At the end of the 15th century, two minstrels Gilles and Dominique come from nowhere into the castle of Baron Hugues. Gilles charms Anne, Hughes' daughter, while Dominique charms both ... See full summary »
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
Little Pine Weasel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In later years, Bernard Herrmann told how he created the strange, almost subliminal sound heard during Scratch's first entrance in the barn. He said he sent a crew to San Francisco at 4:00 in the morning to record the hum of phone lines. He combined these with the overtones of the musical note C painted directly onto the soundtrack, which when run through a projector created a sustained phantom tone, a "fundamental." See more »
When Ma is mending and talking about Mary in labor, Ma's hand jumps to being held by Jabez. See more »
You promised me happiness, love, and friendship!
Just a minute. I promised you money and all that money could buy. I don't recall any other obligations.
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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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