The Devil and Daniel Webster


60m 1960
The Devil and Daniel Webster

Brief Synopsis

An adaptation for television of the 1939 Broadway play by Stephen Vincent Benet and Douglas Moore. The story relates lawyer Daniel Webster's courtroom battle against the Devil, who is seeking the soul of Jabez Stone, a farmer who agreed to exchange his soul for seven years of wealth, then reneged o

Film Details

Also Known As
Devil and Daniel Webster
Release Date
1960

Technical Specs

Duration
60m

Synopsis

An adaptation for television of the 1939 Broadway play by Stephen Vincent Benet and Douglas Moore. The story relates lawyer Daniel Webster's courtroom battle against the Devil, who is seeking the soul of Jabez Stone, a farmer who agreed to exchange his soul for seven years of wealth, then reneged on the deal.

Film Details

Also Known As
Devil and Daniel Webster
Release Date
1960

Technical Specs

Duration
60m

Articles

The Essentials - The Devil and Daniel Webster


SYNOPSIS

In 1840 New Hampshire, farmer Jabez Stone lives with his young wife and his mother, struggling to make a living. When a series of disasters befalls the poor family, Jabez decides to sell his soul in return for seven years of prosperity. The buyer is the mysterious Mr. Scratch, the incarnation of the Devil who roams the New England countryside looking for desperate people to tempt. Jabez gets his wish, but his good luck changes him. He becomes selfish and cold, betraying his wife with the "serving girl" that Scratch has sent to spy on him and turning his back on his friends and fellow farmers. He begins to see the error of his ways, and when his time is almost up, he begs famed orator-lawyer-politician Daniel Webster to argue his case against Scratch. The Devil agrees to a trial, but only if he can pick the judge and jury (notorious villains dredged up from Hell) and only if Webster will agree to forfeit his soul if he loses.

Director: William Dieterle
Producer: William Dieterle
Screenplay: Dan Totheroh, Stephen Vincent Benet, based on Benet's story
Cinematography: Joseph August
Editing: Robert Wise
Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase
Original Music: Bernard Herrmann
Cast: Edward Arnold (Daniel Webster), Walter Huston (Scratch), James Craig (Jabez Stone), Jane Darwell (Ma Stone), Simone Simon (Belle), Anne Shirley (Mary Stone).
BW-106m. Closed Captioning.

Why THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER is Essential

Apart from epics based on the Bible and mythology, it's a rare film that can trace its source material back nearly four centuries. Even more interesting is how The Devil and Daniel Webster married a famous American historical figure to ancient European tales of men who sell their souls for wealth, knowledge, power, or sex. Inspired by the centuries-old variations on the Faust legend, Stephen Vincent Benet's short story was an amusing pastiche on folk tale that became, in the hands of director William Dieterle and his remarkable cast and crew, a fable of community and down-home values.

The film frequently recalls, without being strident or overtly ideological, the leftist, populist sentiments of the 1930s. Rather than liberal vs. conservative, common folk against the powerful, its moral point is that good will and working together for the benefit of all are virtuous, while the elevation of individual desires and personal greed brings about pain, tragedy and doom. Old-time faith, hope, and charity are pitted against the harsh realities of a changing modern world; the simple life of the land collides with business and "progress." It's a lesson that still resounds today and makes this relatively obscure gem of the early 1940s still timely today.

There is much to appreciate in The Devil and Daniel Webster in purely cinematic terms and it's no mere coincidence it was made during the reign of George Schaefer at RKO, a period at the studio of notable artistic flowering. The literate, often witty script, an adaptation of the story by playwright Dan Totheroh and Benet himself, combines high idealism with melodrama and moments of sly humor crossed with supernatural fantasy - an offbeat blend that likely worked against the picture at American box offices in 1941. The cast is uniformly deft in their performances, especially Walter Huston as the devilish Mr. Scratch and Edward Arnold (a replacement for injured Thomas Mitchell) as the upright and folksy Daniel Webster. Huston was Oscar®-nominated for his work, an uncanny performance that manages the tough trick of making Scratch both appealing and unsympathetic; the film is worth watching if only to see why he is considered one of the finest actors of his generation. Even the minor characters are memorable and fully realized through the performances of such players as John Qualen (the doomed Miser Stevens), Jeff Corey (the voice of communal reason), and Jane Darwell (once again as the homespun matriarch, as she was in her award-winning role in The Grapes of Wrath, 1940).

Dieterle and his cinematographer Joseph August (nearing the end of a distinguished 35-year career) present the story through a brilliantly appropriate use of light and shadow, weaving in subtle but effective special effects that heighten the fantasy. And of course, there is Bernard Herrmann's music, only his second motion picture score (after Citizen Kane, 1941) and, oddly, the only one in his long and highly acclaimed career to earn him an Academy Award. Hermann's use of leitmotifs, quotations from old folk songs, and scoring to the rhythms and meanings of the characters' speeches are a major component of the film's hallucinatory atmosphere. Taken all together, these elements create a cinematic tour de force and, in the words of author Tom Piazza in his liner notes for the Criterion DVD release, "a fascinating allegory, filmed on the eve of World War II, of a society gone mad with materialism, a premonition of the opportunities and dangers awaiting the United States as it recovered from the Great Depression."

by Rob Nixon
The Essentials - The Devil And Daniel Webster

The Essentials - The Devil and Daniel Webster

SYNOPSIS In 1840 New Hampshire, farmer Jabez Stone lives with his young wife and his mother, struggling to make a living. When a series of disasters befalls the poor family, Jabez decides to sell his soul in return for seven years of prosperity. The buyer is the mysterious Mr. Scratch, the incarnation of the Devil who roams the New England countryside looking for desperate people to tempt. Jabez gets his wish, but his good luck changes him. He becomes selfish and cold, betraying his wife with the "serving girl" that Scratch has sent to spy on him and turning his back on his friends and fellow farmers. He begins to see the error of his ways, and when his time is almost up, he begs famed orator-lawyer-politician Daniel Webster to argue his case against Scratch. The Devil agrees to a trial, but only if he can pick the judge and jury (notorious villains dredged up from Hell) and only if Webster will agree to forfeit his soul if he loses. Director: William Dieterle Producer: William Dieterle Screenplay: Dan Totheroh, Stephen Vincent Benet, based on Benet's story Cinematography: Joseph August Editing: Robert Wise Art Direction: Van Nest Polglase Original Music: Bernard Herrmann Cast: Edward Arnold (Daniel Webster), Walter Huston (Scratch), James Craig (Jabez Stone), Jane Darwell (Ma Stone), Simone Simon (Belle), Anne Shirley (Mary Stone). BW-106m. Closed Captioning. Why THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER is Essential Apart from epics based on the Bible and mythology, it's a rare film that can trace its source material back nearly four centuries. Even more interesting is how The Devil and Daniel Webster married a famous American historical figure to ancient European tales of men who sell their souls for wealth, knowledge, power, or sex. Inspired by the centuries-old variations on the Faust legend, Stephen Vincent Benet's short story was an amusing pastiche on folk tale that became, in the hands of director William Dieterle and his remarkable cast and crew, a fable of community and down-home values. The film frequently recalls, without being strident or overtly ideological, the leftist, populist sentiments of the 1930s. Rather than liberal vs. conservative, common folk against the powerful, its moral point is that good will and working together for the benefit of all are virtuous, while the elevation of individual desires and personal greed brings about pain, tragedy and doom. Old-time faith, hope, and charity are pitted against the harsh realities of a changing modern world; the simple life of the land collides with business and "progress." It's a lesson that still resounds today and makes this relatively obscure gem of the early 1940s still timely today. There is much to appreciate in The Devil and Daniel Webster in purely cinematic terms and it's no mere coincidence it was made during the reign of George Schaefer at RKO, a period at the studio of notable artistic flowering. The literate, often witty script, an adaptation of the story by playwright Dan Totheroh and Benet himself, combines high idealism with melodrama and moments of sly humor crossed with supernatural fantasy - an offbeat blend that likely worked against the picture at American box offices in 1941. The cast is uniformly deft in their performances, especially Walter Huston as the devilish Mr. Scratch and Edward Arnold (a replacement for injured Thomas Mitchell) as the upright and folksy Daniel Webster. Huston was Oscar®-nominated for his work, an uncanny performance that manages the tough trick of making Scratch both appealing and unsympathetic; the film is worth watching if only to see why he is considered one of the finest actors of his generation. Even the minor characters are memorable and fully realized through the performances of such players as John Qualen (the doomed Miser Stevens), Jeff Corey (the voice of communal reason), and Jane Darwell (once again as the homespun matriarch, as she was in her award-winning role in The Grapes of Wrath, 1940). Dieterle and his cinematographer Joseph August (nearing the end of a distinguished 35-year career) present the story through a brilliantly appropriate use of light and shadow, weaving in subtle but effective special effects that heighten the fantasy. And of course, there is Bernard Herrmann's music, only his second motion picture score (after Citizen Kane, 1941) and, oddly, the only one in his long and highly acclaimed career to earn him an Academy Award. Hermann's use of leitmotifs, quotations from old folk songs, and scoring to the rhythms and meanings of the characters' speeches are a major component of the film's hallucinatory atmosphere. Taken all together, these elements create a cinematic tour de force and, in the words of author Tom Piazza in his liner notes for the Criterion DVD release, "a fascinating allegory, filmed on the eve of World War II, of a society gone mad with materialism, a premonition of the opportunities and dangers awaiting the United States as it recovered from the Great Depression." by Rob Nixon

Pop Culture 101 - The Devil and Daniel Webster


Author Stephen Vincent Benet worked with composer Douglas Moore to adapt his story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" into a one-act opera in 1938. The two had worked together before on an operetta based on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" that was broadcast on national radio. The Daniel Webster musical tale was produced by the American Lyric Theater under the direction of John Houseman in 1939.

