Cast & Crew
In the deep South of 1900, shrewish Regina Giddens readies her household in anticipation of a dinner to honor William Marshall, a wealthy Chicago industrialist who is thinking of building a cotton mill in their small town. Gathered at the table to honor Marshall are Regina's sweet young daughter Alexandra, her greedy brothers, shopkeepers Ben and Oscar Hubbard, and Oscar's wife and son, Birdie and Leo. When the kind-hearted Birdie begins to chatter, Oscar cruelly accuses her of living in the past glory of her failed family fortune and once grand plantation. After an evening of listening to the brothers' blandishments, Marshall agrees to go into business with them, invites Regina to visit him in Chicago, then bids them goodnight. When Regina suddenly declares that she plans to move to Chicago with Alexandra, her brothers unceremoniously remind her that first she needs to convince her absent husband, Horace, the head of the Planters Trust Co. bank, to invest his money in the cotton mill. Aware that her brothers need Horace's third to complete the deal, the rapacious Regina insists on a larger share of the venture. Oscar then maliciously retorts that her invalid husband is less than eager to abandon the refuge of his hospital room in Baltimore for Regina's icy charms. Ben settles the argument by offering his sister a forty-percent share, with the balance coming from Oscar's portion. Oscar reluctantly agrees on the condition that a marriage between his shiftless son Leo and Alexandra be part of the deal.
To lure Horace home, Regina orders Alexandra to travel to Baltimore and bring her father back. The next day on the way to the train station, Alexandra says goodbye to David Hewitt, a young newspaper man with whom she is infatuated. On the trip home, Horace, suffering from a serious heart condition, is forced to rest at a hotel in Mobile to regain his strength, thus delaying his arrival. As Regina readies the house for her husband, her brothers taunt her about Horace's tardiness. Later, Oscar criticizes Leo's incompetence and Leo, a clerk at Horace's bank, mentions that he has been rifling his uncle's safe-deposit box and discovered $90,000 in negotiable bonds. Leo's disclosure causes the avaricious Oscar to consider "borrowing" the bonds. When Horace finally arrives, Regina briefly feigns concern for her husband until, no longer able to contain her malevolence, she lashes out at him, knowing that he is dying. When her odious brothers appear, Regina reconciles with Horace to expedite the business deal. As Horace swallows a spoonful of his heart medicine, Ben badgers him about investing his money. Pleading illness, Horace asks to postpone his answer, thus engendering Regina's fury. Later, after a party at the Giddens house, Oscar informs Regina that he must leave the next day for Chicago to close the deal. Marching into Horace's room, Regina and her brothers demand his answer, and Horace denounces the deal on the grounds that it will cheat the town's working poor by undercutting labor costs. As a furious Regina argues with Horace, Ben and Oscar descend the stairs and Oscar instructs Leo to "borrow" Horace's bonds. Later, Ben smugly informs his sister that Oscar is on his way to deliver the money to Chicago. Overhearing their conversation, Horace denounces Regina and her brothers as vultures, and Regina fires back that she hopes he dies soon. One day, while Regina is out of the house, David and Alexandra join Horace, Birdie, and the family's faithful maid, Addie, for an impromptu party. Slightly tipsy, Birdie recalls her family's contempt for the Hubbard family's exploitation of the poor who shopped at their store, and confides that Oscar married her only to gain control of the cotton in her family's fields. When Addie comments about the "people who eat the earth like locusts" Horace recites a quotation from the Song of Solomon about the little foxes who spoil the vines. Birdie then admits that she drinks to "stop the pain" and warns Alexandra that this will be her fate, too. Later, Horace visits the bank to examine his will. Stunned, Leo tries to distract Horace as he leafs through the safe-deposit box. After Leo leaves the room, Horace reopens the box and discovers the missing bonds. When Horace asks Cal, his driver, to fetch the Giddens' lawyer from Mobile, Leo overhears their conversation and alerts his father. That night, as David and Horace play cribbage, David confides that he has fallen in love with Alexandra. Regina, meanwhile, is having a dress fitted by David's seamstress mother, and coldly informs her that she objects to David's courtship of Alexandra.
