The Devil and Miss Jones

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The Devil and Miss Jones
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Sam Wood
Written by Norman Krasna
Produced by Frank Ross
Cinematography Harry Stradling Sr.
Edited by Sherman Todd
Music by Roy Webb
Frank Ross-Norma Krasna
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • April 4, 1941 (1941-04-04)(Miami) [1]
  • April 11, 1941 (1941-04-11)(USA)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$664,000 [2]
Box office$1,421,000 [2]

The Devil and Miss Jones is a 1941 comedy film starring Jean Arthur, Robert Cummings, and Charles Coburn. Directed by Sam Wood from a screenplay by Norman Krasna, the film was the product of an independent collaboration between Krasna and producer Frank Ross (Jean Arthur's husband). Their short-lived production company released two films through RKO Radio Pictures (Miss Jones and the later A Lady Takes a Chance released in 1943). The film was well received by critics upon its release and garnered Oscar nominations for Coburn and Krasna.



Cantankerous tycoon John P. Merrick goes undercover as a shoe clerk at "Neely's", one of his New York department stores, to identify agitators trying to form a union, after seeing a newspaper picture of his employees hanging him in effigy.

In the store he takes on a new persona, Thomas Higgins. After almost failing the minimum intelligence test he is sent to join the shoe department. There he befriends fellow clerk Mary Jones and her recently fired boyfriend Joe O'Brien, a labor union organizer. As time goes on, his experiences cause him to grow more sympathetic to his workers. He also starts to fall in love with sweet-natured clerk Elizabeth Ellis.

During a beach day at Coney Island with his coworkers, John begins to see a different side of Joe after he helps him avoid an arrest at a local police station by reciting the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. Afterwards John joins Joe, Elizabeth, and Mary on the beach, where he and Elizabeth nap until dark. Believing the two to be fully asleep, Joe and Mary discuss the union attempts and the future of their relationship. Unbeknownst to them, John listens in and after Joe leaves he pretends to awake, taking the opportunity to grab a list Joe dropped of employees willing to strike.

The remaining trio then travel home via subway, where John drops a card showing that his undercover persona was working for Merrick. This, along with other factors, causes Mary to come to the conclusion that John is a spy, and she tells Joe. Desperate to regain the list, Joe and Mary try unsuccessfully and they, along with John, end up in the store manager's office. Disgusted with the treatment of the employees, John berates the store manager, who is unaware of John's true identity. Emboldened by John, Mary declares that they have a list of 400 employees who will strike. The manager tricks the group into giving him the list. When they realize the manager's deceit, John and Mary take back the list and destroy it by eating it, after which Mary uses the intercom system to successfully encourage the entire store to strike.

In the following days, all of the employees picket Merrick's home. John decides to finally reveal his identity and has Mary, Elizabeth, and Joe meet him and his staff to discuss terms. They are initially unaware of his identity, but upon discovery, Joe faints, Mary screams, and Elizabeth stares up at John in disbelief as John asks her if she would be willing to go back on a statement she made about not wanting to marry a rich man. The film then cuts to a wedding party on a cruise liner, showing that there has been a joint wedding: John has married Elizabeth and Mary has married Joe. The party is made up of all of the store employees and it is shown that John has paid for all of them to take a Hawaiian vacation.



Frank Ross and Norman Krasna decided to produce a movie together starring Jean Arthur (Ross' wife) based on a story by Krasna. The three formed a partnership and borrowed $600,000 from a bank to finance the film. [4]

The script was written in ten weeks and then Sam Wood came on board as director. Krasna described the experience of making the film as one of the best in his career. [5]

RKO agreed to distribute the film. It was Arthur's first film at RKO since The Ex-Mrs. Bradford . [6] Robert Cummings was signed to play the male lead; he was shooting a film at MGM concurrently.


Filming started 16 December 1940. [7] It finished February 1941. [8]

Filming had to stop for nine days so Robert Cummings could shoot extra scenes at MGM in Free and Easy in late January. [9]

The film needed three days of retakes, which included adding a role for Montagu Love. [10]

Box office

The film made a profit of $117,000. [2]

Academy Award nominations

Adaptations to other media

On November 14, 1941, Philip Morris Playhouse presented a version of The Devil and Miss Jones on CBS radio. The adaptation starred Lana Turner. [11] The story was also adapted as a radio play on two broadcasts of Lux Radio Theatre , first on January 19, 1942 with Turner and Lionel Barrymore, then on March 12, 1945 with Linda Darnell and Frank Morgan. It was also adapted twice on The Screen Guild Theater , first on June 7, 1943 with Laraine Day, Charles Coburn and George Murphy, again on August 12, 1946 with Van Johnson and Donna Reed. It was also adapted on the October 23, 1946 broadcast of Academy Award Theater , starring Charles Coburn [12] and Virginia Mayo.

In 1950 Ross announced he wanted to make the film as a musical for his then wife Joan Caulfield. However, it was never made. [13]

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  1. "The Devil and Miss Jones: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p56
  3. "Minta Durfee Filmography". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on October 19, 2015. Retrieved March 13, 2020.
  4. By Frank Daugherty Special to The Christian Science Monitor. (1941, Mar 07). "Easy to make a picture, if combination is right." The Christian Science Monitor
  5. Norman Krasna (18 May 1941) "Some Authors Die Happy", New York Times, p. X4
  6. By DOUGLAS W CHURCHILL Special to The New York Times. (1940, May 16). "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD." New York Times
  7. "Clark Gable Goes Hunting." (1940, Dec 09). Los Angeles Times
  8. "United States Court of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit - Cummings vs Universal 1944". Internet Archive. p. 565.
  9. Schallert, E. (1941, Feb 03). "Annabella to resume; R.K.O. salaries upped." Los Angeles Times
  10. By Douglas W. Churchill, Special to The New York Times. (1941, Mar 08)."Conflict over Lillian Gish appearing in film seen -- 'Night in Rio' and 'Mad Emperor' open today" New York Times
  11. "Lana Turner Friday Star on 'Playhouse'". Harrisburg Telegraph. November 8, 1941. p. 22. Retrieved July 22, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  12. "Charles Coburn Is 'Academy' Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 19, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved September 29, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  13. "Drama: 'Devil and Miss Jones' Set as Musical; Wayne Would Direct 'Alamo'" Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 28 Jan 1950: 11.

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