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The film opens with the following quotation from The Song of Solomon. II.15: "Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines; For our vines have tender grapes." The following written prologue then appears onscreen: "Little foxes have lived in all times, in all places. This family happened to live in the deep South in the year 1900." According to a January 1940 Daily Variety news item, Samuel Goldwyn purchased the rights to Lillian Hellman's play on a sliding scale based on the picture's gross. According to the producer's biography, Goldwyn liked the play but felt that the character of "Regina" was too venomous to arouse audience identification. Consequently, Goldwyn asked Hellman for some changes and she then invented the character of newspaper man "David Hewitt" as a love interest for Regina's daughter "Alexandra." After Goldwyn called for even more revisions, Hellman suggested her friends Arthur Kober, Alan Campbell and Dorothy Parker for the rewrites, according to Goldwyn's biography.
In order to secure the services of Bette Davis from Warner Bros., Goldwyn offered to trade Gary Cooper, who was under contract to the producer, for a one-picture deal. Warner Bros. accepted the offer and cast Cooper in Sergeant York . This was Davis' only loanout from Warner Bros. until the expiration of her contract in 1949. According to Davis' autobiography, the star strongly disagreed with director William Wyler over the interpretation of the character of Regina. Wyler preferred to soften the character, while Davis argued for a harsher presentation, much like that of Tallulah Bankhead, who portrayed Regina on Broadway. According to Davis' autobiography, she walked off the set on May 12 1941 but returned several days later. June 1941 New York Times items add that Davis withdrew from the film over disagreements with Wyler, but returned to the set after a twenty-one day absence.
According to an April 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item, the road company of The Little Foxes closed for three months during the filming of the picture. Patricia Collinge, Charles Dingle, Carl Benton Reid, Dan Duryea and John Marriott reprised their Broadway roles for this picture, which marked their screen debut. The film also marked the motion picture debut of Teresa Wright and Jessie Grayson of the Hall Johnson choir. According to a July 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item, backgrounds for the picture were shot at the Belle Helene plantation near Baton Rouge, LA. Although a February 1941 news item states that Goldwyn was considering James Stephenson for a role, Stephenson died shortly after completing the 1941 film International Squadron (see entry above).
The Little Foxes was Goldwyn's first production since splitting from United Artists. The film was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Music Scoring of a Dramatic Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Directing and Best Art Decoration. Both Patricia Collinge and Teresa Wright were nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Davis was nominated as Best Actress. On October 10, 1941, Great Moments from Great Plays broadcast a version of Hellman's play on the CBC radio, starring Tallulah Bankhead. On December 16, 1956, The Hallmark Hall of Fame broadcast a televised version of Hellman's play starring Greer Garson, Franchot Tone and Sidney Blackmer and directed by George Schaefer. The 1948 film Another Part of the Forest (see entry above) was based on a Hellman play that was a prequel to The Little Foxes. In that film, Dan Duryea appeared as "Oscar Hubbard," the father of the character he played in The Little Foxes. Modern sources add Kenny Washington, Lew Kelly, Hooper Atchley and Henry Roquemore to the cast.