Sunday, December 13, 2009


Witty, biting, intense... I consider Lillian Helman's 'Little Foxes' to be one of the finest plays - and films - of the 20th century..

Set in the Deep South, circa 1900, it centers on a family of vipers, innocents, and crusaders - and a greedy struggle..

Rent the 1942 film adaptation - it does not disappoint! It works as suspense, drama, barb-fest, period piece, and sociology.

The cast is pitch-perfect, notably Bette Davis as the treacherous but complex matriarch and Teresa Wright (below, center) as her kind but sassy, coming-of-age daughter. The African-American cast shine in the background.

Lillian Helman's theater legacy consists of just a handful of plays, but they are all dazzling.

'Little Foxes' is my favorite, but Hellman also wrote the ground-breaking 'The Children's Hour,' an unusually early treatment of homosexuality (and a broader theme of malicious gossip).

For more about Lillian Helman, check out the 1977 film 'Julia' with Jane Fonda as Helman, Jason Robards as her lifetime lover Dashiell Hammett, and Vanessa Redgrave as her brave, tragic European friend that gives the film its title... Can't find a trailer, though...

Excerpt from Little Foxes, a very pivotal scene for Davis:

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