Winona Ryder has a number of great movies on her resume and one of her best is now available to watch for free on YouTube Movies.
The Crucible is a 1996 film brought to the big screen by legendary playwright Arthur Miller, who adapted his own 1953 play of the same name. The story follows the hysteria that came from the Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s.
Winona Ryder stars as Abigail Williams. She, along with a number of other young girls, head out to the woods early one morning to meet up with Tituba, a Barbadian slave who can conjure spells. The girls want her to conjure a love spell for them aimed at certain men in their village. Abigail, though, takes it too far when she kills a chicken, drinking its blood, then wishing for John Proctor’s wife to die.
John Proctor (played in perfect form by Daniel Day-Lewis) is a well-respected man in the village with one big secret. He cheated on his wife Elizabeth (a cold Joan Allen) with Abigail (Winona Ryder), who at the time was a servant to the Proctors. Coming to grips with his mistake, John leaves Abigail.
Abigail is a scorned woman. She is still in love with John and was using Tituba’s powers to get him back. But the girl’s spell conjuring comes to an end when Reverend Parris (Bruce Davison), Abigail’s uncle, observes the ritual and stops it. But as paranoia takes over, the girls in question are suspected to be in consort with the devil.
To save herself and the other girls at the ritual, Abigail tells her uncle that Tituba was working with the devil. Tituba is whipped until she confesses to being a witch, which saves her from execution. Seeing that they now have power, the girls begin to name other women they “saw” as working with the devil.
Winona Ryder’s Abigail sees this as her opportunity to rid herself of Elizabeth so she can have John to herself. She accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft, something Elizabeth steadfastly denies, to no avail. Elizabeth claims she is now pregnant, which spares her from death until her baby is born.
John has no other choice but to fight. He finally confesses to all that he had an affair with Abigail and she is now falsely accusing Elizabeth of witchcraft in order to remove Elizabeth from John’s life. Elizabeth is not aware of John’s confession so when she is questioned about it, she lies.
Mary Warren, one of the girls at the ritual and the Proctor’s new servant, has been arrested for witchcraft and in order to save herself, she accuses John of witchcraft. When John refuses to give in and say he will return to God, he is arrested for being a witch.
John Proctor is to be hanged but not before Winona Ryder’s Abigail comes to him one more time. The town has slowly turning against her with all her accusations, and she steals money to escape on a ship to Barbados. She wants John to go along with her, but he refuses. Reverend Parris allows Elizabeth one more chance to get her to convince John to “confess” to save his life. John agrees, or does he?
Arthur Miller based his stage play on the actual Salem Witch Trials of 1692. John Proctor, along with all the other characters in the movie, were actual people who lived and died during that time. Miller, who wrote the play in 1953, used the Witch Trials to speak of the blacklisting that was going on at the time in Hollywood. The paranoia then, brought on by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and their pursuit of finding those linked to the Communist Party USA, is well reflected in the paranoia shown during the Salem Witch Trials.
For the 1996 movie, Miller tweaked his original screenplay a bit by adding the opening with the young women wishing for their love spell. His goal, to bring in a more contemporary audience, didn’t quite work. Nicholas Hytner directed the film with a $25 million budget but the return didn’t reflect the budget, nor the wonderful performances by Daniel Day-Lewis, Allen, and Winona Ryder. It barely made $7 million at the box office.
Winona Ryder, before and after The Crucible, has definitely seen bigger box office successes. Her first notable film came in 1988 when she played Lydia Deetz opposite Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. She then went on to other films in her early career like Heathers, Great Balls of Fire, Edward Scissorhands, Mermaids, and Dracula.
Before Winona Ryder took on The Crucible, she had gained major recognition for two films: 1994s The Age of Innocence and 1995s Little Women. For Age of Innocence, Ryder received a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination and for Little Women, she received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination.
Success wouldn’t be kind to Winona Ryder in the ensuing years, culminating in an arrest for shoplifting in 2001, that prompted a four-year hiatus from making movies. The time away did her good as she came back in fine form. She found time in movies like Star Trek, Black Swan, and The Iceman as well as television roles on Drunk History and Show Me a Hero. For the past five years, Ryder has played Joyce Byers in Netflix’s Stranger Things.
You can see Winona Ryder at the top of her game in The Crucible, here on YouTube Movies for free.