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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Dutch Loan—“You're both being very gay about my money.”

The Little Foxes (1941) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“Take us the foxes, The little foxes, that spoil the vines: For our vines have tender grapes.” The Song of Solomon 2:15

Little foxes have lived in all times, in all places. This family happened to live in the deep South in the year 1900.

With this prologue the movie opens with a mournful hymn (“Never feel too weary to pray”) and closes with the same. We are quickly intro­duced to the characters: naïve Alexandra “Zan” Giddens (Teresa Wright) on the cusp of woman­hood, her dragon lady mother Regina Giddens (Bette Davis) née Hubbard, dishabille gonzo journalist David Hewitt (Richard Carlson) who stayed up all night on his under­ground type­writer—he's caught Zan's eye—, Zan's uncles Ben Hubbard (Charles Dingle) and Oscar Hubbard (Carl Benton Reid), her fragile aunt Birdie Hubbard (Patricia Collinge), her freaky cousin Leo Hubbard (Dan Duryea), and loyal retainer Addie (Jessie Grayson)—who is black. The Hubbards are the economic main­stay of the town of Linnet, having made all the right moves after the Civil War ended, including Oscar's opportune marriage to Birdie of the landed class.

applying makeupRegina's mirror reveals she is not getting any younger, and she has yet to acquire all the fine things she has always wanted in life. To that end she dispatches Alexandra by train to Baltimore to bring Regina's convalescing husband Horrace Giddens (Herbert Marshall) home with her to join Regina's two brothers in an investment scheme with Yankee business­man William Marshall (Russell Hicks) to establish a cotton gin in town. They want to bring the industry to the cotton rather than the cotton to the industry.

Due to all the shenanigans in her family, Zan is itching for independence along the lines of a girl of similar age in a Ken Follett novel I'm reading: (320–1).

“I know I shall have to run errands and make coffee and answer the phone in the office. I know I shall live in a single room with a gas ring, and share the bath­room with other lodgers. I know I shan't like being poor—but I shall love being free.”

“You don't know anything,” [her father] said scornfully. “Free? You? You'll be like a pet rabbit released in a kennel. I'll tell you what you don't know, my girl: you don't know that you've been pampered and spoiled all your life. You've never even been to school—”

The injustice of that brought tears to her eyes and provoked her into a rejoinder. “I wanted to go to school,” she protested. “You wouldn't let me!”

He ignored the interruption. “You've had your clothes washed and your food prepared, you've been chauffeured every­where you ever wanted to go, you've had children brought to the house to play with you, and you've never given a thought to how all of it was provided—”

“But I have!”

“And now you want to live on your own! You don't know the price of a loaf of bread, do you?”

“I'll soon find out—”

“You don't know how to wash your own underwear. You've never ridden on a bus. You've never slept in a house alone. You don't know how to set an alarm clock, bait a mouse­trap, wash dishes, boil an egg—could you boil an egg? Do you know how?”

That is very much like the situation Zan is in. Only now that she has ridden a train once by her­self, David coaches her, “You know, you take one step. And then you take another. After a while you'll find out you're walking all by your­self.” She better get some­thing together soon, because her domineering family has plans to marry her off to her cousin Leo, and she is so beholden to them she'd have a hard time thwarting their plans.


Addie declaims about the Hubbards: “Yes, they got mighty well-off cheating the poor. Well, there's people that eats up the whole Earth and all the people on it. Like in the Bible with the locusts.” They remind one of, (Isaiah 5:8) “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!” The Hubbards have only their own interests in mind gobbling up the whole town and paying the lowest wages in America.

The title of this movie is taken directly from the Bible:

          Song of Solomon 2:14-15

     O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock,
          in the secret places of the stairs,
     let me see thy countenance,
          let me hear thy voice;
     for sweet is thy voice,
          and thy countenance is comely.

     Take us the foxes,
          the little foxes,
     that spoil the vines:
          for our vines have tender grapes.

According to my Jewish Study Bible: “14. O my dove: The dove, a symbol of purity, gentleness, and fidelity, is a frequent epithet for the woman in the Song.” This suits Zan to a tee who is also very reserved about herself. She is the opposite of her mother whom Ben advises: “Regina, you're a fool! How many times did Mama tell you it's unwise for a good-lookin' woman to frown? How many times have I told you that softness and a smile will do more to the hearts of men?”

According to my Criswell Study Bible: “2:15 The ‘foxes’ represent the problems which would beset and the destroyers who would attack the ‘vines,’ i.e. the covenant of love between Solomon and the Shulamite. In Palestine the keepers of the vineyard continually sought to with­stand the destruction of the foxes. Similarly, the task of working through problems and differences within a marriage requires determination and responsibility.” Though David and Zan were only at some pre-court­ship stage, the girl had feelings of insecurity that David had to tend to, and she had rude manners towards David's friend she had to apologize for. Regina was the opposite, having lost ground to the foxes with Horace a long time ago. Regina: “I'll do things in my own way, Ben. I know what I'm doing.”

Production Values

” (1941) was directed by William Wyler. Lillian Hellman (with some assistance from Arthur Kober, Dorothy Parker, and Alan Campbell) adapted her 1939 play “The Little Foxes” for the cinema. It stars Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, and Teresa Wright. Davis does her usual excellent job acting. Teresa Wright brought a youthful face to the film as Alexandra, a girl about to become a woman. Richard Carlson plays David, Alexandra's potential love interest. Patricia Collinge is the agree­able Birdie, a throw­back to another era. Charles Dingle and Carl Benton Reid did great as the greedy brothers-in-law. Dan Duryea is the feckless Leo. Great talent was lined up here, some of it with experience from the earlier play.

The ratings are: Canada: PG (video rating); United Kingdom: PG (TV rating); United Kingdom: PG (1996, video rating); United States: Approved; United States: TVPG (TV Rating); United States: Passed (The National Board of Review.) The characters are interesting and well-written if mostly unsympathetic save for Alexandra and David, the latter having been added for the movie version to make it palatable for the cinema. “Foxes” cinema­tog­rapher was Gregg Toland.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

If you're looking for an upbeat picture, keep looking. If you're a natural cynic or just in a cynical frame of mind, this movie should suit you. I liked it for its realism, acting, and technical excellence.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

The Jewish Study Bible: Tanakh. New York: Oxford University Press. New Jewish Publication Society 2nd ed. of 1999. Print.

The Criswell Study Bible. Authorized King James Version. Nashville | Camden: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1979. Print.

Follett, Ken. Night Over Water. New York: William Morrow and Co. © Ken Follett, 1991. Print.