7.3/10
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42 user 13 critic

The Great Lie (1941)

Approved | | Drama | 12 April 1941 (USA)
After a newlywed's husband apparently dies in a plane crash, she discovers that her rival for his affections is now pregnant with his child.

Director:

Writers:

(screen play) (as Lenore Coffee), (from a novel by)
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Won 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
George Brent ...
Pete
...
Lucile Watson ...
...
...
Jerome Cowan ...
Jock Thompson
Charles Trowbridge ...
Senator Greenfield
Thurston Hall ...
Worthington James
Russell Hicks ...
Colonel Harriston
Virginia Brissac ...
Sadie
J. Farrell MacDonald ...
Dr. Ferguson (as J. Farrell Macdonald)
Addison Richards ...
Mr. Talbot
Sam McDaniel ...
Jefferson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Olin Howland ...
Ed, Arizona Ranch Hand (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

Sandra and Pete elope but their marriage is invalid since she's not yet divorced. Sandra is, however, pregnant by Pete. Pete marries his former fiancée Maggie, then flies to South America where his plane crashes. Maggie pays Sandra to let her adopt Pete's baby. Pete returns "from the dead". Sandra and Maggie contend for Pete and the baby. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Sometimes there's a terrible penalty for telling the truth.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

12 April 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Far Horizon  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of Mary Astor 's lines is, "Who brought me to this dump?" Eight years later Bette Davis said "What a dump!", one of her best known quotes, in Beyond the Forest (1949). Both original scripts were written by Lenore J. Coffee. See more »

Goofs

(at around 33 mins) The position of Pete's hands and arm changes between shots. See more »

Quotes

Sandra Kovac: Whoever heard of an ounce of brandy?
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Connections

Featured in Stardust: The Bette Davis Story (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Chicken Reel
(uncredited)
Traditional
Played during the home movie scene
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User Reviews

 
Well constructed, fast, soap opera plot film, wonderful escapism.
26 February 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The Great Lie (1941)

This is really a fabulous mixture of great movie themes, and it pulls it together to make its own amazing statement about fidelity and love. And class. And pre-war America, seemingly isolated but actually trapped by world events.

Within ten minutes there is first an echo of My Man Godfrey (George Brent in this case making a more mainstream Powell) and then a swoop down for a taste of Gone with the Wind or even closer, Jezebel (the plantation south, even though it's 1940 or so). Then it's a melodrama straight up, and tragedy, and even if the plot is improbable, you go with it and get swept away.

Brent plays Pete, a man caught between two women, both of money, but one cosmopolitan and used to being in charge, and one a lively, warm woman living a more earthy life. At the start it seems Pete is married to the urbane one, a concert pianist, Sandra, played with typical poise and ice by Mary Astor (compare this to her more famous role in The Maltese Falcon from the same year). She's a professional woman, in charge of her life, and, lately, Pete's. She wants independence and culture, and man with his feet on the ground.

But Brent's country girl, an ex-love (and true love, it seems) Maggie is played to perfection by Bette Davis. The music here, and the support cast is African American, which makes for a more heart warming, and wrenching, background. He pays a visit to Maggie the day after his wedding (for reasons that slowly clarify) and the dynamic is set. And the twists begin. We have a contemporary drama between recognizable stereotypes as World War II looms for the U.S.

Early on, Sandra asks Pete after his visit to Maggie, "Did you get it?" He says, "What?" Sexual innuendo intact, the Hays code chaffing, she clarifies, "The air?" What a great simple example of how movies so often played brilliantly with innuendo because the code wouldn't allow a straighter interplay.

Director Edmund Goulding is not as well known as some of his contemporaries, but he has a few masterpieces in his lot, including the Bette Davis Dark Victory and the later Razor's Edge. For me, The Great Lie is maybe short of perfect--the plot does intrude on our sense of suspending disbelief--but it's really fast, moving, well written, and well directed. No question.


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