Radio versions of Benet's first two Daniel Webster stories were produced on the weekly CBS series (1936-1947) Columbia Workshop, a program that used new, relatively unknown young actors and writers (for budgetary reasons) and allowed experimentation with innovative sound techniques, hence the "workshop" of the title. "The Devil and Daniel Webster" was broadcast in August 1938 with a score by Bernard Herrmann. Orson Welles also started at Columbia Workshop, developing some of the sound techniques he would later use in his Mercury Theater radio broadcasts and in his films.

Because it was made at the same studio as Citizen Kane (1941) and used some of the same technicians (composer Bernard Herrmann, editor Robert Wise, special effects expert Vernon L. Walker), some critics and film historians have speculated on how much this movie may have been influenced by Orson Welles's landmark work, which was released five months earlier. Later in his life (when he had become a well-known director), Wise denied any influence, and it is unlikely that William Dieterle, director of The Devil and Daniel Webster, consciously imitated the earlier film. Film historian Bruce Eder, in his audio commentary to the Criterion Collection DVD release of Dieterle's movie, notes that Kane did free filmmakers to use lap dissolves, montage, and other innovative narrative devices. The two movies also share long uninterrupted dialogue passages not all that common to films of the era. In addition, both were produced at RKO under the brief regime of George Schaeffer, who fostered an atmosphere of artistic experimentation at the studio.

When David O. Selznick produced Portrait of Jennie (1948), he specifically hired Dieterle and cinematographer Joseph August because of their work on The Devil and Daniel Webster. Sound man James G. Stewart was also brought on, and Bernard Herrmann, who received a Thank You in the credits, may have also contributed in some way to the score.

In 1942 Bernard Herrmann adapted his score for The Devil and Daniel Webster into a five-movement concert suite. It was first performed on the radio by Herrmann and the CBS Symphony and became a favorite of Leopold Stokowski, who conducted it a number of times in the years after.

Jascha Heifetz was so impressed with Herrmann's creation of the barn dance music using overdubs of the same musician playing "Pop Goes the Weasel," that he was inspired to record the Bach Double Violin Concerto with himself playing both parts.

Aaron Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait" (1942) also quoted the American folk standard "Springfield Mountain," as Herrmann had done in The Devil and Daniel Webster's score a year earlier. When Herrmann heard it, he wrote Copland a scathing letter accusing him of plagiarism.

Faust's tale has been the basis for many literary, artistic, and musical works, such as those by Marlowe, Goethe, Bulgakov, Mann, Berlioz, Liszt, Irving, Gounod, Mahler, Wilde, and Randy Newman.

The story was remade and initially released under the same title in a modern version in which Jabez Stone (Alec Baldwin, who also produced and directed) is a writer who sells his soul to the Devil (Jennifer Love Hewitt) for fame and fortune and turns to his publisher, Daniel Webster, for help in breaking the contract. The script was partially based on Archibald Macleish's 1971 play Scratch, inspired by Benet's story. The movie was filmed in 2001, but it was plagued with financial difficulties and sat unreleased for several years. It is listed as a 2004 release under the original (Benet) title. It was later acquired by another company and re-released in 2007 under the title Shortcut to Happiness. According to Baldwin, the film was re-edited to bear no resemblance to the original story, and he asked to have his name removed from the credits.

Many movies have been made from the Faust legend. One of the most prominent was a 1926 silent version made in Germany by director F.W. Murnau. It featured Emil Jannings as Mephisto (the Devil) and as Valentin, William Dieterle, the future director of The Devil and Daniel Webster.

A Broadway musical and later film version of the Faust legend, Damn Yankees! (1958), told the story of a baseball player who sells his soul to the Devil to help his team win the league pennant.

The Devil and Daniel Webster was parodied in a segment of a Halloween episode of the animated TV series The Simpsons. In "The Devil and Homer Simpson," Homer sells his soul to the Devil (Ned Flanders) for one doughnut. Bumbling attorney Lionel Hutz messes up the trial for Homer's soul, and it's up to Marge Simpson to save her husband. The Jury of the Damned includes Blackbeard, Dillinger, and Richard Nixon.

The story and title were also referenced in an episode of the 1960s television series The Monkees entitled "The Devil and Peter Tork," in which one of the musicians unwittingly signs a contract that sells his soul to the Devil.

A young female mouse sells her soul to become a rock star in the animated TV movie The Devil and Daniel Mouse (1978).

A documentary about a cult musician was entitled The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005).

"Faust" (and the adjective "Faustian") has passed into the common language to describe someone whose strong desire for self-fulfillment leads him down a diabolical path or someone whose success can only be explained by a supposed deal with the Devil.

The unholy jury before whom Daniel argues Jabez's case included such notorious figures of American history and legend as Benedict Arnold and Blackbeard the Pirate, presided over by John Hathorne, one of the associate magistrates in the Salem witch trials and the only one who never repented of his actions.

by Rob Nixon

Pop Culture 101 - The Devil and Daniel Webster

Author Stephen Vincent Benet worked with composer Douglas Moore to adapt his story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" into a one-act opera in 1938. The two had worked together before on an operetta based on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" that was broadcast on national radio. The Daniel Webster musical tale was produced by the American Lyric Theater under the direction of John Houseman in 1939. Radio versions of Benet's first two Daniel Webster stories were produced on the weekly CBS series (1936-1947) Columbia Workshop, a program that used new, relatively unknown young actors and writers (for budgetary reasons) and allowed experimentation with innovative sound techniques, hence the "workshop" of the title. "The Devil and Daniel Webster" was broadcast in August 1938 with a score by Bernard Herrmann. Orson Welles also started at Columbia Workshop, developing some of the sound techniques he would later use in his Mercury Theater radio broadcasts and in his films. Because it was made at the same studio as Citizen Kane (1941) and used some of the same technicians (composer Bernard Herrmann, editor Robert Wise, special effects expert Vernon L. Walker), some critics and film historians have speculated on how much this movie may have been influenced by Orson Welles's landmark work, which was released five months earlier. Later in his life (when he had become a well-known director), Wise denied any influence, and it is unlikely that William Dieterle, director of The Devil and Daniel Webster, consciously imitated the earlier film. Film historian Bruce Eder, in his audio commentary to the Criterion Collection DVD release of Dieterle's movie, notes that Kane did free filmmakers to use lap dissolves, montage, and other innovative narrative devices. The two movies also share long uninterrupted dialogue passages not all that common to films of the era. In addition, both were produced at RKO under the brief regime of George Schaeffer, who fostered an atmosphere of artistic experimentation at the studio. When David O. Selznick produced Portrait of Jennie (1948), he specifically hired Dieterle and cinematographer Joseph August because of their work on The Devil and Daniel Webster. Sound man James G. Stewart was also brought on, and Bernard Herrmann, who received a Thank You in the credits, may have also contributed in some way to the score. In 1942 Bernard Herrmann adapted his score for The Devil and Daniel Webster into a five-movement concert suite. It was first performed on the radio by Herrmann and the CBS Symphony and became a favorite of Leopold Stokowski, who conducted it a number of times in the years after. Jascha Heifetz was so impressed with Herrmann's creation of the barn dance music using overdubs of the same musician playing "Pop Goes the Weasel," that he was inspired to record the Bach Double Violin Concerto with himself playing both parts. Aaron Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait" (1942) also quoted the American folk standard "Springfield Mountain," as Herrmann had done in The Devil and Daniel Webster's score a year earlier. When Herrmann heard it, he wrote Copland a scathing letter accusing him of plagiarism. Faust's tale has been the basis for many literary, artistic, and musical works, such as those by Marlowe, Goethe, Bulgakov, Mann, Berlioz, Liszt, Irving, Gounod, Mahler, Wilde, and Randy Newman. The story was remade and initially released under the same title in a modern version in which Jabez Stone (Alec Baldwin, who also produced and directed) is a writer who sells his soul to the Devil (Jennifer Love Hewitt) for fame and fortune and turns to his publisher, Daniel Webster, for help in breaking the contract. The script was partially based on Archibald Macleish's 1971 play Scratch, inspired by Benet's story. The movie was filmed in 2001, but it was plagued with financial difficulties and sat unreleased for several years. It is listed as a 2004 release under the original (Benet) title. It was later acquired by another company and re-released in 2007 under the title Shortcut to Happiness. According to Baldwin, the film was re-edited to bear no resemblance to the original story, and he asked to have his name removed from the credits. Many movies have been made from the Faust legend. One of the most prominent was a 1926 silent version made in Germany by director F.W. Murnau. It featured Emil Jannings as Mephisto (the Devil) and as Valentin, William Dieterle, the future director of The Devil and Daniel Webster. A Broadway musical and later film version of the Faust legend, Damn Yankees! (1958), told the story of a baseball player who sells his soul to the Devil to help his team win the league pennant. The Devil and Daniel Webster was parodied in a segment of a Halloween episode of the animated TV series The Simpsons. In "The Devil and Homer Simpson," Homer sells his soul to the Devil (Ned Flanders) for one doughnut. Bumbling attorney Lionel Hutz messes up the trial for Homer's soul, and it's up to Marge Simpson to save her husband. The Jury of the Damned includes Blackbeard, Dillinger, and Richard Nixon. The story and title were also referenced in an episode of the 1960s television series The Monkees entitled "The Devil and Peter Tork," in which one of the musicians unwittingly signs a contract that sells his soul to the Devil. A young female mouse sells her soul to become a rock star in the animated TV movie The Devil and Daniel Mouse (1978). A documentary about a cult musician was entitled The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005). "Faust" (and the adjective "Faustian") has passed into the common language to describe someone whose strong desire for self-fulfillment leads him down a diabolical path or someone whose success can only be explained by a supposed deal with the Devil. The unholy jury before whom Daniel argues Jabez's case included such notorious figures of American history and legend as Benedict Arnold and Blackbeard the Pirate, presided over by John Hathorne, one of the associate magistrates in the Salem witch trials and the only one who never repented of his actions. by Rob Nixon

