Retrospective 2016

All that Money Can Buy [aka The Devil and Daniel Webster]

William Dieterle
USA 1941
106 min

New Hampshire, 1840. Jabez Stone, who lives with his mother and wife Mary, is a poor farmer, whose mortgage is about to fall due with the local “loan shark”, “Miser” Stevens. While trying to put together some livestock and grain to pay his debt, Jabez is infuriated by various mishaps, and declares, he would sell his soul to the Devil. Thereupon, a dapper but rascally old man, introducing himself as Mr. Scratch, unearths a pot of gold beneath Jabez barn and persuades him to sign a contract, exchanging his soul in seven years time in return for wealth and good fortune. Jabez begins to prosper while the other farmers lose everything. His wife Mary gives birth to a son (named after Daniel Webster, the champion of farmers rights in Washington), but Jabez’ attention is increasingly taken over by a new seductive maid, who mysteriously appears. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER is a curiosity. A Faustian fable securely rooted in the Folk mythology of New England, backed by religious fundamentalism and a strain of rhetoric in defense of “the Union” that smacks both of the showground huckster and earnest, hand-on-the-heart-patriotism. (Richard Combs)

  • Edward Arnold - Daniel Webster
  • Walter Huston - Mr. Scratch
  • James Craig - Jabez Stone
  • Simone Simon - Belle
  • Anne Shirley - Mary Stone
  • Dan Totheroh
  • Joseph August
  • Robert Wise
  • Bernard Herrmann
  • Van Nest Polglase
RKO Radio Pictures, William Dieterle Productions
35 mm
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