7.3/10
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46 user 16 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.

Director:

Edmund Goulding

Writers:

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

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Cast

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)
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

Sometimes there's a terrible penalty for telling the truth.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 April 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Far Horizon See more »

Filming Locations:

Mojave Desert, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

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

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 2, 1942 with George Brent and Mary Astor reprising their film roles. See more »

Goofs

At 55:22, inconsistencies with Sandra, how she leans forward with her hand on her brow, reveals poor editing of takes. See more »

Quotes

Sandra Kovac: Whoever heard of an ounce of brandy?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Maltese Falcon (1941) See more »

Soundtracks

The Man on the Flying Trapeze
(1867) (uncredited)
Music by Gaston Lyle
Played during the home movie scene
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Well constructed, fast, soap opera plot film, wonderful escapism.
26 February 2010 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

The Great Lie (1941)

This is really a fabulous mixture of great movie themes, and it pulls it together to make its own amazing statement about fidelity and love. And class. And pre-war America, seemingly isolated but actually trapped by world events.

Within ten minutes there is first an echo of My Man Godfrey (George Brent in this case making a more mainstream Powell) and then a swoop down for a taste of Gone with the Wind or even closer, Jezebel (the plantation south, even though it's 1940 or so). Then it's a melodrama straight up, and tragedy, and even if the plot is improbable, you go with it and get swept away.

Brent plays Pete, a man caught between two women, both of money, but one cosmopolitan and used to being in charge, and one a lively, warm woman living a more earthy life. At the start it seems Pete is married to the urbane one, a concert pianist, Sandra, played with typical poise and ice by Mary Astor (compare this to her more famous role in The Maltese Falcon from the same year). She's a professional woman, in charge of her life, and, lately, Pete's. She wants independence and culture, and man with his feet on the ground.

But Brent's country girl, an ex-love (and true love, it seems) Maggie is played to perfection by Bette Davis. The music here, and the support cast is African American, which makes for a more heart warming, and wrenching, background. He pays a visit to Maggie the day after his wedding (for reasons that slowly clarify) and the dynamic is set. And the twists begin. We have a contemporary drama between recognizable stereotypes as World War II looms for the U.S.

Early on, Sandra asks Pete after his visit to Maggie, "Did you get it?" He says, "What?" Sexual innuendo intact, the Hays code chaffing, she clarifies, "The air?" What a great simple example of how movies so often played brilliantly with innuendo because the code wouldn't allow a straighter interplay.

Director Edmund Goulding is not as well known as some of his contemporaries, but he has a few masterpieces in his lot, including the Bette Davis Dark Victory and the later Razor's Edge. For me, The Great Lie is maybe short of perfect--the plot does intrude on our sense of suspending disbelief--but it's really fast, moving, well written, and well directed. No question.


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