|Ann Blythe, Edmund O'Brien and Fredric March|
"I don't like you, Ben. I don't like any of my children. I just feel sorry for you." -- Lavinia Hubbard.
In this prequel to The Little Foxes set in the post-Civil War period, war profiteer Marcus Hubbard (Fredric March) is father of young Regina (Ann Blyth), who has set her cap for John Bagtry (John Dall); Oscar (Dan Duryea), who is basically a screw-up; and Ben (Edmond O'Brien), who is of the same diabolical mind-set as his father. The story begins on Confederate Day, when the town remembers the slaughter of many rebel soldiers because an unknown person sold them out [it seems hard to believe that the entire town wouldn't know right away who the traitor was]. Oscar has fallen for Laurette (Dona Drake of Beyond the Forest), a woman from the wrong side of the tracks, and things are quite unpleasant when she meets his father at a party at the Hubbards. Birdie Bagtry (Betsy Blair of The Snake Pit) hopes to get a very important loan from Marcus, a situation that Ben hopes to take distinct advantage of. In the meantime, the tired matriarch, Lavinia Hubbard (Florence Eldridge), reminds her husband that she still remembers where the bodies are buried ... William Wyler could have probably made this a more powerful and memorable movie, but as it is it features some fine acting, especially from Duryea, Eldridge, Blair and Drake. March is good but seems to lose his footing toward the end; it's not one of his best performances in any case. Some great dialogue throughout. Eldridge, who was married to March in real life, also played his wife in Inherit the Wind and other movies.
Verdict: Portrait of a fairly appalling family. ***.