Lloyd's of London is a 1936 American drama film directed by Henry King. It stars Tyrone Power, Madeleine Carroll, and Guy Standing. The supporting cast includesFreddie Bartholomew, George Sanders, Virginia Field, and C. Aubrey Smith. Loosely based on historical events, the film follows the dealings of a man who works forLloyd's of London during the Napoleonic Wars. Lloyd's of London was a hit; it demonstrated that 23-year-old Tyrone Power, in his first starring role, could carry a film, and that the newly formed 20th Century Fox was a major Hollywood studio.
On the last day of 1770, youngster Jonathan Blake (Freddie Bartholomew) overhears two sailors discussing something suspicious in his aunt's ale-house in a Norfolkfishing village. He persuades his more respectable best friend, Horatio Nelson (Douglas Scott), to sneak aboard the sailors' ship with him. They overhear a plot involvinginsurance 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 amidshipman. Jonathan walks all the way 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.[n 1] Angerstein teaches him that news, "honestly acquired and honestly shared," is the lifeblood of the insurance industry.
Many years later, Jonathan shows Angerstein a system of semaphore telegraph apparatuses he has invented, which can relay messages across the English Channel in five minutes. 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. Jonathan calls on her uninvited and learns that she is Lady Stacy, married to Lord Everett Stacy (George Sanders), a gambler who has been frequently refused admission to the syndicates at Lloyds. Insulted at being dismissed by Stacy as a mere "waiter" at Lloyds, Jonathan vows to make himself so rich and powerful that even the aristocracy will have to pay him respect.[n 2]
He succeeds, setting up his own syndicate and known as "Lucky Blake," but his attitude becomes cynical and hardened, his transactions more like gambling than insurance. Jonathan meets Lord and Lady Stacy again and he 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 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 Fleetblockaded 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 his 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 unbeknownst 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, at cost of his own life. A recovering Jonathan watches sadly from the window as his childhood friend's funeral procession passes by.
- Freddie Bartholomew – Young Jonathan Blake
- Madeleine Carroll – Lady Elizabeth Stacy
- Guy Standing – John Julius Angerstein (as Sir Guy Standing)
- Tyrone Power – Jonathan Blake
- C. Aubrey Smith – Old 'Q'
- Virginia Field – Polly, a waitress at the coffee house who loves Jonathan
- Douglas Scott – Young Horatio Nelson
- George Sanders – Lord Everett Stacy
- J. M. Kerrigan – Brook Watson
- Una O'Connor – Widow Blake, Jonathan's aunt
- Forrester Harvey – Percival Potts
- Gavin Muir – Sir Gavin Gore
- E. E. Clive – Magistrate
- Miles Mander – Jukes
- Montagu Love – Hawkins
- Vernon Steele – Sir Thomas Lawrence