The Snake Pit (1948)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Mystery  |  13 November 1948 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 4,622 users  
Reviews: 63 user | 28 critic

A detailed chronicle of a woman during her stay in a mental institution.



(screen play), (screen play), 2 more credits »
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 9 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Mark Kik
Glenn Langan ...
Dr. Terry
Helen Craig ...
Nurse Davis
Mrs. Greer
Lee Patrick ...
Asylum Inmate
Dr. Curtis
Mrs. Stuart
Ruth Donnelly ...
Katherine Locke ...
Frank Conroy ...
Dr. Jonathan Gifford
Minna Gombell ...
Miss Hart


Virginia Cunningham finds herself in a state insane asylum...and can't remember how she got there. In flashback, her husband Robert relates their courtship, marriage, and her developing symptoms. The asylum staff are not demonized, but fear, ignorance and regimentation keep Virginia in a state of misery, as pipesmoking Dr. Mark Kik struggles through wheels within wheels to find the root of her problem. Then a relapse plunges Virginia back into the harrowing 'Snake Pit'... Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Married and in Love . . . with a Man She Didn't Know or Want!


Drama | Mystery


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Parents Guide:






Release Date:

13 November 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Schlangengrube  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The British censor insisted on a foreword explaining that everyone in the film was an actor and that conditions in British mental hospitals were unlike those depicted. See more »


After the young Virginia smashes the head of the soldier doll (that reminds her of her father)into several pieces, she is later seen carrying the unbroken doll on the night of her father's death. The intact doll again appears in the apartment that she lives in as an adult. See more »


Mrs. Greer: Good afternoon, my dear. I don't think I've had the pleasure of seeing you here before.
Virginia Stuart Cunningham: I'm Virginia Cunningham. I came from Five.
Mrs. Greer: Nobody comes to One from Five. Even I had to spend a few days in Two before coming here. And I, my dear, have money.
Virginia Stuart Cunningham: That must be convenient.
Mrs. Greer: My husband, Mr. Greer, is very wealthy. I have more jewels than I can possibly wear. You, of course, are a charity patient?
Virginia Stuart Cunningham: Oh, no. It so happens that my husband, Mr. Cunningham, is very wealthy. My diamonds simply weigh me ...
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Referenced in Movers & Shakers (1985) See more »


Goin' Home
(1922) (uncredited)
Music by Antonín Dvorák
from Second Movement (Largo) in Symphony No. 9 in E Minor "From the New World", Op. 95, B. 178 (1893)
Lyrics by William Arms Fisher (1922)
Sung by Jan Clayton and also played at the end
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

....a ground-breaking film....
5 July 1999 | by (San Francisco, California) – See all my reviews

Considered brutal and scary in the day of its initial release, "The Snake Pit" was a ground-breaking film with its look into the horrors of a mental institution. Giving the film its vibrancy and life is the elegant Olivia De Havilland. This fine actress goes to town in this fascinating portrait of a young woman, Virginia Stuart, who, soon after marriage to the handsome Robert Cunningham (Mark Stevens) , descends into a world of paranoia and insanity. He takes her to an institution, but conditions there are foreign to Virginia. This Hollywoodization of life in a mental hospital, though tame compared to reality, still packs a punch. We follow this delusional woman as she tries to come to grips with where she is, falls in love with her kind-hearted doctor, Mark Kirk (Leo Genn), befriends other patients, and tries to hide out in the hospital. Celeste Holm has a minor, but welcome role as Grace, a fellow patient who takes a liking to and protects the confused Virginia.

What a score for the lovely De Havilland! She really gets to show her stuff in this emotional role, and got an Oscar-nomination for her efforts. And kudos to director Anatole Litvak for a wonderful, but hard-to-take visit into a woman's not-all-there mind and her institutionalized world.

39 of 42 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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