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The Snake Pit (1948)

Approved  |   |  Drama  |  13 November 1948 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 4,586 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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Title: The Snake Pit (1948)

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mark Stevens ...
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!




Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

13 November 1948 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Schlangengrube  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film was held back from distribution in England for a year because the British Board of Film Censors forbade films dealing with insanity. Initially, efforts to soften that stand were fought by nursing organizations, who feared the film would discourage young women from going into that profession. Finally, Fox cut the most extreme scenes of Olivia de Havilland's treatment to get past the censors. They also included a written prologue explaining that all of the cast were actors and that the film did not reflect conditions in British mental hospitals. The film then won rave reviews in England and broke box office records. 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 »


Robert Cunningham: Tell me what have you been doing all these months?
Virginia Stuart Cunningham: Working 18 hours a day and being lonely 24.
See more »


I Can't Begin to Tell You
(1945) (uncredited)
Music by James V. Monaco
Played by the band at the dance
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

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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