catapult magazine

catapult magazine


The Little Foxes - Still Great Movie on DVD!


Jan 19 2005
09:34 pm

:P Watched yet again my copy of the 1941 “The Little Foxes”, based on a play by Lillian Hellman which she wrote after attending a family gathering where they raffled off Great-Grandma’s diamond.

One wonders how much the selfish scheming sibling trio Regina and her brothers Oscar and Ben represent greedy, backbiting family members. How much dialogue is captured verbatim.

We may never know, but those of us who have seen a rogue family member prostitute his or her family ties for the sake of a bigger share of a will… well, some of the dialogue sounds familiar, and the sibling backstabbing comes off as plausible…

The Little Foxes is set in 1900 in the Deep South where Regina and her brothers scheme to close a lucrative local business deal. Of course, they will, as those who know them know, cheat the poor yet again and pay t he lowest wages possible.

Historically, the last turn of the century was a time of reform (read: social activism in today’s languate). Persons activated to form unions, protested child labor and worker abuse, and eventually stirred the nation’s conscience. The most famous reformer was the rich republican Teddy Roosevelt, who saw the ugly sights where the oppressed “other half” lived. Effects of this reform era carry on today.

This movie acts out (in one family—-one town) those seeking justice for others…Nominated for several oscars, the story is entertaining. Bette Davis is great at playing powerful women, both good & bad. (PS the t itle “the Little Foxes” is a Biblical allusion to the little foxes who destroy the harvest. As the title page says, every town has its “little foxes”.
—-This film is unrated, but I would say it’s a mild PG.
Educational and or spiritual value:
Might be used as a supplement to study of the 1900 reform era. Good discussion starter on the subjects greed, helping the oppressed, standing up against evil, etc.


Jan 19 2005
11:06 pm

I designed the makeup and lights for this show at Dordt in the late 90’s and absolutely loved it. I found it similar to working on Macbeth—a wonderful lesson in human depravity. It’s amazing how attractive plays like this can be, especially among Christian groups. Maybe it’s because we can project our own guilt onto something a little less immediate than our own existences. I wonder how it worked to be acting in a show like that. I was teching and designing for both Little Foxes and Macbeth, though I guess I did get some of that when acting in Godot, though that was quite a bit different.
I don’t know if this is the direction you were looking to go in vanlee, but it would be interesting to read about the cathartic experience people in different roles go through during a play like “Little Foxes”.
I know Henry played the sickly Patriarch in Dordt’s production, though I can’t remember the character’s name off hand. That character was one of the few innocent ones.


Jan 22 2005
12:31 am

Wow. This is not a topic I expected to be reading about today. I’ve been involved with more than forty theatre productions to date and that production of The Little Foxes remains one of my favourites. I dug out my old acting journal. It turns out I was reading Thomas Merton’s [i:9375c31762]The Seven Storey Mountain[/i:9375c31762] at the time and I found a lot of resonance between Merton’s journey and the character of Horace Giddens. Horace isn’t innocent, but he is aware of that fact. His illness has forced him to realize that he has to try to do whatever he can to effect some kind of change for the better in the world with the time he has left. Here’s some quotes from Merton that gave me some insight into the character:

…since no man ever can, or could, live by himself and for himself alone, the destinies of thousands of other people were bound to be affected, some remotely, but some very directly and near-at-hand, by my own choices and decisions and desires, as my own life would also be formed and modified according to theirs. I was entering into a moral universe in which I would be related to every other rational being, and in which whole masses of us, as thick as swarming bees, would drag one another along to some common end of good or evil, peace or war.
All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don?t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let Him do it? All you have to do is desire it
I myself am responsible for this. My sins have done this. Hitler is not the only one who has started this war: I have my share in it too

I also believe that Horace is a reader of Ecclesiastes:

If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.

Whoever loves money never has money enough;
Whover loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.

This too is meaningless.

As goods increase, so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owner,
except to feast his eyes on them?
The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether he eats little or much,
but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.


Jan 24 2005
09:55 pm

Was very pleased to hear people put on “The Little Foxes”. Wonder if they do it as the film version or t he original Lillian Hellman play?

Back then, (early-mid 20th Century) the culture had somewhat more influence from Judaism/Christianity’s wonderful & liberating view of the value of persons. Thus, such a call for justice in The Little Foxes could be framed in semi Biblical terms without the neopagans, atheists & others sneering at the Biblical framework (I assume from what I’ve read or heard from people of that time) . Even Clarence Darrow, a noted atheist of early 20th Century (the Scopes trial, etc.) had semiBiblical ideas on justice per his unexpectedly charming autobiography.

But possibly now people take such God references only as part of the “period”. Whether or not they realize it, the play puts forward the great Judaeo/Christian concepts of the strong needing to help & defend the poor, not “devour” them.
If our culture ever loses those concepts, it would not be worth spit.

I do have a very few scheming relatives, actually in my husband’s side. They could exchange technique tips with Regina & Ben. Not that my family lacks troublemakers,just not that brand.

my husband and his father are significantly different from their Scrooge and Hubbard like kin. They DO love people more t han money, and it shows!. :arrow: (There MUST be a GOD to break such a nasty curse.)[/b:480f2dbe5b]

Isn’t Horace the great example (to me anyway) of the gentle Christian man who finally wakes up to the ongoing fight? Yes, his early death means Regina & bros. get the cotton factory after all. BUT the daughter is rescued from their clutches & one easily imagines her doing lots of work for the oppressed…The first real crack in t he HUBBARD empire. And we all know that LEO is too stupid to hold the Hubbard fortunes when it is his turn to take over…so the 3 siblings connive basically for…what???

I had no “agenda” for this post other than mentioning a great classic movie. WONDERFUL that the play is still put on!!!