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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. Based on the short story by Stephen Vincent Benet. Also known as "All That Money Can Buy." Written by
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Prints that have been made under the title "The Devil and Daniel Webster" also say "Originally released as 'All That Money Can Buy' ", indicating that this was the film's original title. See more »
Characters in this film set in pre-Civil War America routinely use the phrase "loan shark" despite the fact that it came into the English language between 1900 and 1905. See more »
[Webster is examing the contract Mr. Scratch has with Stone]
This appears - mind you, I say appears - to be properly drawn. But you shan't have this man. A man isn't a piece of property. Mr. Stone is an American citizen... and an American citizen cannot be forced into the service of a foreign prince.
Foreign? Who calls me a foreigner?
Well, I never heard of the de... I never heard of you claiming American citizenship.
And who has a better right? When the first wrong was done to the first Indian,...
[...] 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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