From starring Bette Davis down the line to the bit roles portrayed by minor Negroes the acting is well nigh flawless. And standing out sharply in Lillian Hellman’s searing play about rapacious people are several performers who appeared in the 1939 Broadway stage version, i.e. Patricia Collinge, Carl Benton Reid, Dan Duryea and Charles Dingle.
In the natural padding out of the story permitted by a screenplay permits the injection of romance between Teresa Wright, as Davis’ daughter, and Richard Carlson, playing a young newspaperman.
The story is about the Hubbard family of the deep south – as mercenary a foursome as has never emerged from fact or fiction. In this picture Davis also murders her husband, played by Herbert Marshall, but with the unique weapon of disinterest. When Marshall, in the throes of a heart attack, crashes a bottle of medicine that can save his life, Davis sits by and watches him do a dying swan. That’s her way of killing the man who had refused to help finance the get-rich scheme of her brothers.
Marshall turns in one of his top performances in the exacting portrayal of a suffering, dying man.
On top of the smooth pace, Wyler has handled every detail with an acutely dramatic touch.
1941: Nominations: Best Picture, Actress (Bette Davis), Supp. Actress (Patricia Collinge, Teresa Wright), Screenplay, B&W Art Direction, Editing, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture