Tallulah Bankhead, Bette Davis, and Marc Blitzstein: Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes as Play, Film, and Opera


  • Bernard Francis Dick Fairleigh Dickinson University




Forest, Tallulah Bankhead, Marc Blitzstein, Bette Davis, Lillian Hellman, The Little Foxes, William Wyler.


While other American plays such as Elmer Rice’s Street Scene, Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, and Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra have made the journey from stage to film and finally to opera, the film and operatic versions were faithful recreations of the original without the addition of new characters, including those from other works by the same playwright.  Lillian Hellman’s best play, The Little Foxes (1939), is unusual in two respects: in the 1941 film version, a character is added who did not appear in the original in order to provide a love interest for the protagonist’s daughter, thereby resulting in a different ending;  in the 1949 operatic version, a character from a later play by Hellman, Another Part of the Forest, is introduced to show how a young woman with romantic ideals evolved into the Lady Macbeth of American drama. Thus each version of The Little Foxes deepens our understanding of the original without altering the play’s dramatic impact.

Author Biography

Bernard Francis Dick, Fairleigh Dickinson University

Professor Emeritus of Communication and English


Atkinson, Brooks. Rev. of Forsaking All Others. New York Times 3 March 1933.

_______ Rev. of Dark Victory. New York Times 10 November 1934.

_______ Rev. of The Little Foxes. New York Times 16 February 1939.

_______ Rev. of Dear Charles. New York Times 16 September 1954.

_______ Rev. of A Streetcar Named Desire. New York Times 16 February 1956.

All About Eve. Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Perf. Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, George Sanders.

Twentieth Century-Fox, 1950.

And Then There Were None. Dir. René Clair. Perf. Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Judith Anderson,

June Duprez, Louis Hayward. Twentieth Century-Fox, 1945.

Bankhead, Tallulah. Tallulah: My Autobiography. New York: Harper, 1952. Reprint Jackson, MS: UP of

Mississippi, 2004.

Berg, A. Scott. Goldwyn: A Biography. New York: Ballantine Books, 1989.

Brewer Jr., George, and Bertram Bloch. Dark Victory. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 1967.

Crowther, Bosley. Rev. of The Little Foxes. New York Times 22 August 1941.

Davis, Bette. The Lonely Life. New York: Lancer Books, 1962.

Dear Charles. By Marc-Gilbert Sauvajon and Frederick Jackson. Adapted by Alan Melville. Perf. Tallulah

Bankhead, Robert Coote, and Alice Pearce. Morosco Theatre, New York. 15, December , 1954. Gordon, Eric A. Mark the Music: The Life and Work of Marc Blitzstein. New York: St. Martin’s, 1989.

Reprint Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.com, 2000.

Hellman, Lillian. The Collected Plays. Boston: Little, Brown, 1972.

_______ Pentimento: A Book of Portraits. New York: Signet, 1973.

Herman, Jan. A Talent for Trouble: The Life of Hollywood’s Most Acclaimed Director, William Wyler (New

York: Putnam’s, 1995. The Letter. Dir. William Wyler. Perf. Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, Gale Sondergaard. Warner Bros.,1940. Lobenthal, Joel. Tallulah!: The Life and Times of a Leading Lady. New York: Regan Books/HarperCollins, 2004.

Memo from: David O. Selznick. Selected and Edited by Rudy Behlmer. New York: Avon, 1972.

Regina. An opera in three acts. Music and libretto by Marc Blitzstein. Perf. Katherine Ciesinski and Samuel Ramey. Scottish Opera Orchestra. Decca, 1992 with libretto.

Thank Your Lucky Stars. Dir. David Butler. Perf. Eddie Cantor, Dennis Morgan, Joan Leslie, and guest

stars including Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, and Ann Sheridan. Warner Bros., 1943.

Two’s Company. Dir. Jules Dassin (sketches) and Jerome Robbins (dances and musical numbers), under

the supervision of John Murray Anderson. Perf. Bette Davis, Hiram Sherman, David Burns,

Maria Karnilova, Ellen Hanley, and Nora Kaye. Alvin Theatre, New York. 31, December 1952.