Trivia - The Devil and Daniel Webster - Trivia & Fun Facts About THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER


Despite the legends that grew up around him and the reverence accorded his homespun steadfastness and concern for the "little guy" evident in this movie, Daniel Webster had a controversial political career. Historian Arthur Schlesinger once questioned how the American people could "follow [Webster] through hell or high water when he would not lead unless someone made up a purse for him." An early hero of farmers, he later went to work for the big business interests they often fought. Considering some of the cases Webster argued before the Supreme Court, Schlesinger also remarked that the real miracle of The Devil and Daniel Webster was not a soul sold to the devil, or the jury of ghostly traitors, but Webster speaking against the sanctity of contract.

Stephen Vincent Benet first tried his hand at screenwriting with the script for D.W. Griffith's Abraham Lincoln (1930), which starred Walter Huston.

Screenwriter Dan Totheroh was the brother of Roland "Rollie" Totheroh, Chaplin's chief cinematographer between 1915 and 1947.

William Dieterle began his career in his native Germany as an actor and writer in the early 20s before moving on to directing later in the decade. He came to Hollywood in the early 1930s under contract to Warner Brothers, first as director of the German language versions of the studio's films for export, then making a number of hit pictures for the American market with such stars as Bette Davis, Edward G. Robinson, and Kay Francis. He had his first prestige success as co-director with German theater great Max Reinhardt of the all-star A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) and received his only directorial Academy Award nomination for The Life of Emile Zola (1937), one of several pictures he made with Paul Muni. At the end of the decade, he moved to RKO and directed the studio's box office smash The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) with Charles Laughton. Dieterle continued to work steadily throughout the 40s, notably on several films for David O. Selznick starring Selznick's wife, Jennifer Jones. Toward the end of the decade, although never officially blacklisted, he was badgered for his political associations (among them, helping to bring writer Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill to the states in 1941, around the time of The Devil and Daniel Webster). As a result, Dieterle's career went into a decline in the '50s. He eventually returned to Europe where he lived and worked until 1966. He died there in 1972 at the age of 79.

Robert Wise is best known today as the award-winning director of such films as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), West Side Story (1961), and The Sound of Music (1965). Yet he started out at RKO first in the sound department then as one of their most valuable editors. Dieterle was so pleased with his work that he requested Wise's services for his next film, Syncopation (1942). Orson Welles, however, wanted Wise to edit his new production, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), as Wise had done on Citizen Kane (1941), and offered to pay him out of his own pocket to secure him. A compromise was reached whereby Wise would edit Dieterle's film and act as editing supervisor for Welles's project. Eventually, Robert Wise was assigned the task of severely cutting Ambersons while Welles was out of the country on another project. The editing of that movie (none of the lost footage exists) is considered by many to be one of the biggest tragedies of studio interference. In 1942, Wise married Patricia Doyle, who had a small part as Dorothy the servant girl in The Devil and Daniel Webster. It was her second and last screen appearance, after a bit in Stagecoach (1939), but she worked at RKO throughout the 1930s as a stand-in for Katharine Hepburn.

Cinematographer Joseph August had a propensity for light and shadow that he used to good effect on The Devil and Daniel Webster. His other films in this vein included Mary of Scotland (1936) for John Ford and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) and Portrait of Jennie (1948), both directed by William Dieterle. August died on the set of Jennie, and the shooting was completed by Lee Garmes.

Walter Huston started his acting career on stage and didn't make his film debut until 1929 at the age of 45. Although not the leading man type, he worked steadily and to usually positive notices throughout the 30s on such films as D.W. Griffith's Abraham Lincoln (1930), as a fictional U.S. president in the fantasy drama Gabriel Over the White House (1933), and Dodsworth (1936), for which he received his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. His second Best Actor nomination, for The Devil and Daniel Webster, boosted his career even more, pushing his earnings to $6,000 a week for a number of acclaimed supporting roles, including Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942, and a Best Supporting Actor nomination as James Cagney's father) and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), directed by his son John and finally earning him a Best Supporting Actor award. Huston's last film was the Anthony Mann Western The Furies (1950), which was released a few months after his death at the age of 66.

James Craig (Jabez Stone) was once seen as a Clark Gable type (he shaved his mustache for The Devil and Daniel Webster). Although his character is the main protagonist in The Devil and Daniel Webster and he previously made a big splash opposite RKO's "Queen of the Lot," Ginger Rogers, in Kitty Foyle (1940), Craig was not as famous or as experienced as several of his co-stars which was why he didn't receive top billing. He never achieved significant stardom but he worked steadily through the early 1970s. His biggest success came as a realtor, a career that made him very wealthy.

Anne Shirley, as Jabez's wife Mary, also did not receive high billing in The Devil and Daniel Webster. Born Dawn Paris in 1918 in New York, she made her debut in films at the age of 4 as Dawn O'Day, a name she worked under for 12 years. In 1934 she played the lead in Anne of Green Gables, and her name was changed by studio publicists to that of her character, Anne Shirley, which was her billing throughout the remainder of her brief career. She received a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for her work as Barbara Stanwyck's daughter in Stella Dallas (1937). She retired from the screen at 26 after Murder, My Sweet (1944), a decision she never regretted.

Gene Lockhart (Squire Slossum) was a well-known character actor of his day. He was the father of June Lockhart, best known for TV's Lassie and Lost in Space.

H.B. Warner (Judge Hathorne) achieved screen immortality playing Jesus in the silent version of The King of Kings (1927), and he was a favorite character actor for Frank Capra in the 30s and 40s, most memorably as the hapless pharmacist Mr. Gower in It's a Wonderful Life (1946).

French actress Simone Simon (Belle) came to Hollywood in the mid 1930s, but her career did not take off here and she returned to France. The Devil and Daniel Webster was her first film back in the U.S. in four years, and on the basis of her performance as Belle, Val Lewton cast her in her biggest Hollywood films, Cat People (1942) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944).

Jeff Corey (Grange organizer Tom Sharp) was a promising young actor who made close to 70 films between his debut in 1939 and 1951, when he was blacklisted because of his past association with the Communist Party. During the decade he was banned from films, he began a new career as a highly respected acting teacher and drama coach, with such students over the years as James Dean, Barbra Streisand, Anthony Perkins, Robin Williams, Kirk Douglas, and Jack Nicholson. He was able to return to movies and television in 1960 (thanks in large part to the intercession of Pat Boone), making another 150 or so appearances in both media until his death in 2002.

Actor-writer-producer William Alland was cast in The Devil and Daniel Webster as a character known only as "Guide," but his scenes were cut. He was a founding member of Orson Welles's Mercury Players on stage and radio in New York and made his movie debut in Welles's Citizen Kane as the shadowy reporter trying to piece together the truth about Charles Foster Kane.

