Jump to content
 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...

BEYOND THE FOREST (1949)


speedracer5
 Share

Recommended Posts

Just a warning, there will be spoilers here.  I cannot talk about this film without talking about the ending.

 

I've been wanting to see this film forever.  It's probably one of the few films that Bette Davis made during her Warner Brothers tenure that I haven't seen.

 

Last night, that changed. As part of the Northwest Film Center (in conjunction with the Portland Art Museum)'s series titled "Bette and Joan", they were airing Beyond the Forest.  I'd heard that this film was notorious for a very campy noir and that Bette actually left Warner Brothers as a result of being cast in this film.  I don't blame her, this film is definitely not in the same league as Now, Voyager and The Letter.  However, I'd rank it right up there with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 

 

---

 

A short synopsis:

 

This noir stars Bette Davis as Rosa, a woman who lives in a podunk town in Wisconsin.  To make matters worse, she lives on the outskirts of the town, so she pretty much has nothing to do but be home.  Joseph Cotten co-stars as her husband, Lewis, who is the town doctor (a la Doc Baker in Little House on the Prairie).  Rosa is bored being the doctor's wife.  She even says that the only people doing any sort of service in their town are the undertakers, because they take people out of town.  It turns out that to spice things up, Davis is having an affair with another man and plans to leave Cotten and run off with the other man.  The noir angle comes into play at the beginning of the film.  Davis is on trial for murdering Moose, a friend of her husband's.  Much of the film is a flashback of Davis recounting the events that led up to the trial.

 

---

 

My thoughts:

 

Bette Davis' overall look is hilarious.  She wears this horrendously cheap looking wig and somewhat risque clothing and shoes (at least in comparison with the other women in town) which perfectly conveys what type of character she is. She's a trollop and she's shameless about it.  She hates her life, her home (this film does have the classic "What a dump!" line), everything.  The visiting Chicago businessman that she hooks up with finally brings her some excitement.

 

I thought it was funny that her character kept looking for cushions and pillows to sit on.  I thought that that illustrated how her character was just never comfortable, no matter wear she goes.

 

The ending.

 

OMG.  The ending was worth the $9 I paid for the ticket.  The ending was hilarious (unintentionally hilarious, I'm sure).  When Bette Davis, fighting through her (soon to be fatal) appendicitis (at least that's what I assumed she had) and trying to get dressed.  When she looks in the mirror, looking like hell, and her maid is staring at her in disbelief, that made the film.  I wish I could find a picture.  It made me laugh.

 

I also laughed at this part:

 

8.jpg

 

---

 

What a hilariously "so bad it's good" film.  You can tell that Davis isn't interested in this film.  Her performance isn't as strong in this film as it is in others.  In some scenes she seems bored and lackluster (which surprisingly enough, seems to work for her character) and in other scenes, she's so over the top dramatic that it's almost like she's mocking the film. 

 

Joseph Cotten is largely wasted in this film.  But it doesn't matter.  This film is all about Bette Davis.

 

Recommended if you want a good laugh.  I also recommend pairing it with a cocktail or something else-- I think it'll enhance the experience.

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I saw this on the big screen some 8-10 years ago here in L.A. paired with another Bette Davis film (THE LETTER I think). The packed house loved it, expecting the campiness, I think. Would be great to have a dvd release of this.

 

I agree a drink or two might enhance the experience even more lol.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, speedracer, for posting your thoughts about this movie.

 

BEYOND THE FOREST is the movie that Martha in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF is trying to think of the title of. She quotes the "What a dump" line to George and then wants him to help her remember the name of the movie, even providing details from the movie to help jog his memory: it's a Warner Brothers "epic" starring Bette Davis, Davis wears a "black fright wig" in the movie, her character is a housewife married to "modest Joseph Cotten" but is in love with the "actor with the scar," she wants to go to Chicago and she gets peritonitis at the end. 