When Regina returns home, Horace tells her about the theft and spitefully declares that he has decided to allow her brothers the loan of the bonds, thus insuring that Regina will never share in the profits. Regina's venomous response induces Horace to suffer a heart attack, and when Regina refuses to bring his medicine from the bedroom, the stricken Horace crawls up the stairs and collapses. Regina withholds Horace's medication until the damage is irreversible. Drawn by the news of Horace's attack, Oscar and Ben hurry to the Giddens house. When Regina reveals Horace's decision to "lend her brothers the bonds," Ben and Oscar take a keen interest in his health. After Regina demands seventy-five percent of the business in the event of her husband's death, Ben scurries to bring a second doctor. Soon after, Horace dies and Regina threatens to jail her brothers for theft unless they accept her terms. Alexandra overhears their conversation, and after her uncles depart, declares she is leaving Regina and denounces her as "one who eats the earth." As Alexandra runs off into the night with David, Regina watches from the shadows of her bedroom window, completely alone.
Carl Benton Reid
Henry "hot Shot" Thomas
Charles R. Moore
Dalton S. Reymond
Best Art Direction
Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actress
Best Writing, Screenplay
The Little Foxes - The Little Foxes
Lillian Hellman's 1939 play of a Southern family destroyed by greed had been a Broadway hit starring Tallulah Bankhead. When Samuel Goldwyn bought the film rights to The Little Foxes, Bankhead hoped to recreate the role of Regina Giddens, the greediest and most monstrous of the three siblings, in the film. But director William Wyler wanted no one but Bette Davis, and Goldwyn agreed. After all, Bankhead had made several films in the early 1930's, and they had not been successful. To add insult to injury, Davis had starred in the film version of another of Bankhead's Broadway hits, Dark Victory (1939). So when she found herself at a party with Davis, Bankhead saw her chance. She approached Davis and said, "So you're the woman who gets to play all my parts in the movies. And I play them so much better!"
"I couldn't agree more, Miss Bankhead," Davis claimed she replied, walking away. In fact, Davis had seen Bankhead's stage performance in The Little Foxes reluctantly, afraid it would influence her portrayal. After seeing it, and reading Hellman's play and screenplay, Davis came away convinced that Bankhead's interpretation was the only possible way to play the role. Her conviction would lead to epic battles with her director.
Before Davis could sink her teeth into the role of Regina, however, she flexed her considerable star power. Goldwyn had offered Jack Warner $385,000 for the loan of his most valuable star, Davis. Yet Davis herself was only earning $3,000 dollars a week. Davis reportedly marched into Warner's office and told him he would not pull any "David O. Selznick pocket-the-money-and-pay-the-star-a-pittance" stuff with her. She demanded a share of the $385,000. Eventually, she got it.
Davis also got a top-flight production from Goldwyn. Besides Wyler as director, she got a script by Lillian Hellman herself. And when Hellman had to leave the project to go into rehearsals with her play, Watch on the Rhine (1941), Goldwyn hired Hellman's ex-husband Arthur Kober, Hellman's close friend Dorothy Parker, and Parker's husband Alan Campbell to do more work on The Little Foxes script. Goldwyn also hired Davis' The Letter co-star Herbert Marshall to play her husband, and talented newcomer Teresa Wright to play her daughter, along with several members of the original Broadway cast for the film version of The Little Foxes. Cinematographer, Gregg Toland, fresh from his innovative work in Citizen Kane (1941), contributed his striking deep-focus photography.
Production on The Little Foxes got underway, and so did the fights between Davis and Wyler. Both Wyler and Goldwyn hated Davis' harsh rice-powder makeup, which they said made her look old. That's the point, she insisted, she was playing a woman in her forties. Davis thought the sets and costumes were too rich looking; she felt they should be shabbier. Davis was playing Regina as hard, cold, arrogant, ruthless. Wyler wanted her to soften the character, to show wit and sexiness. Davis refused, saying that she was playing the part as Hellman had written it. During the making of their previous film together, The Letter, star and director had also clashed on interpretation. Davis had yielded, but she was still convinced she'd been right. This time, she remained adamant. Their fights were angry, loud, bitter. The tension was exacerbated by a heat wave that put the temperature on the set at over 100 degrees. Davis finally snapped, and walked off the set and off the picture. Rumors flew that she would be replaced by Katharine Hepburn, or by the Southern-born Miriam Hopkins, who coveted the role. Eventually Davis returned, and when The Little Foxes opened to universal raves, she was vindicated. The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards. Even Lillian Hellman would say that this version of The Little Foxes was the best. But Davis' victory was bittersweet. Wyler, her favorite director, never again asked her to be in one of his films.
