The ruthless, moneyed Hubbard clan lives in, and poisons, their part of the deep South at the turn of the 20th century. Regina Giddons née Hubbard has her daughter under her thumb. Mrs. Giddons is estranged from her husband, who lives in Chicago and suffers from a terminal illness. But she needs him home, and will manipulate her daughter to help bring him back. She has a sneaky business deal that she\'s cooking up with her two elder brothers, Oscar and Ben. Oscar has a flighty, unhappy wife and a dishonest worm of a son. Will the daughter have to marry this contemptible cousin? Who will she grow up to be - her mother or her aunt? Or can she escape the fate of both?
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
Jessica Grayson ... Addie (as Jessie Grayson)
John Marriott ... Cal
Russell Hicks ... William Marshall
Lucien Littlefield ... Sam Manders
Virginia Brissac ... Mrs. Lucy Hewitt
Terry Nibert ... Julia Jordan
This was a surprisingly good movie - for me, not people who like Bette Davis and melodramas. They got what they hoped for, another solid film with her starring in it. I don\'t particularly care for Davis or \"soaps,\" but I liked this film and see it more of a straight drama, anyway, especially because of the crisp dialog.
It\'s a story about money and how to use it or how to acquire more of it through deceit and greed. Davis, as \"Regina Gidden,\" is the most greedy of the Gidden clan, vying for more money with her brothers who aren\'t exactly trustworthy people themselves. Among the three, there wasn\'t anyone to root for since the family shared in their lust for money. Davis does her normal excellent acting job but I enjoyed Charles Dingle as \"(Uncle) Ben Hubbard\" best. I liked his lines more than anyone\'s and the way he delivered them. Carl Benton Reid played the other greedy Hubbard brother, \"Oscar\" and Dan Duryea was interesting as Oscar\'s dumb son, \'Leo.\"
Herbert Marshall was good, too, as Regina\'s husband \"Horace.\" He was an honest, principled man and thus, the black sheep in that household. Unfortunately, he was dying and his death played a big part in this story.
The sub-plot in this tale is the coming-of-age of Hubbard daughter \"Alexandra\" played by Teresa Wright. Her \"coming of age\" translates to finally standing up to her domineering mother. Richard Carlson plays her reluctant boyfriend \"David Hewitt\" who, in the end, is won over when \"Alexandra\" grows up.
So, this excellent cast, complemented by an outstanding director in William Wyler and world-class cinematographer Gregg Toland all adds up to a solid, memorable film.
Film-making at its best is what describes THE LITTLE FOXES, directed by William Wyler, shot by Gregg Toland -- he of deep focus fame -- adapted from a Lillian Hellman play and with Bette Davis playing a ruthless matriarch with a velvet glove.
How far can greed take a person? This seems to be the question lingering over anyone who witnesses the story of the Hubbard\'s plot to secure money for a cotton mill they plan to run to expand their wealth even more. It\'s certainly a question that doesn\'t faze any of the Hubbard siblings -- they need 75,000 dollars to complete it and will get it one way or another --, certainly not Regina Giddens, who also intends to use her estranged husband\'s bonds for this purpose. That she effectively manipulates her daughter Alexandra into bringing him back to the house proves just what she can do to get what she wants, and an easy proof is the way she lazily relaxes over the sofa, regarding everything with semi-droopy eyes, knowing full well the extent of what she owns, and that it won\'t take long for her to own even more. That even when he shows signs of failing health she doesn\'t back down -- she will hound him for every penny he\'s got, even if it means letting him die without his medication, as she calmly does after a scene of verbal recriminations.
A cruel story that never feels preachy, THE LITTLE FOXES translates better on the screen than on the page: much like THE CHILDREN\'S HOUR, much to the respect of those who admire Lillian Hellman\'s plays, there are many flaws throughout that seem a little forced in either resolution or non-resolution. The film version goes much deeper in establishing the moral decay of a family while adding another -- that of David Hewitt, played by Richard Carlson -- to give some contrast to the amount of unlikeable characters that populate Hellman\'s view of 1900\'s America. Having Toland take full charge of his particular way of composition in service of the story as opposed to style over substance is the key to making this movie and its performances work; otherwise it would be just another chamber drama in three acts. His and Wyler\'s direction allow for every minute detail in Davis\' top-notch performance to come through: the chilling scene with her sitting in the sofa, looking dead ahead, as her husband crawls to his death up the stairs, is one of remarkable power -- more so due to its restraint of emotion, as is the final scene when she watches Alexandra leave and retreats from the windows into shadows.
