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Little Foxes

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Little Foxes

Starring: Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall
Director: William Wyler
Rated: PG
RunTime: 116 Minutes
Release Date: August 1941
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Teresa Wright, Richard Carlson, Patricia Collinge, Dan Duryea, Charles Dingle

Review by Brian Koller
2½ stars out of 4

"The Little Foxes" was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (William Wyler), Best Screenplay (Lillian Hellman), Best Editing, plus Best Actress for Bette Davis. It didn't win a single award.

"The Little Foxes" takes place in the deep South around 1900. Regina (Bette Davis), her oily brother Ben (Charles Dingle), and her greedy brother Oscar are partners in a plan to build a factory that will exploit the area's poor menial workers. Ben and Oscar have their share, but Regina must convince her sick husband Horace (Herbert Marshall) to put up her share. But Horace disapproves of both the project and his wife.

There is a subplot involving Davis' daughter Alexandra (Theresa Wright, in her film debut). Oscar wants her to marry his good-for-nothing son Leo (Dan Duryea) while she prefers the clever newspaper writer David Hewitt.

There are many good things to say about this film. The cinematography, the sets, the costumes, and the cast are all excellent.

But, there are problems. The most obvious is the film's racism. Blacks are shown performing all the menial labor. They are portrayed as docile and obliging with the minds of children.

Most of the film's protaganists aren't very likable, either. Davis' character is even more rude and selfish than usual, while Ben is grasping and Oscar is brutal. Poor Dan Duryea is again cast as a creep. All lack any sense of morality. Wright's character is sugar-sweet despite living with her insulting mother, while her boyfriend has no accent, and seems a more energetic clone of her father. The film's good-versus-evil theme is overplayed as well.

In one scene I disliked, Leo makes an insulting remark to David, who slaps him several times. Leo finally lunges half-heartedly at David, who punches Leo, knocking him to the ground. The audience is supposed to cheer for defender-of-virtue David, but ends up wondering why Leo is such a poor fighter.

Another silly scene has the dying Horace trying to make it up the stairs to his medicine bottle. He stumbles, rises, grabs the banister, etc. He does everything but knock the bookcase over and tear down some curtains.

Copyright 2000 Brian Koller

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