The Snake Pit

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The Snake Pit is a 1948 film.[1][2] It tells the story of a woman who finds herself in an insane asylum and cannot remember how she got there. It stars Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn, Celeste Holm, Beulah Bondi and Lee Patrick.

The film was adapted by Millen Brand, Arthur Laurents (uncredited) and Frank Partos from the novel by Mary Jane Ward. It was directed by Anatole Litvak.



Virginia Cunningham (Olivia de Havilland) is an apparently schizophrenic inmate at a mental institution called the Juniper Hill State Hospital. She hears voices and seems so out of touch with reality that she doesn’t recognize her husband Robert (Mark Stevens).

Dr. “Kik” (Leo Genn) works with her, and flashbacks show how Virginia and Robert met a few years earlier in Chicago. He worked for a publisher who rejected her writing, and they bumped into each other again in the cafeteria. Occasionally she continued to drop by the cafeteria so they get to know each other.

Despite their blossoming romance, Virginia eventually abruptly leaves town without explanation. Robert moves to New York and bumps into her again at the Philharmonic. After she provides a loose excuse for her absence and departure, they pick up where they left off, though she remains evasive and avoids his desire for marriage. Eventually, Virginia brings up the possibility of marriage. They go ahead and marry on May 7, but Virginia acts erratically again. She can’t sleep and loses touch with reality, as she feels it’s November and snaps when Robert corrects her. The rest of the film follows her therapy. Dr. Kik puts her through shock treatment and other forms of analysis including hypnotherapy. Dr. Kik wants to get to the “causes of her unconscious rejection.” The film includes many flashbacks, including her earlier failed engagement to Gordon (Leif Erickson) as well as childhood concerns. The film shows her progress and what happens to her along the way.


It won the Academy Award for Best Sound Recording, and was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Olivia de Havilland), Best Director, Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay.

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