|The Little Foxes (DVD, 2001) (DVD, 2001)|
|THE LITTLE FOXES (1941) ~Like New DVD~ Bette Davis, William Wyler|
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|THE LITTLE FOXES (DVD, 2001) ***Rare, OOP!!*** Authentic Region 1 MGM DVD|
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|The Little Foxes (DVD, 2001)|
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Superb playwright, Lillian Hellman (1905-84) wrote this screenplay for "The Little Foxes," saying that she "wrote her 'angry comedy' based on her own family's biannual dinner at which people drew lots for a diamond that had been left in her great-grandmother's estate." Hellman's first play for Samuel Goldwyn was "The Children's Hour." This hit script and film was based upon a 19th century case of two girls' school mistresses whose reputations were ruined when their pupils accused them of lesbianism.
After a poor showing of Hellman's "Days to Come" in 1936, about labor struggles in an Ohio town, Hellman said she "was so scared [that she] wrote "Little Foxes, 1939, nine times." This is one script that made her famous. (The other is "The Children's Hour).
"The Little Foxes" is a vivid portrayal of sibling rivalry, Southern plantation slavery, and greed in the Hubbard family of Alabama. The story takes place at the turn of the 19th-20th century, in the deep South of Alabama where the Hubbard siblings are involved in their own brand of a power-hungry civil war. Who better to play the reigning schemer Regina than Bette Davis, the Hubbard sibling who commands ownership of a cotton mill that exploits slaves while yielding millions of dollars on their bent backs? Davis is the Oscar winner alright, leading a near perfect cast through a major screen achievement.
The DVD is almost 2 hours long and in black and white, with English, French, and Spanish subtitles. It is a bone chilling indictment of Alabaman slave plantation white corruption and greed.
No one should ever say that Lillian Hellman wasn't a controversial and political playwright! The film is not rated probably because anyone could watch it. Though I imagine it would bore little children since the play's basic themes are quite complexly adult (but not in a R Rated sense at all).
(potential spoiler alert by reviewer)
Of all of Bette Davis' 100+ films, of all of Lillian Hellman's superb screenplays, of all of William Wyler directed masterpieces, this is the classic of classics for them all. (The only missing element that could possibly have made this picture perfect would have been a Claude Rains master performance; but alas, there is no part for him to play that's worthy of his great talent). Hellman's Hubbard family men aren't the type to aspire to. As the Burl Ives song goes, they'll do anything for money and it's not even their money! They've taken over control of it from a woman, by marriage.
Fortunately, their sister, Regina (Bette Davis), is determined to control the family fortune. Remember that her husband (Herbert Marshall) isn't a Hubbard. He's a Giddens and nothing like them.
As a feminist, it seems fair and fitting that, since the Hubbard brothers usurped power and control over Birdie's family fortune, and they treat her as if she's a rag doll, Regina seizes power over all of them and the money.
Bette Davis' career is smoking hot at the time this film is made. Her idealic actor-director relationship with the most successful director Hollywood has still ever produced undoubtedly had much to do with the absolutely stunning performance that Davis turns in.
I think we (as audiences) have been lulled into complacency with mediocrity. All one need do is really focus on this film and contrast it with any given dramatic performance since and to date.
The climax in this film is not the ending. It is a series of moments when Bette Davis and William Wyler make hay with what has turned out to be the best of Lillian Hellman's screenplays of all time. Ultimately, the master works of all three culminate in the performance of Bette Davis. Davis had to deliver the silent, barely moving, expressions while the camera was rolling for it to be a Wyler cut to print. He expected nothing less than her best and knew better than anyone else what skills Bette Davis was capable of giving to her art.
Audiences will always remember Davis' knock line, "Hang on to your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night," from "All About Eve." The reason they do not remember Davis' knock out punch from this film is because she didn't even have to say one word! As Barbara Stanwyck noted, great dramatic acting is done with the eyes. Once seen in this film's climax, I guarantee, Bette Davis' expressiveness with only her eyes will not be forgotten.
Bette Davis plays Southern matriarch Regina Hubbard Giddens at the turn of the 19th Century, whose two brothers Oscar and Benjamin try to swindle her sickly husband Horace played by Herbert Marshall out of some bonds to make an investment in a Chicago cotton mill. But guess what? Regina finds out and turns the tables on them. However, Regina is not a heroine in this movie because she as well as her two brothers are all about money. She is as vicious as they are.
In a subplot, Regina and Horace have a wonderful daughter Alexandra played by Teresa Wright, who becomes a major player in the movie. Alexandra adores her father and is heartbroken when he dies. She does not hate her mother, but they do not have a good relationship.
Other relatives are also supporting actors in the movie. Dan Duryea plays Teresa's cousin, Leo, whom some of the relatives want them to marry. There are black servants and neighbor-relatives, who also contribute to the dialogue.
So why is this movie called The Little Foxes? It is a quotation from the Bible, where all the little foxes snarl at each other as they try to eat up all the grapes. How appropriate!
This movie is a good movie, but not Bette's best. However, it IS Lillian Helman's most famous play. She based it on her own family.
When, in the mid-20th century, William Wyler directed a film it was destined to be a classic. He was an actor's director. Wyler made more Oscar winning legends than any other film director of the same period.
Arm Wyler with an absolutely great screenplay based on a Lillian Hellman play and look out competition.
Then, add to that already loaded mix, the most remarkable actor of the period: Miss Bette Davis.
Of the three Davis and Wyler films, even though Davis would say otherwise (choosing "The Letter"), this is their great classic of all time.
Wyler directs Davis to a picture perfect performance as Regina, a woman who is determined not to be financially dominated by either her brothers or husband. Wyler was the director whose technique made the gorgeous expressive eyes of Bette Davis speak volumes while she kept every other part of her being completely still. There is no other Davis film that highlights her remarkable acting ability better than "The Little Foxes."
And this was the script with claws and fangs that Davis could really sink herself into like never before. Of course she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar and won numerous other awards for such an amazing performance.
If I could only own one film of Wyler's, Hellman's or Davis' it would undoubtedly be this one. The intensity of the Regina character that Hellman, Wyler and Davis created together is unlike any other ever recorded on film.
This is the kind of film perfection that should be held up to students of filmmaking because it is a master work by America's First Lady of Cinema, the director who took her, Streisand, and A. Hepburn to Oscars (and then some), and one of the greatest American playwrights.
Everyone seems to have their own special favorite Bette Davis film, but too few give their reasons. I want you to view and own this film so I'm going to try to convince you to do so by giving you my reasons here.
Bette Davis' role is based on a true story about Hellman's well to do family and greed. However, she's surrounded by men who are domineering and trying to steal her share of the family fortune. Because she steps out of her social expected role to allow all of the men to take control over her, Hellman makes her character seem wicked and scheming.
But that's the perspective of that era of society. That's the lens that Hellman forces us to view an bright, great business-minded, self-sufficient woman.
It took extremely great skill by both the woman actor and her director to understand and use great control to channel this character from screenplay onto film. In short, it took brilliance, genius, two very clever people who were well ahead of their time as far as their understandings of sexism.
They had to love what gift Hellman had written in order to want to make all of the efforts to deliver such motion picture perfection.
"The Little Foxes" is one of Bette Davis' and William Wyler's finest classic films of all time. It is undoubtedly Lillian Hellman's greatest screenplay. This is not a movie; but rather, a truly great work of art.