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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.



(screen play) (as Lenore Coffee), (from a novel by)

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Won 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Peter Van Allen
Lucile Watson ...
Jock Thompson
Senator Ted Greenfield
Oscar Worthington James
Colonel Harriston
Virginia Brissac ...
Dr. Ferguson (as J. Farrell Macdonald)
Mr. Talbot
Sam McDaniel ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ed, Arizona Ranch Hand (scenes deleted)


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


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




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

12 April 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Far Horizon  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


George Brent was a licensed pilot and did his own landings in the movie. See more »


At 49:16, Maggie's left hand goes from face to couch. See more »


Sandra Kovac: I'm not one of you anemic creatures who can get nourishment from a lettuce leaf - I'm a musician, I'm an artist! I have zest and appetite - and I like food!
See more »


Featured in Bamboozled (2000) See more »


The Man on the Flying Trapeze
(1867) (uncredited)
Music by Gaston Lyle
Played during the home movie scene
See more »

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User Reviews

Mary Astor's Pinnacle Year
11 May 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

The Great Lie in its own way is quite daring for the time. There were not too many films in which motherhood was seen as a burden rather than a sacred obligation. In that sense Warner Brothers was taking quite a chance with this film.

The one thing I don't understand is Bette Davis taking the role of the noble one in the triangle that involves her with George Brent and Mary Astor. Astor's part is clearly the showier one which she proved by taking home the Best Supporting Actress for 1941. Perhaps it was simply a matter of screen time and that Davis was not going to be in support of anyone.

Be that as it may, The Great Lie involves a possible lie to come when a certain infant comes of age. George Brent's got both these women on the string. He marries Mary Astor who is a renowned concert pianist in a whirlwind courtship as soon as the ink on her divorce became dry.

Turns out it wasn't quite that dry yet. But nature taking its course Astor gets pregnant. But before she and we find that out, Brent whose marriage to Astor was technically invalid runs off with Davis who's a member of the rich Maryland horsey set.

Later on Brent goes missing in a plane crash in the Amazon rain forest and Davis comes up with a marvelous proposition. If Astor will give up the kid when it's born, she'll raise it as her own. Astor who is career minded to the last exponential degree agrees to this until Brent finds his way out of the rain forest.

The Great Lie is one potboiler melodrama which is lifted above its worth by these two women. Davis does what she can with the part, though I think she would have been better as the pianist. But Mary Astor just dominates the film. Her performance is the best thing by far in The Great Lie. This was the pinnacle year in Mary Astor's career. She also co-starred in 1941 in her best known screen part, that of Brigid O'Shaunessy in The Maltese Falcon.

Given the mores of the time there are only certain directions this plot can take. The Great Lie would be one great flop, but for Bette and Mary. See it for them.

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