A down-on-his-luck farmer makes a deal with the devil for seven years of prosperity. When Mr. Scratch comes to collect, orator and hero of the common man Daniel Webster comes to the rescue. Written by
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The movie was officially nominated for Oscars under the title All That Money Can Buy. Other titles used for the film included, Mr. Scratch, Here is a Man, or Daniel and the Devil. The reason for the many different titles was so that the film would play in the American South, which was extremely socially conservative and ultra-religious. Films with the word devil in the title did not do well. Mainly, however, the name was changed so as not to be confused with The Devil and Miss Jones (1941) which was also released in 1941 and nominated for Oscars. See more »
When Ma is mending and talking about Mary in labor, Ma's hand jumps to being held by Jabez. See more »
This film could never work now, because Americans are far too cynical to accept a politician beating the Devil in a battle of morals. Now the politician would be in the Devil's hip pocket. "The Devil and Daniel Webster" is a creepy, effective little morality tale about a farmer who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for prosperity and the politician who ends up defending him and winning it back.
What seemed startling in 1941 feels mostly creaky by today's standards, but there are still some fresh moments of film making in this one. William Dieterle was obviously open to experimentation when it comes to the use of cinematography and sound, and the movie has a striking visual look. The plot is mostly connect the dots, and there are no real surprises, but I don't know that one watches a morality tale for surprises in the first place.
Walter Huston is extremely creepy as the Devil (aka Mr. Scratch). He received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his performance even though, based on sheer screen time, he really has more of a supporting role. But he's so effective when on screen that his presence dominates the film even when he's physically absent, which probably accounts for the lead nomination.
Edward Arnold is pretty good too as Daniel Webster. Also standing out is Jane Darwell (Ma Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath") as a hardened farm mother.
Parts of this film have a wicked sense of humour, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The trial at the end (with a literal jury of the damned), is especially amusing.
On a sidenote, the film was successful in capturing the 1941 Academy Award for Best Dramatic Score.
Don't expect to see any points made that haven't already been made a thousand times in a thousand other movies, but enjoy the originality of the film technique on display.
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