review for The Little Foxes on AllMovie

The Little Foxes (1941)
by Craig Butler review

The Little Foxes is a triumphant screen translation of Lillian Hellman's classic stage melodrama, blessed with an exceptional cast and expert direction. True, there are a few minor missteps in the manner in which the play has been "opened up" for the screen, the most obvious being the addition of a rather stereotypical crusading journalist boyfriend for Alexandra. But these flaws are made up for by the glorious production, which manages to add a few new layers to some characters who can, in the wrong hands, come across as a bit too clearly drawn. Presiding over the cast with a velvet glove cast in iron is Bette Davis, turning in the kind of performance that made her a screen legend -- and deservedly so. Davis clearly presents Regina's hardness and severity, but she doesn't overplay that hand; her Regina knows how to charm, and to do so with conviction. The actress also shows the audience the character's vulnerability, but only enough glimpses to make us almost feel for her. She's well-matched by Herbert Marshall's extremely well-judged Horace, Patricia Collinge's magnificent Birdie, and Charles Dingle's dangerous but subtle Ben. Teresa Wright pushes a little too hard to demonstrate Alexandra's innocence and naïveté, but otherwise she's thoroughly engaging. Add in William Wyler's spot-on direction and a first-rate physical production, and the result is a true classic.