Jabez Stone is a hard-working farmer trying to make an honest living, but a streak of bad luck tempts him to do the unthinkable: bargain with the Devil himself. For seven years of good fortune, Stone promises “Mr. Scratch” his soul when the contract ends. When the troubled farmer begins to realize the error of his choice, he enlists the aid of the one man who might save him: the legendary orator and politician Daniel Webster. Directed with stylish flair by William Dieterle, The Devil and Daniel Webster brings the classic short story by Stephen Vincent Benét to life with inspired visuals, an unforgettable Oscar®-winning score by Bernard Herrmann, and a truly diabolical performance from Walter Huston. —The Criterion Collection
William Dieterle was the youngest of nine children of parents Jacob and Berthe Dieterle. They lived in poverty, and when he was old enough, William earned money as a carpenter and a scrap dealer. But he dreamed of better things. Theater caught his eye as a teen, and by the age of sixteen, he had joined a traveling theater company. He was ambitious and handsome, both of which opened the door to leading romantic roles in theater productions. Though he had acted in his first movie by 1913, not until 1919 did he move back into film. In that year, he was noticed by producer/director/designer/impresario Max Reinhardt, the most influential proponent of expressionism in theater; while in Berlin, Reinhardt hired him as an actor for his productions. Dieterle resumed German film acting in 1920, becoming a popular and successful romantic lead and featured character actor in the mix of German expressionist/Gothic and nature/romanticism genres that imbued much of the German cinema in the silent era… read more
Dieterle was an underrated studio director. This and 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' are evidence of his strengths, but his films have aged more than those of his contemporaries. Huston gives a deliciously impish performance (no matter how much his characterization threatens to become unhinged, he keeps control), but the rest of the cast hasn't stood the test of time in the same way. Still, a brilliantly crafted movie.
Very entertaining fantasy from director William Dieterle is more than just an old-fashioned Hollywood fable, it’s a smart and original parable with great dream-like imagery and excellent black and… read review