51 user 18 critic

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.


Edmund Goulding


Lenore J. Coffee (screen play) (as Lenore Coffee), Polan Banks (from a novel by)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »




Complete credited cast:
Bette Davis ... Maggie Patterson
George Brent ... Peter Van Allen
Mary Astor ... Sandra Kovak
Lucile Watson ... Aunt Ada Greenfield
Hattie McDaniel ... Violet
Grant Mitchell ... Joshua Mason
Jerome Cowan ... Jock Thompson
Charles Trowbridge ... Senator Ted Greenfield
Thurston Hall ... Oscar Worthington James
Russell Hicks ... Col. Harriston
Virginia Brissac ... Sadie
J. Farrell MacDonald ... Dr. Ferguson (as J. Farrell Macdonald)
Addison Richards ... Mr. Talbot
Sam McDaniel ... Jefferson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Olin Howland ... 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 »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Faye Emerson and Marguerite Chapman appear in the trailer as two enthusiastic film fans who have nothing but praise for the film and for Bette Davis's performance in it. See more »


When Maggie drives up the dirt road in a black car to meet Pete's plane, the reflection of the boom mic can clearly be seen on the windshield of the car, just as Maggie says "That's Pete; That's his signal." 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 The 75th Annual Academy Awards (2003) See more »


(1859) (uncredited)
from "Tristan und Isolde"
Music by Richard Wagner
Played as background music when Maggie and Sandra meet backstage
See more »

User Reviews

I wanted to like it but....
26 August 2019 | by journeygalSee all my reviews

I wanted to like this movie but I did not. The trend back then was to take a perfectly good drama and then screw it up with quips and one liners, which is exactly what they did here. Grand dame pianist Sandra Kovak is married to a player by the name of Peter Van Allen. He's still in love with his ex-girlfriend Maggie Peterson. Maggie is a rather boring goodie two shoes and Sandra is all fire and noise. Maybe a little too much noise, because when old Pete finds out Sandra wasn't legally divorced from her last hub, he leaves her and marries Maggie. Not long after he joins the war effort and his plane is reported as being shot down over Brazil and he is presumed dead. Right about that time Sandra announces she is pregnant, so Maggie comes up with the ridiculous idea that she will pay Sandra a monthly stipend (Maggie is quite wealthy, of course) to help keep her in the style she's accustomed IF she allows Maggie to act as if she is the child's actual mother. This works out quite well until a few years later when it is discovered that Peter is alive. And boy, what an anticlimatic non-hero's welcome the poor sap got. My cat is more excited to see me at the end of the day than either of these ladies were to see a man they thought was dead...Sandra is still carrying a torch and decides she wants it all--Peter, her son, the life she gave up. So she rats out Maggie...but who will Peter choose?

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Release Date:

12 April 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Far Horizon See more »

Filming Locations:

Mojave Desert, California, USA See more »


Box Office


$689,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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