The Devil and Miss Jones

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.

The Devil and Miss Jones
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySam Wood
Produced byFrank Ross
Written byNorman Krasna
Music byRoy Webb
CinematographyHarry Stradling Sr.
Edited bySherman Todd
Frank Ross-Norma Krasna
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • April 4, 1941 (1941-04-04) (Miami)[1]
  • April 11, 1941 (1941-04-11) (USA)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,421,000[2]


Cantankerous tycoon John P. Merrick (Charles Coburn) goes undercover as a shoe clerk at his own New York department store to identify agitators trying to form a union, after seeing a newspaper picture of his employees hanging him in effigy. He befriends fellow clerk Mary Jones (Jean Arthur) and her recently fired boyfriend Joe O'Brien (Robert Cummings), a labor union organizer. As the film progresses, his experiences cause him to grow more sympathetic to the needs of his workers. He also starts to fall in love with the sweet-natured clerk Elizabeth Ellis (Spring Byington).

During a beach day 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 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 train, where John drops a card showing that his undercover persona was "working" for Merrick. This, along with other factors, comes to the conclusion with Joe that he is a spy. Desperate to regain the list, Joe and Mary try unsuccessfully to regain the list 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 approximately 300-400 employees who will strike. The manager tricks the group into giving him the list, however John and Mary take back the list and destroy 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 the trio are shocked: 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, showing that John and Mary have married their respective partners. The party is made up of all of the store employees and it's shown that John has paid for all of them to take a tropical vacation.



Frank Ross and Norman Krasna decided to produce a movie together starring Jean Arthur based on a story by Krasna. They formed a partnership with Ross, Krasna and Arthur (who was Ross' wife) and borrowed $600,000 from the bank.[3]

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.[4]

RKO agreed to distribute the film. It was Arthur's first film at RKO since The Ex-Mrs Bradford.[5] Robert Cummings was signed to play the male lead; he was shooting a film at MGM concurrently.


Filming started 16 December 1940.[6] It finished February 1941.[7]

Filming had to stop for nine days so Robert Cummings could shoot extra scenes at MGM in Free and Easy in late January.[8]

The film needed three days of retakes included adding a role for Montagu Love.[9]

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 The Devil and Miss Jones. The adaptation starred Lana Turner.[10] The story was also adapted as a radio play on two broadcasts of Lux Radio Theater, first on January 19, 1942 with Lana 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[11] 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 not made.[12]


  1. "The Devil and Miss Jones: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 13, 2014.
  2. Richard Jewel, 'RKO Film Grosses: 1931-1951', Historical Journal of Film Radio and Television, Vol 14 No 1, 1994 p56
  3. 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 (1908-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. NORMAN KRASNA (18 May 1941) "SOME AUTHORS DIE HAPPY", New York Times, p. X4, New York, N.Y
  5. By DOUGLAS W CHURCHILL Special to The New York Times. (1940, May 16). SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  6. CLARK GABLE GOES HUNTING. (1940, Dec 09). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  7. "United States Court of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit - Cummings vs Universal 1944". Internet Archive. p. 565.
  8. Schallert, E. (1941, Feb 03). Annabella to resume; R.K.O. salaries upped. Los Angeles Times
  9. By DOUGLAS W CHURCHILLSpecial 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 (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  10. "Lana Turner Friday Star on 'Playhouse'". Harrisburg Telegraph. November 8, 1941. p. 22. Retrieved July 22, 2015 via
  11. "Charles Coburn Is 'Academy' Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 19, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved September 29, 2015 via
  12. 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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