There\'s an interesting similarity in this film and Ingmar Bergman\'s CRIES AND WHISPERS. Both films had a virtuous person who was near death, both films had characters who were essentially monsters flaunting their ugliness to each other, each movie had one sympathetic female who walks away from the claustrophobic household and into a better future. Obviously the similarity is thematic; siblings as monsters have been seen since Shakespeare, but in a time where period dramas relied more on romance and less on the underlying yet savage cruelty people inflict on each other, THE LITTLE FOXES is definitely one who has dated well. The only scene which lacks a little punch is the final scene in which Alexandra confronts Regina. It diminishes Alexandra\'s character somewhat, makes her weak, but I think also it\'s the choice Teresa Wright took when applying herself to this role; plus, it was her first film appearance against none other than Bette Davis in full command of Who she was. Aside from that, this is a somewhat difficult yet absorbing drama to watch, and after seeing Davis as Regina Giddens, it would be hard to see Tallulah conveying Regina\'s cold cruelty. A great film.
One of the several masterpieces made by master William Wyler, and definetely one of the best movies of all times. As he did in The Letter, Mr. Wyler counted on Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall to play the leading roles in Little Foxes; and the choice worked out perfectly again.
I\'m sure that some of the others reviewers will have written about the story of Little Foxes (greed, betrayal, hate... against honesty and loyalty), so I won\'t. I\'ll talk about some other things:
-Bette Davis: for me there\'re no more than 5 actresses which would deserve the title of \"best actress ever\": Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Audrey Hepburn, Barbra Stanwyck, and of course Bette. She was the best playing evil women, heartless, unmerciful ones. And there\'s no doubt that the character of Reggina Gibbens gathers all those characteristics together. The performing of Bette Davis is memorable (as expected), and the way she says things such as \"I don\'t hate you, I just feel contempt for you\"... that are just like a punch in your face. There should be a picture of Mrs. Davis in the dictionaries next to that sentence that says \"look that kills\". Bette Davis was the look that killed.
-The Film: \"Millimetric\" it would be a nice word to define the script. Some of the dialogues of Little Foxes are part of the history of cinema, especially the ones between Reggina and her husband. The scene in which she watches him have a heartattack is simply devastating. There are lots of long shot-sequences that intensify the tension, and Wyler\'s sense of rhythm is something to be shown in Cinema School even nowadays (especially nowadays).
We got the Gioconda, the Basílica of San Pedro in Vatican, the Guernica... and we got movies such as The Little Foxes.
* Warner Brothers loaned Bette Davis to RKO for the role of Regina Giddens.
* According to Samuel Goldwyn Jr., the reason Jack L. Warner loaned Bette Davis to RKO for this movie was to settle a $300,000 gambling debt Warner had with Samuel Goldwyn. It has been said that all of the studio moguls (Jack L. Warner, Samuel Goldwyn, Harry Cohn, Louis B. Mayer, Darryl F. Zanuck and Carl Laemmle) would gather and play cards after work, after having \"stabbed each other in the back\" during the day.
* \'Teresa Wright\' \'s debut and her first Oscar nomination.
* David Hewitt, the character played by Richard Carlson, does not appear at all in the play. He was added to provide a love interest for Alexandra Giddens (\'Teresa Wright\' \'s character), and to add another sympathetic male character to the film besides Horace Giddens (played by Herbert Marshall).
* Four members of the original Broadway cast repeated their roles in the film: Dan Duryea, Charles Dingle, Carl Benton Reid, and Patricia Collinge.
* Lillian Hellman\'s sequel to Another Part of the Forest (1948).