George and Martha never figure out the name of the movie. 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I saw this on the big screen some 8-10 years ago here in L.A. paired with another Bette Davis film (THE LETTER I think). The packed house loved it, expecting the campiness, I think. Would be great to have a dvd release of this.

 

I agree a drink or two might enhance the experience even more lol.

 

I haven't seen this film (but want to) but I have a feeling that Beyond the Forest would make a great double feature with The Legend of Lylah Clare.  

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

     Why isn't this film shown on TCM? Are there some rights issues with it?

Was it ever shown on TCM? It is a Warner Bros. picture.

 

I heard there was a rights issue.  I'm wondering if that's the case, how was the Portland Art Museum able to show it? I'm not too familiar with copyright issues. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I heard there was a rights issue.  I'm wondering if that's the case, how was the Portland Art Museum able to show it? I'm not too familiar with copyright issues. 

 

For whatever reason it seems like these "rights" issues don't apply to theatre showings. I've seen "The Wiser Sex", "Follow Thru" and

"Illusion"  at film festivals yet all three films have some rights issues.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just a warning, there will be spoilers here.  I cannot talk about this film without talking about the ending.

 

I've been wanting to see this film forever.  It's probably one of the few films that Bette Davis made during her Warner Brothers tenure that I haven't seen.

 

Last night, that changed. As part of the Northwest Film Center (in conjunction with the Portland Art Museum)'s series titled "Bette and Joan", they were airing Beyond the Forest.  I'd heard that this film was notorious for a very campy noir and that Bette actually left Warner Brothers as a result of being cast in this film.  I don't blame her, this film is definitely not in the same league as Now, Voyager and The Letter.  However, I'd rank it right up there with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 

 

---

 

A short synopsis:

 

This noir stars Bette Davis as Rosa, a woman who lives in a podunk town in Wisconsin.  To make matters worse, she lives on the outskirts of the town, so she pretty much has nothing to do but be home.  Joseph Cotten co-stars as her husband, Lewis, who is the town doctor (a la Doc Baker in Little House on the Prairie).  Rosa is bored being the doctor's wife.  She even says that the only people doing any sort of service in their town are the undertakers, because they take people out of town.  It turns out that to spice things up, Davis is having an affair with another man and plans to leave Cotten and run off with the other man.  The noir angle comes into play at the beginning of the film.  Davis is on trial for murdering Moose, a friend of her husband's.  Much of the film is a flashback of Davis recounting the events that led up to the trial.

 

---

 

My thoughts:

 

Bette Davis' overall look is hilarious.  She wears this horrendously cheap looking wig and somewhat risque clothing and shoes (at least in comparison with the other women in town) which perfectly conveys what type of character she is. She's a trollop and she's shameless about it.  She hates her life, her home (this film does have the classic "What a dump!" line), everything.  The visiting Chicago businessman that she hooks up with finally brings her some excitement.

 

I thought it was funny that her character kept looking for cushions and pillows to sit on.  I thought that that illustrated how her character was just never comfortable, no matter wear she goes.

 

The ending.

 

OMG.  The ending was worth the $9 I paid for the ticket.  The ending was hilarious (unintentionally hilarious, I'm sure).  When Bette Davis, fighting through her (soon to be fatal) appendicitis (at least that's what I assumed she had) and trying to get dressed.  When she looks in the mirror, looking like hell, and her maid is staring at her in disbelief, that made the film.  I wish I could find a picture.  It made me laugh.

 

I also laughed at this part:

 

8.jpg

 

---

 

What a hilariously "so bad it's good" film.  You can tell that Davis isn't interested in this film.  Her performance isn't as strong in this film as it is in others.  In some scenes she seems bored and lackluster (which surprisingly enough, seems to work for her character) and in other scenes, she's so over the top dramatic that it's almost like she's mocking the film. 

 

Joseph Cotten is largely wasted in this film.  But it doesn't matter.  This film is all about Bette Davis.

 

Recommended if you want a good laugh.  I also recommend pairing it with a cocktail or something else-- I think it'll enhance the experience.

