The Little Foxes (1941): Film Review

“The Little Foxes” is a story about the wealthy, ruthless Hubbard Clan, in post civil war America to whom nothing is more important than money and power. The movie starts with a fine morning of 1900 in the deep south when a wealthy business man comes to visit the Hubbard family.

The Little Foxes (1941)

This is a story about the wealthy, ruthless Hubbard Clan, in post civil war America to whom nothing is more important than money and power. The movie starts with a fine morning of 1900 in the deep south when a wealthy business man comes to visit the Hubbard family. Regina Hubbard Giddons and her two brothers Benjamin and Oscar Hubbard plan some kind of a business deal with their guest, for which they need money. The three siblings are determined to turn their late father’s earned thousands into millions. Regina is a woman of a very sour personality and always tries to keep everyone around under her influence. Oscar is a valueless man who has interest in nothing in the world except for money and property. He has married his wife Birdie, because he wanted to acquire her family’s cotton plantations. His wife is a lonely lady who has no other way to give vent to her emotions than drinking. They have a son named Leo, who has got all the genes of his father’s family for money and lust. According to Birdie, she hates her son a lot more than her avaricious husband. Ben, the third of the siblings is no exception to the Hubbard family, but probably has better sporting attitude towards life and a bit more patience than any of the three Hubbards.

The Little Foxes - Bette Davis
The Little Foxes - Bette Davis

  • Actors: Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, Teresa Wright, Richard Carlson, Dan Duryea
  • Directors: William Wyler
  • Nominations
  • Academy Award for Best Picture
  • Academy Award for Best Director
  • Academy Award for Best Actress (Bette Davis)
  • Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Patricia Collinge and Teresa Wright)
  • Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring for a Dramatic Film
  • Academy Award for Best Film Editing
  • Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Stephen Goosson, Howard Bristol)
Trailer of The Little Foxes.
The Eyes of Bette Davis
Harbert Marshall – Man opposite to Bette Davis in The Little Foxes

Regina’s husband Horace is a nice man of values and lives in a nursing home in Baltimore due to heart problems. Regina sends their daughter Alexandra, to bring her father back home because she cannot fix the business deal without her husband. She even plans a wedding between her daughter and her nephew, who are first cousins to get Horace’s money. But she cannot persuade her husband to any of her plans. Leo, in the meantime has stolen all of Horace’s railroad bonds to put into the new business they were all looking forward to. Though Regina does not know about this evil scheme, his brothers do. But when Horrace comes to know the theft, he doesn’t call the law on his brothers in law, just to make his wife realize about her evil nature. Horrace tells her that he would tell the world that he has lent the money to Leo, so that she is left out of the business deal. But for a woman like Regina, to whom there is nothing more in the world than her earthly pleasures and materialistic gains, there does not exist a point of realization for things that does not lie inside the boundaries of monetary mathematics. So when Horrace has a heart attack, Regina does not give him his medication and lets him die. She even confesses that she hated him all her life for not bringing the world under her feet. He dies without telling a single soul that he has lent his bonds to Leo. Not even a minute later her husband dies, Regina blackmails her brothers for 75 percent of her share in their investments or she would go to the police. Dead men do not speak!

Regina probably wins over her brothers, but loses her daughter whom she has dictated all these years. Alexamdra leaves the house with a young man named David Hewitt, who was courting her and provided her with all the moral support she needed to come out of her mother’s influence and know for herself what she wanted to be in her own life.

This is a wonderful movie to watch. It was originally written as a play by Lillian Hellman in 1939. The movie gets its name from a verse in the Bible which reads, “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”

Anybody will stunned by the ruthlessness of these aristocrat southerners, a woman’s lust for money than her husband’s life, her daughter’s happiness, a mother’s confession of dislike for her own son. The story takes several unpredictable turns from where Horrace discovers his bonds to be stolen. The direction is wonderful. Every subtlety has been look into with great care and attention. The black people in the film were all shown as house keepers, waiters, porters , etc who did the so called low profile job. Little black kids peep into the rich white people’s kitchen for a bit of goodies, the housekeepers working day to night in the luxurious rich houses were very small things to be paid attention in those days, but certainly give a picturesque description of the early twentieth century. The twice Oscar winning acctress Betty Davis is astoundingly beautiful and extremely bold in her negetive character as Regina. The audience sympathizes for Horrace (Herbert Marshall), Alexandra (Teresa Wright), Birdie (Patricia Collinge). Ben, Oscar and Leo played by Charles Dingle, Carl Benton Reid, and Dan Duryea were as good too. Richard Carlson as David brings the fragrance of fresh breeze each time he appears on the screen. He is the only free man who is not driven by destiny in contrast to his surrounding characters.

Reviewed by: Shrabanti Basu

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