"What a pity that such music [Herrmann's score] will not be really heard and appreciated by the people who see our picture. I know what we can do. We'll run the score separately and give them a real double feature." – Director William Dieterle in an interview around the time of the film's release

"I played a real troublemaker, going around organizing, trying to get the farmers to go on strike. It was a very political film as far as I was concerned." – Jeff Corey (Tom Sharp), who was later blacklisted for his leftist associations, in a 1991 interview

"[Huston] was so great in that part, it was like a revelation. It was one of the great performances of all time. If you liked acting, you had to like him." – Jeff Corey

The 1990s restoration of The Devil and Daniel Webster used scenes taken from inferior prints of the movie, but an original preview print was found not long after in Dieterle's estate. This is the version that now exists and is available on DVD.

Memorable Quotes from THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER

PROLOGUE: It's a story they tell in the border country where Massachusetts joins Vermont and New Hampshire. It happened, so they say, a long time ago. But it could happen any time––anywhere––to anybody. Yes, it could even happen to you.

MA STONE (Jane Darwell): Look at that sky. Big cracks in it, like it was ice on the mill pond, crackin' up to show us spring's a'comin'. If that ain't enough for a God-fearin' New England family, I want to know.

JABEZ (James Craig): When they were handing out hard luck, the farmer got there first.
MA: As for what you're callin' hard luck, we made New England out of it. That and codfish.

JABEZ: They say when he [Daniel Webster] speaks, the stars and stripes come right outa the sky.

JABEZ: What does it mean here, about my soul?
MR. SCRATCH (Walter Huston): Why should that worry you? A soul? A soul is nothing. Can you see it, smell it, touch it? No. This soul, your soul, are nothing against seven years of good luck. You'll have money and all that money can buy.

MA: When a man gets his money in bad way, when he sees the better course and takes the worse, then the devil's in his heart. And that fixes him.
JABEZ: A man could always change that, couldn't he?
MA: A man can always change things. That's what makes him different from the barnyard critters.

SCRATCH: I promised you money and all that money can buy. I don't recall any other obligations.

DANIEL WEBSTER (Edward Arnold): We have time to christen a jug. Old Medford rum, there's nothing like it. You know, somehow or other waiting becomes wonderfully shorter with a jug. I saw an inch worm once take a drop of this and he stood right up on his hind legs and bit a bee.

DANIEL: Well, I never heard of the de–– I never heard of you claiming American citizenship.
SCRATCH: And who has a better right? When the first wrong was done to the first Indian, I was there. When the first slaver put out for the Congo, I stood on the deck. Am I not still spoken of in every church in New England? It's true the North claims me for a Southerner and the South for a Northerner, but I'm neither. Tell the truth, Mr. Webster, though I don't like to boast of it, my name is older in the country than yours.

SCRATCH: (to Webster) You'll never be president. I'll see to that!

Compiled by Rob Nixon

Trivia - The Devil and Daniel Webster - Trivia & Fun Facts About THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER

Despite the legends that grew up around him and the reverence accorded his homespun steadfastness and concern for the "little guy" evident in this movie, Daniel Webster had a controversial political career. Historian Arthur Schlesinger once questioned how the American people could "follow [Webster] through hell or high water when he would not lead unless someone made up a purse for him." An early hero of farmers, he later went to work for the big business interests they often fought. Considering some of the cases Webster argued before the Supreme Court, Schlesinger also remarked that the real miracle of The Devil and Daniel Webster was not a soul sold to the devil, or the jury of ghostly traitors, but Webster speaking against the sanctity of contract. Stephen Vincent Benet first tried his hand at screenwriting with the script for D.W. Griffith's Abraham Lincoln (1930), which starred Walter Huston. Screenwriter Dan Totheroh was the brother of Roland "Rollie" Totheroh, Chaplin's chief cinematographer between 1915 and 1947. William Dieterle began his career in his native Germany as an actor and writer in the early 20s before moving on to directing later in the decade. He came to Hollywood in the early 1930s under contract to Warner Brothers, first as director of the German language versions of the studio's films for export, then making a number of hit pictures for the American market with such stars as Bette Davis, Edward G. Robinson, and Kay Francis. He had his first prestige success as co-director with German theater great Max Reinhardt of the all-star A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) and received his only directorial Academy Award nomination for The Life of Emile Zola (1937), one of several pictures he made with Paul Muni. At the end of the decade, he moved to RKO and directed the studio's box office smash The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) with Charles Laughton. Dieterle continued to work steadily throughout the 40s, notably on several films for David O. Selznick starring Selznick's wife, Jennifer Jones. Toward the end of the decade, although never officially blacklisted, he was badgered for his political associations (among them, helping to bring writer Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill to the states in 1941, around the time of The Devil and Daniel Webster). As a result, Dieterle's career went into a decline in the '50s. He eventually returned to Europe where he lived and worked until 1966. He died there in 1972 at the age of 79. Robert Wise is best known today as the award-winning director of such films as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), West Side Story (1961), and The Sound of Music (1965). Yet he started out at RKO first in the sound department then as one of their most valuable editors. Dieterle was so pleased with his work that he requested Wise's services for his next film, Syncopation (1942). Orson Welles, however, wanted Wise to edit his new production, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), as Wise had done on Citizen Kane (1941), and offered to pay him out of his own pocket to secure him. A compromise was reached whereby Wise would edit Dieterle's film and act as editing supervisor for Welles's project. Eventually, Robert Wise was assigned the task of severely cutting Ambersons while Welles was out of the country on another project. The editing of that movie (none of the lost footage exists) is considered by many to be one of the biggest tragedies of studio interference. In 1942, Wise married Patricia Doyle, who had a small part as Dorothy the servant girl in The Devil and Daniel Webster. It was her second and last screen appearance, after a bit in Stagecoach (1939), but she worked at RKO throughout the 1930s as a stand-in for Katharine Hepburn. Cinematographer Joseph August had a propensity for light and shadow that he used to good effect on The Devil and Daniel Webster. His other films in this vein included Mary of Scotland (1936) for John Ford and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) and Portrait of Jennie (1948), both directed by William Dieterle. August died on the set of Jennie, and the shooting was completed by Lee Garmes. Walter Huston started his acting career on stage and didn't make his film debut until 1929 at the age of 45. Although not the leading man type, he worked steadily and to usually positive notices throughout the 30s on such films as D.W. Griffith's Abraham Lincoln (1930), as a fictional U.S. president in the fantasy drama Gabriel Over the White House (1933), and Dodsworth (1936), for which he received his first Best Actor Oscar nomination. His second Best Actor nomination, for The Devil and Daniel Webster, boosted his career even more, pushing his earnings to $6,000 a week for a number of acclaimed supporting roles, including Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942, and a Best Supporting Actor nomination as James Cagney's father) and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), directed by his son John and finally earning him a Best Supporting Actor award. Huston's last film was the Anthony Mann Western The Furies (1950), which was released a few months after his death at the age of 66. James Craig (Jabez Stone) was once seen as a Clark Gable type (he shaved his mustache for The Devil and Daniel Webster). Although his character is the main protagonist in The Devil and Daniel Webster and he previously made a big splash opposite RKO's "Queen of the Lot," Ginger Rogers, in Kitty Foyle (1940), Craig was not as famous or as experienced as several of his co-stars which was why he didn't receive top billing. He never achieved significant stardom but he worked steadily through the early 1970s. His biggest success came as a realtor, a career that made him very wealthy. Anne Shirley, as Jabez's wife Mary, also did not receive high billing in The Devil and Daniel Webster. Born Dawn Paris in 1918 in New York, she made her debut in films at the age of 4 as Dawn O'Day, a name she worked under for 12 years. In 1934 she played the lead in Anne of Green Gables, and her name was changed by studio publicists to that of her character, Anne Shirley, which was her billing throughout the remainder of her brief career. She received a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for her work as Barbara Stanwyck's daughter in Stella Dallas (1937). She retired from the screen at 26 after Murder, My Sweet (1944), a decision she never regretted. Gene Lockhart (Squire Slossum) was a well-known character actor of his day. He was the father of June Lockhart, best known for TV's Lassie and Lost in Space. H.B. Warner (Judge Hathorne) achieved screen immortality playing Jesus in the silent version of The King of Kings (1927), and he was a favorite character actor for Frank Capra in the 30s and 40s, most memorably as the hapless pharmacist Mr. Gower in It's a Wonderful Life (1946). French actress Simone Simon (Belle) came to Hollywood in the mid 1930s, but her career did not take off here and she returned to France. The Devil and Daniel Webster was her first film back in the U.S. in four years, and on the basis of her performance as Belle, Val Lewton cast her in her biggest Hollywood films, Cat People (1942) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944). Jeff Corey (Grange organizer Tom Sharp) was a promising young actor who made close to 70 films between his debut in 1939 and 1951, when he was blacklisted because of his past association with the Communist Party. During the decade he was banned from films, he began a new career as a highly respected acting teacher and drama coach, with such students over the years as James Dean, Barbra Streisand, Anthony Perkins, Robin Williams, Kirk Douglas, and Jack Nicholson. He was able to return to movies and television in 1960 (thanks in large part to the intercession of Pat Boone), making another 150 or so appearances in both media until his death in 2002. Actor-writer-producer William Alland was cast in The Devil and Daniel Webster as a character known only as "Guide," but his scenes were cut. He was a founding member of Orson Welles's Mercury Players on stage and radio in New York and made his movie debut in Welles's Citizen Kane as the shadowy reporter trying to piece together the truth about Charles Foster Kane. "What a pity that such music [Herrmann's score] will not be really heard and appreciated by the people who see our picture. I know what we can do. We'll run the score separately and give them a real double feature." – Director William Dieterle in an interview around the time of the film's release "I played a real troublemaker, going around organizing, trying to get the farmers to go on strike. It was a very political film as far as I was concerned." – Jeff Corey (Tom Sharp), who was later blacklisted for his leftist associations, in a 1991 interview "[Huston] was so great in that part, it was like a revelation. It was one of the great performances of all time. If you liked acting, you had to like him." – Jeff Corey The 1990s restoration of The Devil and Daniel Webster used scenes taken from inferior prints of the movie, but an original preview print was found not long after in Dieterle's estate. This is the version that now exists and is available on DVD. Memorable Quotes from THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER PROLOGUE: It's a story they tell in the border country where Massachusetts joins Vermont and New Hampshire. It happened, so they say, a long time ago. But it could happen any time––anywhere––to anybody. Yes, it could even happen to you. MA STONE (Jane Darwell): Look at that sky. Big cracks in it, like it was ice on the mill pond, crackin' up to show us spring's a'comin'. If that ain't enough for a God-fearin' New England family, I want to know. JABEZ (James Craig): When they were handing out hard luck, the farmer got there first. MA: As for what you're callin' hard luck, we made New England out of it. That and codfish. JABEZ: They say when he [Daniel Webster] speaks, the stars and stripes come right outa the sky. JABEZ: What does it mean here, about my soul? MR. SCRATCH (Walter Huston): Why should that worry you? A soul? A soul is nothing. Can you see it, smell it, touch it? No. This soul, your soul, are nothing against seven years of good luck. You'll have money and all that money can buy. MA: When a man gets his money in bad way, when he sees the better course and takes the worse, then the devil's in his heart. And that fixes him. JABEZ: A man could always change that, couldn't he? MA: A man can always change things. That's what makes him different from the barnyard critters. SCRATCH: I promised you money and all that money can buy. I don't recall any other obligations. DANIEL WEBSTER (Edward Arnold): We have time to christen a jug. Old Medford rum, there's nothing like it. You know, somehow or other waiting becomes wonderfully shorter with a jug. I saw an inch worm once take a drop of this and he stood right up on his hind legs and bit a bee. DANIEL: Well, I never heard of the de–– I never heard of you claiming American citizenship. SCRATCH: And who has a better right? When the first wrong was done to the first Indian, I was there. When the first slaver put out for the Congo, I stood on the deck. Am I not still spoken of in every church in New England? It's true the North claims me for a Southerner and the South for a Northerner, but I'm neither. Tell the truth, Mr. Webster, though I don't like to boast of it, my name is older in the country than yours. SCRATCH: (to Webster) You'll never be president. I'll see to that! Compiled by Rob Nixon

