Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Alternate title: All That Money Can Buy
USA, 1941. William Dieterle Productions. Screenplay by Dan Totheroh, Stephen Vincent Benet, based on the story by Stephen Vincent Benet. Cinematography by Joseph H. August. Produced by William Dieterle. Music by Bernard Herrmann. Production Design by Van Nest Polglase. Costume Design by Edward Stevenson. Film Editing by Robert Wise.
Jabez Stone (James Craig) is so tired of being a hardworking, dirt-poor New Hampshire farmer that he announces that he’d sell his soul to the devil for a little bit more ease in life. Careful what you wish for, as the saying goes, since Mr. Scratch (Walter Huston) shows up and offers him “all that money can buy” in exchange for his soul, a deal that Jabez goes for immediately. Unfortunately, his riches lead to the destruction of his fellowship with his neighbours and the annihilation of his marriage to his patient and lovely wife (Anne Shirley as a mini Olivia de Havilland). When it comes time for the horned fellow to come and collect his due, Jabez is at a loss until the great senator and orator Daniel Webster (Edward Arnold) decides to defend him in an unholy trial. This is a rich and entertaining film (adapted from the story by Stephen Vincent Benet) that contains allegories of American materialism and community values, plus the added bonus of beautiful visuals, strong performances (especially Huston) and an effective otherworldly atmosphere at key moments. Legendary composer Bernard Herrmann (most famous for his work with Alfred Hitchcock, especially Psycho) won an Oscar for his fine musical score.
The Criterion Collection: #214
Academy Award: Best Score of a Dramatic Picture
Nomination: Best Actor (Walter Huston)