63 user 29 critic

The Snake Pit (1948)

Approved | | Drama, Mystery | 13 November 1948 (USA)
2:22 | Trailer

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



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



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Mark Kik
Dr. Terry
Helen Craig ...
Nurse Davis
Mrs. Greer
Asylum Inmate
Dr. Curtis
Mrs. Stuart
Katherine Locke ...
Frank Conroy ...
Dr. Jonathan Gifford
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 <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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


Drama | Mystery


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
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Did You Know?


In an interview, Olivia de Havilland described her research: "I met a young woman who was very much like Virginia...a schizophrenic with guilt problems. She had developed...a warm rapport with her doctor, but what struck me most of all was the fact that she was rather likable and appealing...it was that that gave me the key to the performance." 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 »


Featured in A Hole in One (2004) See more »


Oh! You Beautiful Doll
(1911) (uncredited)
Music by Nat Ayer
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

An unusual movie for the times of 1948.
19 March 2001 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"The Snake Pit" is based on a true story written by Mary Jane Ward in the hopes it would bring to the attention of the people, the horrors that a person faced in a mental institution at the time, pre-1948. The character, Virginia, was based on Miss Ward's own experience in a mental hospital. Even though the film was nominated for various Oscars, it only won for the musical score. I think that was probably because at the time mental illness was considered taboo. Olivia deHavilland acted the character of Virginia brilliantly as did everyone else in the film and Betsy Blair in her portrayal of Hester looked like she was completely and totally beyond help. Just look at her eyes. You will see what I mean. To this very day, I think it is the most haunting and most accurate of all films that have been released on the treatment of emotional disorders. I think all characters were portrayed as Mary Jane Ward wanted them to be portrayed, as I studied her book and watched the film while in high school in the early 1960's. Great book and a great film not afraid to show the abuse by certain medical personnel.

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