After a streak of bad luck tempts a hard-working farmer to bargain with the Devil, he enlists the aid of the legendary orator and politician Daniel Webster. William Dieterle’s stylish film features an unforgettable score by Bernard Herrmann and a truly diabolical performance from Walter Huston.
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It has moments and individual scenes of spectacular artistry, but as a whole it doesn't come together as well as I hoped, or thought, it would. Solid effort, but doesn't supplant Portrait of Jennie as my favorite Dieterle film.
The greatest Faustian film ever made - a gorgeous melding of Americana with German Expressionism, Walter Huston slyly plays Mr. Scratch and Edward Arnold matches him as the great orator who defends Jabez Stone with a rousing speech about freedom. F/X, Photography and Bernard Herrmann's beautiful music are all tops.
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.