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The Snake Pit (1948)

Approved  |   |  Drama  |  13 November 1948 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 4,589 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:
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?


Joseph Cotten and Richard Conte were considered for the part of Dr. Kik. 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 »


Virginia Stuart Cunningham: It was strange, here I was among all those people, and at the same time I felt as if I were looking at them from some place far away, the whole place seemed to me like a deep hole and the people down in it like strange animals, like... like snakes, and I've been thrown into it... yes... as though... as though I were in a snake pit...
Doctor Mark Kik: A snake pit?
Virginia Stuart Cunningham: Later, weeks later, I understood. I remembered once reading in a book that long ago they used to put insane people into pits full of snakes. I think ...
See more »


Referenced in Melrose Place: Postmortem Madness (1995) See more »


(1943) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

22 August 2005 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

Hollywood in the forties was not exactly ready to deal with subjects such as the one depicted in "The Snake Pit". It must have taken a lot of courage to get this project started since it dealt with a serious problem of mental illness, something not mentioned in good company, let alone in a film that took the viewer into the despair the protagonist is experiencing.

Anatole Litvak, the director, got a tremendous performance from its star Olivia de Havilland. If there was anyone to portrait Virginia Stuart Cunningham, Ms. de Havilland was the right choice for it. The actress is the main reason for watching the movie, even after all these years.

The director was responsible for the realistic way in which this drama plays on screen. The scenes in the asylum are heart wrenching, especially the electro shock treatments Virginia undergoes. At the end, the kind Dr. Kik discovers a deeply rooted problem in Virginia's mind that was the cause for what she was experiencing.

Leo Genn is the other notable presence in the film playing Dr. Kik. He makes the best out of his role and plays well against the sickly woman he has taken an interest in helping. Mark Stevens is seen as Virginia's husband, the man that stood by his wife all the time. In smaller roles we see Lee Patrick, Natalie Schafer, Leif Erickson and Celeste Holm, and Betsy Blair.

"The Snake Pit" is a document about mental illness treated with frankness by Anatole Litvak and his team.

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