The Big Idea - The Devil and Daniel Webster


First there was Faust, in all its forms, the story of a man who sells his soul to the Devil, trading eternal peace in the afterlife for material gains in this world. The first printed version of the legend of Faust was a chapbook published in 1587. The story was reworked and borrowed from frequently, and there were at least a dozen other "Faustbooks" in that era.

The early Faust chapbook circulated from northern Germany to England, where in 1592 an English translation was published. Playwright Christopher Marlowe used that as the basis for his play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, first published around 1604.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's early 19th century version of the story, a cross between a play and a long poem (known as a "closet drama," meaning a dramatic work meant to be read, not performed), extended the simple morality tale by bringing in elements from Christian, medieval, Roman, Greek, and eastern poetry, philosophy and literature. In this version, Faust isn't merely a greedy man eager for money; he is a scholar seeking the true essence of life, and his bargain gains him knowledge, as well as satisfaction of his more base desires. The legend obsessed Goethe throughout his life. He worked on it for nearly sixty years, and the final version, published after his death in 1832, is recognized as one of Germany's great literary works.

The first American take on the tale was "The Devil and Tom Walker," a short story by Washington Irving first published in 1824, about a man who sells his soul to the Devil for wealth.

Irving's story was taken up by Stephen Vincent Benet, winner of the 1929 Pulitzer Prize for John Brown's Body, a book-length narrative poem about the Civil War. Benet made his hero a poor New England farmer and added the element of having his legal case be argued by historical figure Daniel Webster before an underworld court. In creating his fable, Benet drew on the New England legends that had grown up around Webster even more than historical accounts of the man. The story appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1938 and won an O. Henry Award. It was the first of three stories Benet wrote around this time using Webster as a central character. The work added much to his reputation as one of the best known and most respected authors of the time. It was praised for its use of distinctly American humor and folksiness (notably in its decidedly homegrown devil), blending New England vernacular with broad literary references and styles.

New Hampshire-born Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was a leading American statesman in the period prior to the Civil War and one of the country's most famous orators. He served in the U.S. Congress and as Secretary of State under presidents William Henry Harrison and John Tyler, and unsuccessfully ran for president himself. Educated in the law, he was particularly known for successfully arguing several cases before the Supreme Court, including ones that broadened the interpretation of the Constitution and strengthened the power and scope of the federal government over the states. Oddly, one of his most significant cases reaffirmed legal protection of contracts, although in Benet's story, it is Webster's intervention that nullifies Jabez Stone's contract with Mr. Scratch. Benet found in the statesman an adaptable character "majestic in his strengths and weaknesses, national in his values."

German-born film director William Dieterle's first film for RKO and its biggest moneymaker in years, the highly successful The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), put him in position to negotiate an independent production deal with the studio. For his first project under this arrangement, he chose Benet's short story, which he purchased in 1940.

The time was ripe for Dieterle to strike out on a very personal project with the potential to push film boundaries. George Schaefer was the new head of RKO, and during his brief reign there, the studio was to reach new heights in artistic achievement and cinematic experimentation. Citizen Kane (1941) had just been completed, and director Orson Welles was about to begin his second picture, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). More than most studio executives of the time, Schaefer was amenable to giving directors free rein with their projects.

Benet was contracted to work on the screenplay, but Dieterle also brought in playwright Dan Totheroh, who also had experience in screenwriting for more than a decade. While much of Benet's original, including sections of dialogue, made it intact into the script, Totheroh added greater depth and complexity to the characters. It's also quite likely he created the character of Belle, the Satanic serving girl who becomes Jabez Stone's mistress, and whose presence would push the censors' limits on seduction and adultery on screen.

The one area where RKO did step in was the matter of the title. Benet's had two drawbacks. First, the word "devil" was believed to be a hard sell on theater marquees in the Bible Belt. And the historical associations of Daniel Webster's name marked it as a period film, something that rarely did well at the box office unless it was full of action and adventure. Several other names were suggested: "Black Daniel," "The Devil to Pay" (begging the question of which of those two would play better in the South), "It Can Happen to You," "Temptation." It finally went into production as "A Certain Mr. Scratch."

Two actors Dieterle had directed before, Paul Muni and Claude Rains, were among those interested in playing the Devil.

One of the busiest and most popular character actors of the time, Thomas Mitchell, was chosen to play Daniel Webster. Mitchell had recently won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for Stagecoach (1939), as well as acclaim for his work in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939).

