I'm just going to warn you now, I felt the need to spoil this movie, so...
Not that I think it makes that much of a difference. If the movie's any good you're going to like it whether or not you know what happens, but some people don't agree so there's the warning. ;)
Olivia de Havilland starred as Virginia Cunningham. Virginia has been placed in a mental hospital with a case of extreme forgetfulness, an inability to accept love from anyone (including her husband played by Mark Stevens), and a horrific aversion to the date of May 12th. While her doctor (Leo Genn) tries to find the source of her troubles we're left to wonder if Virginia will ever make it out of her "prison".
From the moment The Snake Pit opens with it's Oscar-nominated score to the moment it ends and we're all smiling because Virginia has finally made it out, this movie is absolutely entrancing. Really the atmosphere was so incredible, almost to the point of being hypnotic. While that may or may not sound like a perfect reason to avoid this movie, trust me, it's not a bad thing. The Snake Pit was altogether one of the most intriguing movies I've ever seen and technically one of the best I've seen.
Anatole Litvak directed (quite brilliantly if I do say so myself) and, although he didn't win, received a Best Director Oscar nomination for his work. The Snake Pit was also nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar.
This was by far the most amazing DeHavilland performance I've ever seen. Livvie's Virginia was traumatized, tormented, and haunted by memories of neglect and mountains of unreasonable guilt, which makes us pity her. Yet there's this sane streak in Virginia - it's the remnant that makes her sarcastically question the doctors' ability to question her and it's the remnant that makes her yearn to get rid of her insanity. This sane streak was by far my favorite part of the character, it's the part of her that makes you wish she would get better as much as she wishes it, and it makes you cheer for her at the end when she finally gets out.
Olivia de Havilland really did a wonderful job with this part. She takes all of the conflicting emotions and blends them near-perfectly. She never, as far as I noticed, went over the edge of any melodramatic cliffs; and, on the other side of the spectrum, her character was never too smart bringing us to think Livvie might not have been the right person to play an authoress gone mad. She was much worthy of the oscar nomination she got, even if she didn't win [Missy didn't win that year either, so I'm just going to put them on an imaginary we didn't win the 1949 Best Actress Oscar team, haha].
The rest of the cast was good, but because it really was Livvie's movie there isn't much to mention. I loved Leo Genn, the guy who played Olivia's doctor. One might notice a few popular character actors: Beulah Bondi played a crazy lady who thought she was married to a millionaire, totally out of character [read: she wasn't playing anyone's mother], but entertaining. Natalie Schafer, best known as Mrs. Howell of Gilligan's Island, had a small role as Olivia de Havilland's mother in a few flash-backs. Ruth Donnelly, always fun to watch, played another inmate. And finally, one of my all-time favorite character actresses, Mary Treen, played a nurse in one scene.
Celia Sommerville: And we're so crowded already. I just don't know where it's all gonna end! Virginia Cunningham: I'll tell you where it's gonna end, Miss Somerville... When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.
Until Later On~