Book Vs. Movie: The Little Foxes
The Lillian Hellman 1939 Play Vs. the 1941 Bette Davis Film
Playwright Lillian Hellman is one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th Century who had a complicated life filled with love affairs and massive success and was the toast of Broadway for works such as The Little Foxes, The Children’s Hour and Watch on the Rhine. She was also a House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) pariah and was called a liar by author Mary McCarthy on The Dick Cavett Show in 1979. Between controversies and celebrations, she had a 30-year relationship with fellow writer Dashiell Hammett and had many of her works adapted into film. The New Orleans native lived HARD in her 79 years before passing in 1984.
The Little Foxes is a semi-autobiographical tale of a 1900 Southern family scheming to gain wealth by any means possible. Regina Hubbard Giddens (played by the legendary Talulah Bankhead on Broadway) is a woman who is married to a man she despises (Horace) and has two brothers (Benjamin and Oscar) who have family money that she wants to get her hands on. His many health problems interfere with her good time.
The title comes from the Song of Solomon of the King James Bible: “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.”
William Wyler directed the 1941 movie and followed closely with the original material (save for a few fewer racial slurs!) Wyler and MGM head Samuel Goldwyn loved the original production but felt that Bankhead would not draw in an audience like Bette Davis (who was extremely reluctant to take the part.) Much of the original Broadway cast did make it to the film, including Dan Duryea and Patricia Collinge.
Wyler and Davis (former lovers) fought throughout the production, with Davis insisting on her changes to the story and wearing heavy makeup to look older.
Forty years later, she put up with having a difficult reputation with widely known easygoing journalist Mike Wallace in 1980 for 60 Minutes.
The film would go on to be a hit and would earn 9 Academy Award nominations.
So between the play and movie–which did the Margos like better?
In this ep the Margos discuss:
- The life of Lillian Hellman and her cantankerous spirit
- The story of The Little Foxes and the changes between the play and film
- How the HUAC changed Hollywood and Broadway
- Greer Garson in The Little Foxes 1956 Hallmark Hall of Fame
- The cast of the 1941 film: Bette Davis (Regina Giddens,) Herbert Marshall (Horace Giddens,) Teresa Wright (Alenadra “Zannie” Giddens,) Richard Carlson (David Hewitt,) Dan Duryea (Leo Hubbard,) Patricia Collinge (Birdie Hubbard,) Charles Dingle (Ben Hubbard,) Jessica “Jessie” Grayson (Addie,) and John Marriott as Cal.
- “I hope you die”
- Cynthia Nixon as Birdie (2017)
- Laura Linney as Birdie (2017)
- Bette Davis talks about meeting with Tallulah Bankhead
- The Little Foxes (1941) trailer
- Richard Carlson teases Teresa Wright
- “When we’re very rich.”
- Regina watches Horace keel over
- Music: Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes
Book Vs. Movie is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more podcasts you will love Frolic.Media/podcasts
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