The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)

Passed   |    |  Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) Poster

A nineteenth-century New Hampshire farmer who makes a pact with Satan for economic success enlists Daniel Webster to extract him from his contract.

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  • Walter Huston in The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
  • Edward Arnold and Walter Huston in The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
  • Edward Arnold, Walter Huston, and Simone Simon in The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
  • James Craig, Anne Shirley, and Simone Simon in The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
  • Edward Arnold and Walter Huston in The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)
  • Edward Arnold, James Craig, and Walter Huston in The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941)

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Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews

3 August 2006 | The_Void
| Wealth and prosperity, at the cost of your soul...
This sadly underseen gem is based on a story by Stephen Vincent Benet, and excellently blends themes of fantasy and horror with the classic idea of money can't buy you everything. I don't know why this film isn't more widely seen, as it's at least as good as well renowned classics from the same era such as The Picture of Dorian Gray, and a lot of the films produced by Val Lewton. Any film featuring a character representing The Devil is bound to be more than a little camp, but director William Dieterle compliments this nicely with a distinct streak of humour running through the film, and this combined with a devilish performance from Walter Huston means that the film is a lot of fun to watch, and makes it's audience think at the same time. The story centres on Jabez Stone; a young farmer living with his God-fearing mother and strangely unambitious wife. He's also a man that is continually plagued by bad luck. His luck changes one day in the barn when he runs into Mr Scratch; a man that seduces him with gold and offers him the chance to become the richest man in the cost of his soul. Thus begins a battle between Satan himself, and the saviour of the people; lawyer Daniel Webster.

The Devil and Daniel Webster benefits from a good, strong cast that put across the story in the most professional way possible. Walter Huston is superb, and he receives good feedback from Edward Arnold in the title role, Anne Shirley as the wife and Cat People's Simone Simon, who is intriguing as the 'nanny'. You might think that lead actor James Craig would be 'up to his neck in it' with so much talent available to take the focus away from him, but on the contrary; Craig more than holds his own against all of the supporting players, and this film certainly doesn't have any problems where acting is concerned. The story flows very well throughout; director William Dieterle does an excellent job of ensuring that the characters are always the principle element, which ensures that the film is always interesting. The moral lessons are well complimented by themes of what it is 'to be an American', and while I'm not American myself, the two bode well with one another. The ending is a classic example of memorable scene setting, as The Devil brings his jury in and the legal battle for the farmer's soul begins. Overall, this is an absolutely superb film and one that must become more seen. If you get the chance to see this; make sure you don't pass it up!

Critic Reviews

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Did You Know?


The character Judge John Hathorne was one of the judges at the Salem Witch Trials in 1692. He was also the only one that never apologized to the victim's families. His descendant, Nathaniel Hawthorne, changed the spelling of his surname in order to appear not so closely related to such an infamous ancestor.


Jabez Stone: Money's a funny thing ain't it, Ma?
Ma Stone: I figure it depends a mite on how you get it and how you spend it.
Jabez Stone: But I don't spend any.
Ma Stone: But you should, son. That's all it's good for.
Jabez Stone: Do you really think that?
Ma Stone: That's just common sense. Now a man like Daniel ...


When Ma is mending and talking about Mary in labor, Ma's hand jumps to being held by Jabez.

Crazy Credits

Opening credits 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 anytime - anywhere - to anybody . . . .

Yes - it could happen to you.

Alternate Versions

Over the years, this film was re-released more than once, partly because of its poor box office, and gradually cut down to 85 minutes. It remained in this form for many years, until it was recently restored to its full length. When this was done in the 1990s, it was unfortunately all too easy to tell which sections are restored... all the footage from the 85 minute version was in absolutely pristine, mint condition, while the long-lost, formerly missing footage has less than perfect sound and picture quality. However, the quality has been considerably improved on the DVD and on recent TV showings.


Plot Summary


Comedy | Drama | Fantasy

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