The October Man

The October Man is a 1947 mystery film/film noir starring John Mills and Joan Greenwood, written by novelist Eric Ambler, who also produced. A man is suspected of murder, and due to the lingering effects of a brain injury sustained in an earlier accident and after intense police investigation, he himself begins to doubt whether he is innocent or not.

The October Man
theatrical poster
Directed byRoy Ward Baker
Produced byEric Ambler
Written byEric Ambler
StarringJohn Mills
Joan Greenwood
Music byWilliam Alwyn
CinematographyErwin Hillier
Edited byAlan Jaggs
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors (UK)
Eagle-Lion Films (US)
Release date
28 August 1947 (London)
15 April 1948 (NYC)
20 May 1948 (US gen'l)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budgetover $1 million[1]


When a bus crashes due to faulty steering, passenger Jim Ackland (John Mills) sustains a serious brain injury and a young girl under his care is killed. Guilt ridden, he attempts suicide twice during his recovery.

He starts a new job as an industrial chemist and gets a room in a hotel. When he reluctantly accepts an invitation for a night out, he meets Jenny Carden (Joan Greenwood), the sister of his colleague, Harry (Patrick Holt). They begin seeing each other quite regularly. Things reach the point where he confesses he wants to marry her, but he tells her he wants to be sure he has fully recovered first.

Molly Newman (Kay Walsh), one of the other hotel residents, asks to borrow £30 from him, a rather substantial sum. As he doesn't have that much on him, Jim good-naturedly writes her a cheque. She is found strangled the next night. Wilcox (Jack Melford), a married businessman Molly had been seeing, has an alibi. Jim admits to have been walking in the vicinity of the murder site; that plus the recovered cheque from the crime scene and his head injury make him the prime suspect. Police Inspector Godby (Frederick Piper) suspects he was another of Molly's boyfriends and that, after falling in love with Jenny, he wanted to rid himself of a possible blackmailer.

When Jim learns that Mr. Peachy, the person who lived in the room directly below Molly's, had told the police that Jim was in her room every night, Jim confronts him in his room. Peachy brazenly admits killing Molly, confident that there is no evidence against him. Peachy had regularly given her money; when Jim made her a loan, it had given rise to an insane jealousy, with fatal results.

Jim goes to the police, but they do not believe him. When they come to take him into custody, Jim flees. He follows Peachy to Paddington Station, then discovers from a tag on Peachy's luggage that he intends to flee the country by plane. He phones Godby with the flight information, but when that appears to have no effect, contemplates suicide again. Then a letter Molly had posted to Wilcox just before her death incriminates Peachy, who is arrested. Jenny finds Jim and gives him the good news.


Cast notes:

  • John Mills' daughter, Juliet Mills, plays the part of the young child who is killed in a bus accident at the beginning of the film. She was five years old at the time, and it was her third film appearance.[2]


Director Roy Ward Baker was an assistant director for Alfred Hitchcock on The Lady Vanishes (1938), while cinematographer Erwin Hillier had performed the same function for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger on I Know Where I'm Going (1945).[3] The film was made at Denham Studio in Buckinghamshire, England, and location shooting was done at Paddington Station in London.[4]


In his New York Times review, Bosley Crowther called it a "second rate film" with "a first-rate actor [John Mills]...surrounded by a generally competent cast".[5] In general, though, the film received good critical notices.[3]

According to trade papers, the film was a "notable box office attraction" at British cinemas in 1947.[6][7]


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