Apparently, the title was changed in many places ([i]Here Is a Man[/i] vs. [i]The Devil and Daniel Webster[/i]) because there were places in the US wherein a movie with the word "devil" in the title wouldn't go over terribly well. I should think it still ends badly in some places--how well, after all, did [i]Before the Devil Knows You're Dead[/i] do? At any rate, we've gone with the better title here. It's a clearer title, and it's a more striking title. It's also easier to remember, largely because it's more descriptive of the story. "[i]Here is a Man[/i]" could describe a hundred or more of the movies we've done, the ones that aren't about women or children or animals or fairies. But we know the Devil, and we should know who Daniel Webster was.
Jabez Stone was an unlucky man. When we first meet him, he is trying to go to church, but his dog chases his pig, which falls and breaks its leg. So he must miss church to doctor the pig. He must trade a calf for farm expenses. As they load it into the cart, his wife falls and injures herself. And Jabez drops the seed into the mud, the bag splitting and spilling. So Jabez sells his soul to the Devil for seven years of good luck. Only good luck isn't all it's cracked up to be, in the long run, and Jabez grows to be an unpleasant man. His wife and mother are pushed away. His son grows to be spoiled and obnoxious. And, of course, the bill from the Devil will fall due.
Daniel Webster is one of those Americans who we remember almost as much because they hadn't become President as anything else. Oh, there's a lot about him--the movie itself mentions the Missouri Compromise. But he and Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun are the great Nineteenth Century Not-Presidents. Among them, they held off the war, though I cannot in good conscience say whether that was, in the end, a good thing. No one can; there are too many points to be made on either side. However, if you don't know who Daniel Webster was, and you're an American, you should go find your US history teacher and have harsh words. If you don't recognize Henry Clay or John C. Calhoun, either, greater shame yet. But we were speaking of Webster--Secretary of State for the short-administering William Henry Harrison and his successor, John Tyler. He argued many cases before the US Supreme Court. He worked hard to keep the peace, whatever compromise he had to suggest.
The court that tried Jabez Stone was an unfair one, of course; it's intended to be. But surely, it would have been in the Devil's better interests to have a fair one, as it would render no means for appeal. (If the Devil is standing as an American citizen--which I will quibble more anon--he must follow the Constitution, and there must therefore be a chance for appeal.) Oh, I'll not argue the jury. I don't think they're all American citizens, largely because there was no US extant when most of them lived and died. But pass that--it's nitpicky of me, and I know that. But to take away the chance for crossexamination? That's grounds for a [i]mistrial[/i], much less an appeal.
And, finally, can the Devil claim American citizenship? Flatly, no. Oh, he's been an interested party, I promise you. However, someone holding a foreign monarchy cannot be citizen of any other country. If the Devil is Prince of Hell, as he has been styled for a [i]very[/i] long time, he cannot be Nick Devil of Schenectady. Really, he gets to pick. Oh, I'll call him an ambassador, if he likes. However, a US citizen he is not. Surely, the Prince of Hell is the very definition of a foreign prince!