by Rob Nixon

The Big Idea - The Devil and Daniel Webster

First there was Faust, in all its forms, the story of a man who sells his soul to the Devil, trading eternal peace in the afterlife for material gains in this world. The first printed version of the legend of Faust was a chapbook published in 1587. The story was reworked and borrowed from frequently, and there were at least a dozen other "Faustbooks" in that era. The early Faust chapbook circulated from northern Germany to England, where in 1592 an English translation was published. Playwright Christopher Marlowe used that as the basis for his play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, first published around 1604. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's early 19th century version of the story, a cross between a play and a long poem (known as a "closet drama," meaning a dramatic work meant to be read, not performed), extended the simple morality tale by bringing in elements from Christian, medieval, Roman, Greek, and eastern poetry, philosophy and literature. In this version, Faust isn't merely a greedy man eager for money; he is a scholar seeking the true essence of life, and his bargain gains him knowledge, as well as satisfaction of his more base desires. The legend obsessed Goethe throughout his life. He worked on it for nearly sixty years, and the final version, published after his death in 1832, is recognized as one of Germany's great literary works. The first American take on the tale was "The Devil and Tom Walker," a short story by Washington Irving first published in 1824, about a man who sells his soul to the Devil for wealth. Irving's story was taken up by Stephen Vincent Benet, winner of the 1929 Pulitzer Prize for John Brown's Body, a book-length narrative poem about the Civil War. Benet made his hero a poor New England farmer and added the element of having his legal case be argued by historical figure Daniel Webster before an underworld court. In creating his fable, Benet drew on the New England legends that had grown up around Webster even more than historical accounts of the man. The story appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1938 and won an O. Henry Award. It was the first of three stories Benet wrote around this time using Webster as a central character. The work added much to his reputation as one of the best known and most respected authors of the time. It was praised for its use of distinctly American humor and folksiness (notably in its decidedly homegrown devil), blending New England vernacular with broad literary references and styles. New Hampshire-born Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was a leading American statesman in the period prior to the Civil War and one of the country's most famous orators. He served in the U.S. Congress and as Secretary of State under presidents William Henry Harrison and John Tyler, and unsuccessfully ran for president himself. Educated in the law, he was particularly known for successfully arguing several cases before the Supreme Court, including ones that broadened the interpretation of the Constitution and strengthened the power and scope of the federal government over the states. Oddly, one of his most significant cases reaffirmed legal protection of contracts, although in Benet's story, it is Webster's intervention that nullifies Jabez Stone's contract with Mr. Scratch. Benet found in the statesman an adaptable character "majestic in his strengths and weaknesses, national in his values." German-born film director William Dieterle's first film for RKO and its biggest moneymaker in years, the highly successful The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), put him in position to negotiate an independent production deal with the studio. For his first project under this arrangement, he chose Benet's short story, which he purchased in 1940. The time was ripe for Dieterle to strike out on a very personal project with the potential to push film boundaries. George Schaefer was the new head of RKO, and during his brief reign there, the studio was to reach new heights in artistic achievement and cinematic experimentation. Citizen Kane (1941) had just been completed, and director Orson Welles was about to begin his second picture, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). More than most studio executives of the time, Schaefer was amenable to giving directors free rein with their projects. Benet was contracted to work on the screenplay, but Dieterle also brought in playwright Dan Totheroh, who also had experience in screenwriting for more than a decade. While much of Benet's original, including sections of dialogue, made it intact into the script, Totheroh added greater depth and complexity to the characters. It's also quite likely he created the character of Belle, the Satanic serving girl who becomes Jabez Stone's mistress, and whose presence would push the censors' limits on seduction and adultery on screen. The one area where RKO did step in was the matter of the title. Benet's had two drawbacks. First, the word "devil" was believed to be a hard sell on theater marquees in the Bible Belt. And the historical associations of Daniel Webster's name marked it as a period film, something that rarely did well at the box office unless it was full of action and adventure. Several other names were suggested: "Black Daniel," "The Devil to Pay" (begging the question of which of those two would play better in the South), "It Can Happen to You," "Temptation." It finally went into production as "A Certain Mr. Scratch." Two actors Dieterle had directed before, Paul Muni and Claude Rains, were among those interested in playing the Devil. One of the busiest and most popular character actors of the time, Thomas Mitchell, was chosen to play Daniel Webster. Mitchell had recently won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for Stagecoach (1939), as well as acclaim for his work in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939). by Rob Nixon

Behind the Camera - The Devil and Daniel Webster


The Devil and Daniel Webster was shot almost sequentially, an unusual and often costly practice for the time.

The first scene filmed was the sequence of disastrous events befalling Jabez and his family. Many takes were needed because the piglet used in the scene would not stop squealing loudly. Finally, a prop man suggested massaging the animal's scrotum, which did the trick. The pig became calm enough for the scene to be completed.

The Devil and Daniel Webster was shot on studio sets, with optical effects, art direction, and striking cinematography helping to create the mix of earthy location and supernatural atmosphere.

Scratch's entrance into the picture, emerging out of the smoke and eerie light, was done with double exposure and optical printing. The same techniques were used for the first appearance of Belle beside the fireplace.

Optical printing was also used to create the effect of Jabez's ax bursting into flame mid-air after his frustrated attempt to chop down the tree with his contract date burned into it. The ax was thrown in one shot, a still image of an ax was matted in, and optical printing added flame effects to that.

Six weeks into shooting, Thomas Mitchell had an accident on set. In the scene with Daniel and Jabez's son riding in the carriage, the horses suddenly bolted, and Mitchell was thrown into the side of a parked vehicle, knocking him unconscious with a fractured skull. Doctors at first thought he would suffer permanent brain damage, and he was laid up for seventeen weeks, forcing him out of the part. Edward Arnold was called in on one day's notice to take over. Because two-thirds of Mitchell's scenes had been filmed (right up to the trial sequence), the necessary re-shoots skyrocketed the budget of the already expensive picture. Mitchell can still be seen in some fleeting long shots.

The dinner scene between Mary Stone (Anne Shirley) and Daniel Webster had been shot with Thomas Mitchell before his accident. Rather than redoing the entire scene, Dieterle used close-ups of Shirley from the first take. He did close-ups of Edward Arnold separately, then re-did the two-shots of both characters, and cut it all together. Shirley later noted what a strange experience it was to watch the scene the first time.

One visual detail that was added during filming was the tree with the date of Jabez's reckoning burned into its trunk. It provided a very effective visualization of the unholy deal.

Dieterle was known to have some eccentricities as a director. He believed in astrology and started shooting a few days ahead of schedule because his horoscope indicated he should.

Dieterle had a habit of directing with white gloves on. Robert Wise (the future director who edited The Devil and Daniel Webster) said everyone thought it was because he had a germ or dirt phobia. During shooting of one scene, Dieterle noticed there wasn't enough mud on a carriage wheel. He pulled off his gloves, grabbed some mud, rubbed it onto the wheel, then wiped his hands on his pants and put the gloves back on to continue directing.

Jeff Corey later related an incident in which a child actor was supposed to shout, "Daniel Webster's here!" Dieterle had the boy do the take over and over without telling him specifically what was wrong with how he did it. After approximately seventy takes, the dialogue coach pulled the boy aside and told him to do the line in a German accent like Dieterle's. The boy did, and Dieterle was pleased, however that shot was not used in the final film.

James Craig was unable to do a suitably sinister laugh in the scene where Jabez gloats over his neighbors' ruined crops. Edward Arnold recorded the laugh and it was dubbed in.

The dressing room of Gene Lockhart (who played Squire Slossum) adjoined the changing room of the actress who played Belle (Simone Simon). He reported hearing the 57-year-old Walter Huston making romantic overtures to the young actress.

Huston contributed much to The Devil and Daniel Webster by giving Scratch a folksy but sinister quality. In the original story, the character was much darker and more soft-spoken.

Reverse-image (negative) shots of Walter Huston were processed and inserted at key moments, such as the scene where accidents and misfortunes keep happening to the Stones. These very brief, unsettling shots were cut after previews before the picture's general release.

A late addition to the project was 29-year-old Bernard Herrmann, a radio composer and conductor who had just made a big impact with his first motion picture score, for Citizen Kane (1941). Herrmann already had a connection to the picture, having orchestrated music for broadcasts of Benet's three Daniel Webster stories for the Columbia Workshop. Dieterle, who chose Herrmann over the many studio contract composers at his disposal, gave him the freedom to experiment, and Herrmann came up with what is widely considered one of his finest scores. Heavily influenced by the blend of American musical motifs and modernist dissonance in the work of his idol, Charles Ives, Herrmann mixed simple folk melodies with innovative electronic effects. Critics have noted with admiration his use of the old American folk song "Springfield Mountain" throughout the film and the way he scored the music to actors' speeches, such as Walter Huston's monologue in the hailstorm scene. The score Herrmann created is not just musical background but a key element of the narrative.

Typically, movie scores were written after principal photography, but Herrmann wrote the music for The Devil and Daniel Webster as it was being shot. Dieterle introduced him to the cast and invited him to watch the rushes. Herrmann considered Dieterle to be one of the most sophisticated directors he ever worked with.

Herrmann worked closely with sound recorder James G. Stewart to be sure the score and the sound effects meshed harmoniously. In some cases, Herrmann dictated how diagetic sounds (those that arose directly out of what was happening on screen) would be used. In the scene of Jabez's pursuit of Mary and Daniel on horseback, no hooves are heard, only the music.

In later years, Herrmann told how he created the strange, almost subliminal sound heard during Scratch's first entrance in the barn. He said he sent a crew to San Francisco at 4:00 in the morning to record the hum of phone lines. He combined these with the overtones of the musical note C painted directly onto the soundtrack, which when run through a projector created a sustained phantom tone, a "fundamental."

