For the article about the 1941 film adaptation, see The Little Foxes.
The Little Foxes is a 1939 play by Lillian Hellman. Its title comes from Chapter 2, Verse 15 in the Song of Solomon in the King James version of the Bible, which reads, "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes."
The focus is on Southern aristocrat Regina Hubbard Giddens, who struggles for wealth and freedom within the confines of an early 20th century society where a father considered only sons as legal heirs. As a result, her avaricious brothers Benjamin and Oscar are independently wealthy, while she must rely upon her sickly husband Horace for financial support.
Having married his much-maligned, alcoholic wife Birdie solely to acquire her family's plantation and its cotton fields, Oscar now wants to join forces with Benjamin to construct a cotton mill. They approach their sister with their need for an additional $75,000 to invest in the project. Oscar initially proposes a marriage between his son Leo and Regina's daughter Alexandra - first cousins - as a means of getting Horace's money, but Horace and Alexandra are repulsed by the suggestion. When Regina asks Horace outright for the money, he refuses, so Leo is pressured into stealing Horace's railroad bonds from the family business. In order to acquire a larger share in the mill from her brothers, Regina threatens to report the theft to the police. In retaliation, Horace says he will claim he gave Leo the bonds as a loan, thereby cutting Regina out of the deal completely. When he suffers a heart attack, she makes no effort to give him his medicine, and he dies without anyone knowing his plan, thus enabling Regina to blackmail her brothers. The price she ultimately pays for her innate evil is the loss of Alexandra's love and respect.
Lillian Hellman's characters were thinly-disguised versions of her Demopolis, Alabama relatives; Regina was based on her grandmother Sophie and Birdie was inspired by her mother Julia.
The playwright and star Tallulah Bankhead were at odds during the first Broadway run of the play. Bankhead accused Hellman of being a Communist due to her support of Russia against Nazi Germany, and Hellman was dismayed by Bankhead's unprofessional tantrums. After closing night, they did not speak to each other for thirty years. In 1975, Hellman said of Bankhead, "She turned out at first as I've written many times: very, very, very good. And later on in the run of the play, not very good." In her autobiography, Bankhead wrote, "Great as is my admiration for Lillian Hellman as a playwright, I could never again rejoice in her company." 
Original Broadway production
The play premiered on February 15, 1939 at the National Theatre and ran for 410 performances. In addition to Tallulah Bankhead as Regina Giddens, the cast included Carl Benton Reid as Oscar, Charles Dingle as Benjamin, Frank Conroy as Horace, Patricia Collinge as Birdie, and Dan Duryea as Leo. The production was produced and directed by Herman Shumlin.
Mike Nichols directed a production that opened on October 26, 1967 at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln Center, then transferred to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. It ran a total of 100 performances. The cast included Anne Bancroft as Regina, Richard A. Dysart as Horace. Margaret Leighton as Birdie, E.G. Marshall as Oscar, George C. Scott as Benjamin, and Austin Pendleton as Leo. Costume design was by Patricia Zipprodt. Time said, "An admirable revival of Lillian Hellman's 1939 play in Lincoln Center demonstrates how securely bricks of character can be sealed together with the mortar of plot. Anne Bancroft, George C. Scott, Richard Dysart and Margaret Leighton are expertly guided by Director Mike Nichols through gilt-edged performances." 
Austin Pendleton directed a production that ran at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale for three weeks and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. for six weeks before opening on Broadway, after eight previews, on May 7, 1981 at the Martin Beck Theatre. It ran for 123 performances. The cast included Elizabeth Taylor as Regina, Tom Aldredge as Horace, Dennis Christopher as Leo, Maureen Stapleton as Birdie, and Anthony Zerbe as Benjamin. Costume design was by Florence Klotz. In a pre-Broadway opening article in Time, Gerald Clarke reported nearly $1 million worth of tickets had been sold during the week following the first New York Times ad announcing Taylor's appearance . She was nominated for both the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play. Tony nominations also went to Pendleton for Best Direction of a Play, Aldredge for Best Featured Actor in a Play, Stapleton for Best Featured Actress in a Play, and the play itself for Best Reproduction.
A 1997 revival, again at the Vivian Beaumont, ran for 27 previews and 57 performances between April 3 and June 15. Directed by Jack O'Brien, the cast included Stockard Channing as Regina, Kenneth Welsh as Horace, Brian Kerwin as Oscar, Brian Murray as Benjamin, and Frances Conroy as Birdie. Murray was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play, and John Lee Beatty was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design.
In 1946, Hellman wrote Another Part of the Forest, a prequel chronicling the roots of the Hubbard family.