Director: William Wyler
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Screenplay: Lillian Hellman, with additional scenes & dialogue by Arthur Kober, Dorothy Parker, and Alan Campbell, based on the play by Lillian Hellman
Cinematography: Gregg Toland
Editor: Daniel Mandell
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Art Direction: Stephen Goosson
Music: Meredith Willson
Principal Cast: Bette Davis (Regina Giddens), Herbert Marshall (Horace Giddens), Teresa Wright (Alexandra Giddens), Richard Carlson (David Hewitt), Dan Duryea (Leo Hubbard), Patricia Collinge (Birdie Hubbard), Charles Dingle (Ben Hubbard), Carl Benton Reid (Oscar Hubbard).
BW-117m. Closed captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri
The Little Foxes - The Little Foxes
Teresa Wright (1918-2005)
She was born Muriel Teresa Wright in New York City on October 27, 1918. She showed a keen interest in acting in grade school, and by the time she was 19, she made her Broadway debut in Thorton Wilder's Our Town (1938); the following year she scored a hit as Mary, the weeping ingénue in Life with Father (1939). The word was out that New York had a superb young acting talent on hand, and Samuel Goldwyn soon brought her to Hollywood for William Wyler's adaptation of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes (1941). She scored an Oscar® nomination for her film debut as Regina Giddens' (Bette Davis), honorable daughter, Alexandria.
She maintained her amazing momentum by scoring two Oscar® nominations the following year for her next two films: as Carol Miniver in Wyler's Mrs. Miniver (Best Supporting Actress Category), and as Lou Gehrig's (Gary Cooper) faithful wife Ellie in Pride of the Yankees (Best Actress Category), and won the Oscar for Miniver. Yet for most fans of Wright's work, her finest hour remains her perfectly modulated performance as young Charlie in Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Shadow of a Doubt (1943). Wright's performance as the self-effacing, impressionable young niece who gradually realizes that her beloved uncle (Joseph Cotton) may have murdered several widows is effective since Wright's air of observation, subtly turns from idol gazing, to a watchful air of caution as the facts slowly being to unravel. 60 years on, fans of Hitchcock still acclaim Wright's performance as an integral part of the film's classic status.
She proved her talents in comedy with the delightful Casanova Brown (1944), but then saw her schedule slow down due to domesticity. After she married screenwriter Niven Busch in 1942, she gave birth to son, Niven Jr., in 1944, and took two years off to look after her family. She soon returned to film with another Wyler project, the Oscar®-winning, post war drama, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), playing Fredric March's level-headed daughter, Peggy, she again took some time off after giving birth to her daughter, Mary in 1947. On her second attempt to return to the big screen, Wright found her popularity on the wane. Her wholesome image was in sharp contrast of the tougher, more modern women in post-war Hollywood, and her stubborn refusal to pose for any swimsuit or cheesecake photos to alter her image led to her release from Sam Goldwyn's contract.
As a freelance actress, Wright still found some good roles, notably as a young widow in the thriller scripted by her husband, in The Capture; and as a faithful fiancée trying to help Marlin Brandon deal with his amputation in Stanley Kramer's The Men (both 1950). Yet within a few years, she was playing middle-aged mothers in film like The Actress (1953), and The Track of the Cat (1954), even though she was still in her early '30s. By the mid-50s she found work in live television, where she could apply her stage training, in a number of acclaimed shows: Playhouse 90, General Electric Theater, Four Star Playhouse, and The United States Steel Hour.