The intense and nerve-wracking sound of Scratch frantically playing the fiddle at the barn dance was achieved by having a violinist play "Pop Goes the Weasel" four times in slightly different versions, then overdubbing them to get the impossible music. When it was pointed out to him that Herrmann could have recorded four violinists playing the piece, he responded that it would have sounded like a quartet playing, not one person producing multiple sounds. "It's only a small point in the film, and yet I feel a composer who doesn't pay as much attention to a small point like that is really being overpaid and should be dismissed," he later said.

Herrmann said his favorite part of the score was the "Miser's Waltz," in which Belle dances Miser Stevens to death.

The title and length of The Devil and Daniel Webster were in constant flux from the beginning. The studio didn't want to use Benet's title for two reasons. They thought many exhibitors, especially in the Bible Belt, would reject advertising a movie with the word "devil" in the title. In addition, "Daniel Webster" would have placed it in the historical past, and period films rarely did that well at the box office unless they were Westerns or swashbuckling adventures, or a solidly pre-sold epic like Gone with the Wind (1939). Shot under the name "A Certain Mr. Scratch," previews for the film were announced as The Devil and Daniel Webster, but by the time of its July 16, 1941 preview it was being run under the title "Here Is a Man" at 109 minutes long. Two or three minutes were cut and the title changed to All That Money Can Buy for its October 1941 premiere at Radio City Music Hall. It went into wide release shortly after the premiere, using an ad campaign that made it appear to be a steamy morality tale about marital temptations. Within a couple of years, some prints circulated with the current title (Benet's). It was edited down to 85 minutes and re-released in 1952 as simply "Daniel and the Devil." The film was restored to its full length in the 1990s and given the original Benet title.

In 1991, Anne Shirley said everyone involved in the production of The Devil and Daniel Webster believed they were making a great film.

by Rob Nixon

Behind the Camera - The Devil and Daniel Webster

The Devil and Daniel Webster was shot almost sequentially, an unusual and often costly practice for the time. The first scene filmed was the sequence of disastrous events befalling Jabez and his family. Many takes were needed because the piglet used in the scene would not stop squealing loudly. Finally, a prop man suggested massaging the animal's scrotum, which did the trick. The pig became calm enough for the scene to be completed. The Devil and Daniel Webster was shot on studio sets, with optical effects, art direction, and striking cinematography helping to create the mix of earthy location and supernatural atmosphere. Scratch's entrance into the picture, emerging out of the smoke and eerie light, was done with double exposure and optical printing. The same techniques were used for the first appearance of Belle beside the fireplace. Optical printing was also used to create the effect of Jabez's ax bursting into flame mid-air after his frustrated attempt to chop down the tree with his contract date burned into it. The ax was thrown in one shot, a still image of an ax was matted in, and optical printing added flame effects to that. Six weeks into shooting, Thomas Mitchell had an accident on set. In the scene with Daniel and Jabez's son riding in the carriage, the horses suddenly bolted, and Mitchell was thrown into the side of a parked vehicle, knocking him unconscious with a fractured skull. Doctors at first thought he would suffer permanent brain damage, and he was laid up for seventeen weeks, forcing him out of the part. Edward Arnold was called in on one day's notice to take over. Because two-thirds of Mitchell's scenes had been filmed (right up to the trial sequence), the necessary re-shoots skyrocketed the budget of the already expensive picture. Mitchell can still be seen in some fleeting long shots. The dinner scene between Mary Stone (Anne Shirley) and Daniel Webster had been shot with Thomas Mitchell before his accident. Rather than redoing the entire scene, Dieterle used close-ups of Shirley from the first take. He did close-ups of Edward Arnold separately, then re-did the two-shots of both characters, and cut it all together. Shirley later noted what a strange experience it was to watch the scene the first time. One visual detail that was added during filming was the tree with the date of Jabez's reckoning burned into its trunk. It provided a very effective visualization of the unholy deal. Dieterle was known to have some eccentricities as a director. He believed in astrology and started shooting a few days ahead of schedule because his horoscope indicated he should. Dieterle had a habit of directing with white gloves on. Robert Wise (the future director who edited The Devil and Daniel Webster) said everyone thought it was because he had a germ or dirt phobia. During shooting of one scene, Dieterle noticed there wasn't enough mud on a carriage wheel. He pulled off his gloves, grabbed some mud, rubbed it onto the wheel, then wiped his hands on his pants and put the gloves back on to continue directing. Jeff Corey later related an incident in which a child actor was supposed to shout, "Daniel Webster's here!" Dieterle had the boy do the take over and over without telling him specifically what was wrong with how he did it. After approximately seventy takes, the dialogue coach pulled the boy aside and told him to do the line in a German accent like Dieterle's. The boy did, and Dieterle was pleased, however that shot was not used in the final film. James Craig was unable to do a suitably sinister laugh in the scene where Jabez gloats over his neighbors' ruined crops. Edward Arnold recorded the laugh and it was dubbed in. The dressing room of Gene Lockhart (who played Squire Slossum) adjoined the changing room of the actress who played Belle (Simone Simon). He reported hearing the 57-year-old Walter Huston making romantic overtures to the young actress. Huston contributed much to The Devil and Daniel Webster by giving Scratch a folksy but sinister quality. In the original story, the character was much darker and more soft-spoken. Reverse-image (negative) shots of Walter Huston were processed and inserted at key moments, such as the scene where accidents and misfortunes keep happening to the Stones. These very brief, unsettling shots were cut after previews before the picture's general release. A late addition to the project was 29-year-old Bernard Herrmann, a radio composer and conductor who had just made a big impact with his first motion picture score, for Citizen Kane (1941). Herrmann already had a connection to the picture, having orchestrated music for broadcasts of Benet's three Daniel Webster stories for the Columbia Workshop. Dieterle, who chose Herrmann over the many studio contract composers at his disposal, gave him the freedom to experiment, and Herrmann came up with what is widely considered one of his finest scores. Heavily influenced by the blend of American musical motifs and modernist dissonance in the work of his idol, Charles Ives, Herrmann mixed simple folk melodies with innovative electronic effects. Critics have noted with admiration his use of the old American folk song "Springfield Mountain" throughout the film and the way he scored the music to actors' speeches, such as Walter Huston's monologue in the hailstorm scene. The score Herrmann created is not just musical background but a key element of the narrative. Typically, movie scores were written after principal photography, but Herrmann wrote the music for The Devil and Daniel Webster as it was being shot. Dieterle introduced him to the cast and invited him to watch the rushes. Herrmann considered Dieterle to be one of the most sophisticated directors he ever worked with. Herrmann worked closely with sound recorder James G. Stewart to be sure the score and the sound effects meshed harmoniously. In some cases, Herrmann dictated how diagetic sounds (those that arose directly out of what was happening on screen) would be used. In the scene of Jabez's pursuit of Mary and Daniel on horseback, no hooves are heard, only the music. In later years, Herrmann told how he created the strange, almost subliminal sound heard during Scratch's first entrance in the barn. He said he sent a crew to San Francisco at 4:00 in the morning to record the hum of phone lines. He combined these with the overtones of the musical note C painted directly onto the soundtrack, which when run through a projector created a sustained phantom tone, a "fundamental." The intense and nerve-wracking sound of Scratch frantically playing the fiddle at the barn dance was achieved by having a violinist play "Pop Goes the Weasel" four times in slightly different versions, then overdubbing them to get the impossible music. When it was pointed out to him that Herrmann could have recorded four violinists playing the piece, he responded that it would have sounded like a quartet playing, not one person producing multiple sounds. "It's only a small point in the film, and yet I feel a composer who doesn't pay as much attention to a small point like that is really being overpaid and should be dismissed," he later said. Herrmann said his favorite part of the score was the "Miser's Waltz," in which Belle dances Miser Stevens to death. The title and length of The Devil and Daniel Webster were in constant flux from the beginning. The studio didn't want to use Benet's title for two reasons. They thought many exhibitors, especially in the Bible Belt, would reject advertising a movie with the word "devil" in the title. In addition, "Daniel Webster" would have placed it in the historical past, and period films rarely did that well at the box office unless they were Westerns or swashbuckling adventures, or a solidly pre-sold epic like Gone with the Wind (1939). Shot under the name "A Certain Mr. Scratch," previews for the film were announced as The Devil and Daniel Webster, but by the time of its July 16, 1941 preview it was being run under the title "Here Is a Man" at 109 minutes long. Two or three minutes were cut and the title changed to All That Money Can Buy for its October 1941 premiere at Radio City Music Hall. It went into wide release shortly after the premiere, using an ad campaign that made it appear to be a steamy morality tale about marital temptations. Within a couple of years, some prints circulated with the current title (Benet's). It was edited down to 85 minutes and re-released in 1952 as simply "Daniel and the Devil." The film was restored to its full length in the 1990s and given the original Benet title. In 1991, Anne Shirley said everyone involved in the production of The Devil and Daniel Webster believed they were making a great film. by Rob Nixon

Critics' Corner - The Devil and Daniel Webster


Honors and Awards

The reviews for The Devil and Daniel Webster were mixed. Even those critics who found it very well made were hard put to describe its mixture of drama and comedy, reality and fantasy. The film was also not a box office success. It was estimated to be anywhere between $35,000 and $53,000 in the red after its initial run, in large part because of the great costs necessitated by re-shooting Daniel's scenes after Thomas Mitchell's accident. Subsequent revivals and reissues have made it something of a cult hit.

