Playwright Lillian Hellman first wrote of the horrible Hubbard family in her 1939 play The Little Foxes. In this lavish 1941 film version, Bette Davis takes over for Broadway's Tallulah Bankhead in the role of conniving turn-of-the-century Southern aristocrat Regina Hubbard Giddens. Regina's equally odious brothers (Charles Dingle and Carl Benton Reid) want her to lend them 75,000 dollars to help build a cotton mill. To do this, she must make peace with her long-estranged husband, Horace (Herbert Marshall) -- and failing that, she tries to arrange a wealthy marriage between her daughter, Alexandra (Teresa Wright), and her slimy nephew Leo (Dan Duryea). Horace refuses to give Regina the money, whereupon Leo is pressured by his father (Reid) to steal bonds from the family business. Regina uses this information as a means of blackmailing her brothers for a share in the new mill. In retaliation, Horace claims that he gave Leo the bonds as a loan, thereby cutting Regina out of the deal. When Horace suffers a heart attack, Regina makes no effort to give him his medicine, and he dies without revealing his willingness to loan the money to Leo. Regina is thus still able to strongarm her brothers into giving her a piece of the mill -- but the price for her evil machinations is the loss of her daughter's love and respect. The Little Foxes caused a censorship stir in 1941; by refusing to give Horace his medicine, Regina technically gets away with murder. However, the censors decided that Regina was punished enough when her daughter left her to marry an honest newspaperman (Richard Carlson). Given the usual Tiffany treatment by producer Sam Goldwyn, The Little Foxes was a success; several years later, Lillian Hellman wrote a "prequel" to The Little Foxes, titled Another Part of the Forest.
by Hal Erickson synopsis