and Elizabeth exchange references to Nelson's affair with Lady Hamilton in Naples, which began in 1798 but did not become grist for scandal and gossip until 1801. News posts sequences in the coffee house then advance time from December 1799 to May 1803.
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