Bernard Herrmann won his only Academy Award for the score for The Devil and Daniel Webster, competing against himself for his score for Citizen Kane (1941).

Walter Huston was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor but lost to Gary Cooper in Sergeant York (1941).

The Critics' Corner: THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER

"Out of that charming folk story, 'The Devil and Daniel Webster' by Stephen Vincent Benet, William Dieterle and a corps of associates have drawn their inspiration for a pleasantly provocative and slyly humorous film entitled All That Money Can Buy.... By all the signs and portents, it should be one of the best pictures of the year, for it has virtually everything in the way of cast and story that RKO could afford; it transcends the ordinary confines of the realistic film and climbs into the realm of free-thought fantasy, which should be most congenial to the screen. And it treats upon a theme of human destiny, which all of us are thinking about these days. ... This, we say, should be the substance of an extraordinary film. It is not. For Mr. Dieterle has failed to bring into related focus before our eyes that which is supposed to be real and that which is supernatural. ... [Benet's story] should never have been elaborated out of proportion to its original modest frame. ... And it should have been directed by someone who understood New England."
– Bosley Crowther, New York Times, October 17, 1941

"Walter Huston plays Mr. Scratch with such consummate skill that it will be hard for me ever to think of Mephistopheles again without recalling his roguish and malignant portrayal of the part."
– Howard Barnes, New York Herald Tribune, October 1941

"A melodramatic fever dream, a hallucinatory tour de force in which marvelous, evocative effects and extraordinary performances combine onscreen in ways sophisticated and sometimes not. ... And, as he has since Paradise Lost, the Devil gets the best lines."
– author Tom Piazza in the booklet accompanying the Criterion Collection DVD release

"The Devil and Daniel Webster is resplendent in multiple levels of cinematic beauty: Dieterle's direction, its dexterousness striking a fine cinematic counterpoint to the movie's very Germanic mood and subject; August's chiaroscuro photography, which made every shadow on the screen memorable; Bernard Herrmann's score, a pastoral wonder that deserved at least as much recognition as Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring"; and Robert Wise's editing, which gave The Devil and Daniel Webster edges as finely cut as those of Kane."
– film historian Bruce Eder, 1992

"A fascinating version of the Faust legend...it all looks terrific, directed by Dieterle in his best expressionist mood, with superb sets (Van Nest Polglase), score (Bernard Herrmann), camerawork (the great Joe August), and a township that looks as if it came straight out of a Grant Wood painting."
- Tom Milne, TimeOut Film Guide

"A brilliant Germanic Faust set in 19th-century New Hampshire and using historical figures, alienation effects, comedy asides and the whole cinematic box of tricks which Hollywood had just learned again through Citizen Kane. A magic act in more ways than one."
- Halliwell's Film & Video Guide

"The Faustian story is handled with considerable verve by Dieterle, who balances light and shadow, historical verisimilitude and fantasy, with a style that is consistently engaging. The photography (veteran cameraman Joseph August) is first-rate, and the film also boasts a magnificent score...The one real weakness is the central performance of Craig, a less than distinguished actor who tends to go overboard when he tries to emote. But it's a rousing yarn nevertheless.."
- Chris Dashiell, CineSceen.com

"It's a twist on the Faust theme, but Benet isn't Goethe...Trouble for Dieterle (and the audience) starts when Walter Huston appears on the scene via double-exposure and whispers beguiling temptations into the ear of the young husband-farmer...From there to the finish it's mostly symbols and morality play."
- Variety

"The result is one of the most convincing and entertaining socialist films ever made. The result has all the humanity of a Frank Capra picture without the sentimentality. This emphasis is clearly intentional, since Benet's original story and his operatic adaptation all have their emphasis on Stone's trial and defense by Webster; here that's almost an afterthought. The focus is really on the corrupting influence of wealth and power."
- Mark Zimmer, www.digitallyobsessed.com

"...a great picture with a primitive Americana feel, some unforgettable performances and one of Bernard Herrmann's best music scores...The script is literate, but in this long version dawdles a bit in some scenes and takes too long to get the story rolling...we can see why RKO wanted it cut."
- Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant

by Rob Nixon

Critics' Corner - The Devil and Daniel Webster

Honors and Awards The reviews for The Devil and Daniel Webster were mixed. Even those critics who found it very well made were hard put to describe its mixture of drama and comedy, reality and fantasy. The film was also not a box office success. It was estimated to be anywhere between $35,000 and $53,000 in the red after its initial run, in large part because of the great costs necessitated by re-shooting Daniel's scenes after Thomas Mitchell's accident. Subsequent revivals and reissues have made it something of a cult hit. Bernard Herrmann won his only Academy Award for the score for The Devil and Daniel Webster, competing against himself for his score for Citizen Kane (1941). Walter Huston was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor but lost to Gary Cooper in Sergeant York (1941). The Critics' Corner: THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER "Out of that charming folk story, 'The Devil and Daniel Webster' by Stephen Vincent Benet, William Dieterle and a corps of associates have drawn their inspiration for a pleasantly provocative and slyly humorous film entitled All That Money Can Buy.... By all the signs and portents, it should be one of the best pictures of the year, for it has virtually everything in the way of cast and story that RKO could afford; it transcends the ordinary confines of the realistic film and climbs into the realm of free-thought fantasy, which should be most congenial to the screen. And it treats upon a theme of human destiny, which all of us are thinking about these days. ... This, we say, should be the substance of an extraordinary film. It is not. For Mr. Dieterle has failed to bring into related focus before our eyes that which is supposed to be real and that which is supernatural. ... [Benet's story] should never have been elaborated out of proportion to its original modest frame. ... And it should have been directed by someone who understood New England." – Bosley Crowther, New York Times, October 17, 1941 "Walter Huston plays Mr. Scratch with such consummate skill that it will be hard for me ever to think of Mephistopheles again without recalling his roguish and malignant portrayal of the part." – Howard Barnes, New York Herald Tribune, October 1941 "A melodramatic fever dream, a hallucinatory tour de force in which marvelous, evocative effects and extraordinary performances combine onscreen in ways sophisticated and sometimes not. ... And, as he has since Paradise Lost, the Devil gets the best lines." – author Tom Piazza in the booklet accompanying the Criterion Collection DVD release "The Devil and Daniel Webster is resplendent in multiple levels of cinematic beauty: Dieterle's direction, its dexterousness striking a fine cinematic counterpoint to the movie's very Germanic mood and subject; August's chiaroscuro photography, which made every shadow on the screen memorable; Bernard Herrmann's score, a pastoral wonder that deserved at least as much recognition as Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring"; and Robert Wise's editing, which gave The Devil and Daniel Webster edges as finely cut as those of Kane." – film historian Bruce Eder, 1992 "A fascinating version of the Faust legend...it all looks terrific, directed by Dieterle in his best expressionist mood, with superb sets (Van Nest Polglase), score (Bernard Herrmann), camerawork (the great Joe August), and a township that looks as if it came straight out of a Grant Wood painting." - Tom Milne, TimeOut Film Guide "A brilliant Germanic Faust set in 19th-century New Hampshire and using historical figures, alienation effects, comedy asides and the whole cinematic box of tricks which Hollywood had just learned again through Citizen Kane. A magic act in more ways than one." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide "The Faustian story is handled with considerable verve by Dieterle, who balances light and shadow, historical verisimilitude and fantasy, with a style that is consistently engaging. The photography (veteran cameraman Joseph August) is first-rate, and the film also boasts a magnificent score...The one real weakness is the central performance of Craig, a less than distinguished actor who tends to go overboard when he tries to emote. But it's a rousing yarn nevertheless.." - Chris Dashiell, CineSceen.com "It's a twist on the Faust theme, but Benet isn't Goethe...Trouble for Dieterle (and the audience) starts when Walter Huston appears on the scene via double-exposure and whispers beguiling temptations into the ear of the young husband-farmer...From there to the finish it's mostly symbols and morality play." - Variety "The result is one of the most convincing and entertaining socialist films ever made. The result has all the humanity of a Frank Capra picture without the sentimentality. This emphasis is clearly intentional, since Benet's original story and his operatic adaptation all have their emphasis on Stone's trial and defense by Webster; here that's almost an afterthought. The focus is really on the corrupting influence of wealth and power." - Mark Zimmer, www.digitallyobsessed.com "...a great picture with a primitive Americana feel, some unforgettable performances and one of Bernard Herrmann's best music scores...The script is literate, but in this long version dawdles a bit in some scenes and takes too long to get the story rolling...we can see why RKO wanted it cut." - Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant by Rob Nixon

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