She took a break from acting when she married her second husband, the playwright Robert Anderson in 1959, (she had divorced her first husband, Busch, in 1952) and was out of the public eye for several decades, save for an isolated theater appearance. When she did return, it was intermittent, but she was always worth watching. In James Ivory's Roseland (1977), a portrait of the New York dancehall; she was poignant as a talkative widow obsessed with her late husband; and as an enigmatic old actress in Somewhere in Time, she nearly stole the picture from leads, Christopher Reeve and Jayne Seymour. She was still active in the '90s, appearing a few hit shows: Murder, She Wrote, Picket Fences; and a final film role in John Grisham's The Rainmaker (1997). She is survived by her son, Niven; daughter, Mary; and two grandchildren.
by Michael T. Toole
Teresa Wright (1918-2005)
Maybe it's easy for the dying to be honest. I'm sick of you, sick of this house, sick of my unhappy life with you. I'm sick of your brothers and their dirty tricks to make a dime. There must be better ways of getting rich than building sweatshops and pounding the bones of the town to make dividends for you to spend. You'll wreck the town, you and your brothers. You'll wreck the country, you and your kind, if they let you. But not me, I'll die my own way, and I'll do it without making the world worse. I leave that to you.- Horace Giddens
I hope you die!, I hope you die soon!, I'll be waiting for you to die!- Regina Giddens
Warner Brothers loaned Bette Davis to RKO for the role of Regina Giddens.
The film opens with the following quotation from The Song of Solomon. II.15: "Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines; For our vines have tender grapes." The following written prologue then appears onscreen: "Little foxes have lived in all times, in all places. This family happened to live in the deep South in the year 1900." According to a January 1940 Daily Variety news item, Samuel Goldwyn purchased the rights to Lillian Hellman's play on a sliding scale based on the picture's gross. According to the producer's biography, Goldwyn liked the play but felt that the character of "Regina" was too venomous to arouse audience identification. Consequently, Goldwyn asked Hellman for some changes and she then invented the character of newspaper man "David Hewitt" as a love interest for Regina's daughter "Alexandra." After Goldwyn called for even more revisions, Hellman suggested her friends Arthur Kober, Alan Campbell and Dorothy Parker for the rewrites, according to Goldwyn's biography.
In order to secure the services of Bette Davis from Warner Bros., Goldwyn offered to trade Gary Cooper, who was under contract to the producer, for a one-picture deal. Warner Bros. accepted the offer and cast Cooper in Sergeant York . This was Davis' only loanout from Warner Bros. until the expiration of her contract in 1949. According to Davis' autobiography, the star strongly disagreed with director William Wyler over the interpretation of the character of Regina. Wyler preferred to soften the character, while Davis argued for a harsher presentation, much like that of Tallulah Bankhead, who portrayed Regina on Broadway. According to Davis' autobiography, she walked off the set on May 12 1941 but returned several days later. June 1941 New York Times items add that Davis withdrew from the film over disagreements with Wyler, but returned to the set after a twenty-one day absence.
According to an April 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item, the road company of The Little Foxes closed for three months during the filming of the picture. Patricia Collinge, Charles Dingle, Carl Benton Reid, Dan Duryea and John Marriott reprised their Broadway roles for this picture, which marked their screen debut. The film also marked the motion picture debut of Teresa Wright and Jessie Grayson of the Hall Johnson choir. According to a July 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item, backgrounds for the picture were shot at the Belle Helene plantation near Baton Rouge, LA. Although a February 1941 news item states that Goldwyn was considering James Stephenson for a role, Stephenson died shortly after completing the 1941 film International Squadron (see entry above).
The Little Foxes was Goldwyn's first production since splitting from United Artists. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Music Scoring of a Dramatic Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Directing and Best Art Decoration. Both Patricia Collinge and Teresa Wright were nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Davis was nominated as Best Actress. On October 10, 1941, Great Moments from Great Plays broadcast a version of Hellman's play on the CBC radio, starring Tallulah Bankhead. On December 16, 1956, The Hallmark Hall of Fame broadcast a televised version of Hellman's play starring Greer Garson, Franchot Tone and Sidney Blackmer and directed by George Schaefer. The 1948 film Another Part of the Forest (see entry above) was based on a Hellman play that was a prequel to The Little Foxes. In that film, Dan Duryea appeared as "Oscar Hubbard," the father of the character he played in The Little Foxes. Modern sources add Kenny Washington, Lew Kelly, Hooper Atchley and Henry Roquemore to the cast.
Released in United States on Video August 31, 1988
Released in United States 1941
Released in United States on Video August 31, 1988
Released in United States 1941