Thursday, December 29, 2005

Tonight's Movie: The Little Foxes (1941)

Tonight I caught up with this classic, directed by the great William Wyler, for the first time. This engrossing tale of avarice and deception in a Southern family is, in the end, a morality play: you can win everything you want and still lose.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the movie is the unusual cinematography by Gregg Toland, whose previous credit was a little picture named CITIZEN KANE. Toland used many unusual upward camera angles; my daughter made the interesting suggestion that the photography itself was being used to convey the characters always having an "angle" in their dealings with one another. The DVD is a pristine B&W print; unfortunately it contains no extras other than the trailer.

The cast includes Bette Davis -- chewing the scenery as only Bette Davis could do -- Herbert Marshall, a very young Richard Carlson, and Teresa Wright, who made her film debut here and began a remarkable run of performances in classic films over the next half-decade which included MRS. MINIVER, PRIDE OF THE YANKEES, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, and THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES.

Several years later a prequel to THE LITTLE FOXES, ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST, was filmed with Ann Blyth as a younger version of the Bette Davis character. I have a hard time imagining Blyth in the role but it would be quite interesting to see it. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be available on VHS or DVD at present. (Update: ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST was released on DVD in the Universal Vault Collection in 2016.) 

2020 Update: THE LITTLE FOXES has been reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive Collection.


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