Thursday, October 19, 2006

Devil May Care, or: The Lawyer and the Other Lawyer

A Movie Review

originally released as All That Money Can Buy, The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) is based on a Stephen Vincent Benet story about the much mythologized New Hampshire born statesman. Directed in a very stylized manner by William Dieterle, heavy use of filters, sharp camera work, a solid cast, and very deliberate pacing, all help create the mystical, other-worldly feel of what is essentially a parable by way of American folk lore. The story should be familour enough, hard scrabble New England farmer Jabez Stone (James Craig), sells his soul to the devil (Walter Huston, clearly enjoying the part) in exchange for seven years prosperity. Prosperity he gets, but in the process Jabez alienates his wife (Anne Shirlely), mother (Jane Darwell), and basically the whole town, after replaces Miser Stevens (John Qualen) as the town loan shark. French actress Simone Simon (best known for her role in the horror classic 'Cat People') is striking as Jabez's devil provided mistress, Bella Dee (play on Belzebub). Edward Arnold abely tackles the title role of Daniel Webster, a largely then life figure which he still somehow manages to underplay. In the end Jabez is lucky that Mr. Webster is a friend of his wife's family, and is available to help him out legal when the poor fool realizes his mistake on the eve of the repossesing of his soul. A straight foward, and simplistic fairy tale, 'The Devil and Daniel Webster' must have seemed quaint even to its first viewers in the early 40's. Bernard Herrmann won the Oscar for his musical score.


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