I have a copy of the film, here is the clip I put up on Youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8BvLh0XRGY

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the fun writeup, Speedy, on what I regard as a fun film, even if (or maybe because it is) way over the top. Here's my own writeup on Beyond the Forest that I posted on these boards a few years ago, Obviously, we have somewhat differing takes on the same melodramatic brew.

 

 

 

 

The first sounds of the film is from the highly dramatic musical score of Max Steiner that instantly tells the viewer that what they are about to see is Melodrama.

That opening title music is followed by a forward written across the screen:

This is the story of evil. Evil is headstrong - is puffed up. For our soul's sake, it is salutary for us to view it in all its naked ugliness once in a while. Thus may we know how those who deliver themselves over to it, end up like the Scorpion, in a mad fury stinging themselves to eternal death.

". . . end up like the Scorpion, in a mad fury stinging themselves to eternal death!" Who writes like that? But I love it! And the viewer can't say that he or she hasn't been warned.

I finally caught up with an old video tape copy of Beyond the Forest, the infamous 1949 Warner Brothers melo often hailed as a camp classic, the film that ended Bette Davis' 17 year career with the studio. The actress herself took great pleasure in forever deriding the picture whenever she talked about it afterward.

"What a dump!," the most famous line of dialogue from this film used by countless Davis imitators, drag queen acts and Liz Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe, has very much become a part of the Davis legend, probably the most frequently quoted line of her career, along with All About Eve's "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

But the truth is that when Davis, looking a little old and a bit ridiculous in a long haired black wig, finally utters the line, while contemptuously glancing around her house, she gives it a throwaway delivery. It has none of the emphasis that the Davis imitators have given it over the years.

However, I found this melodramatic film noirish brew which, unfortunately, seems to be currently tied up in litigation making its accessibility difficult, if not impossible, today, to be quite entertaining. I'm not saying it's a good film exactly, but Davis, playing a restless woman strutting around town, looking a tad too old to be wearing that wig, is fun to watch. Well, Warners was right when they came up with the promotional tag line for this film: Nobody's as good as Bette when she's bad!

Playing Rosa Moline, a small town doctor's wife who is bored . . .Bored . . .BORED!!! with the place and her husband, seeking, no, make that lusting, for the excitement and glamour that Chicago and David Brian's character represent, Davis is a character with few, if any, redeeming virtues. She operates on a self-absorbed level way beyond that of the average teen. This is a woman willing to do just about anything (Melodrama with a capital M here) to get her way. (And, yes, by the way, this lady knows how to use a gun).

I can fully understand why some might call this film's subject matter trashy. However I have to tell you that the climactic ending, bleak as it is, is dramatically staged by director King Vidor, as well as edited and photographed and played, of course, for all its worth by Davis. I think it takes great courage for any actor or actress to totally commit themself to playing a sequence for all the high charged drama they can muster. Davis has that courage is this film, as she did in many others.

No one else in this film has much of a chance beside the star. Joseph Cotten, playing her saintly doctor husband, does manage bring a contrasting sense of decency to his role. A young Ruth Roman gets fourth billing in a totally forgettable part. However, Dona Drake, while having little to do, does bring a certain tired insolence to her role as Davis's gum chewing Indian maid. (That, of course, prompts a less than politically correct reaction from Davis at one point: "You get out of this house. No Red Indian is going to talk to me like that in my own house!"

I hope for Davis and even non Davis fans that Beyond the Forest becomes available again. Many will tune in ready to laugh but I found this noirish drama to be something of a guilty pleasure. And Davis, when she plays it bad, is definitely fun to watch.

For all of the melodrama that Beyond the Forest provides, it also has a quiet, oddly contemplative scene in which Davis and Cotten are lying on a hillside beside a collection of tall trees. Davis watches as lumberjacks come along and take a couple of swings with their axes at the trees marked to come down.

Davis is very still, reflectively sad in this scene, commenting how the trees stand so tall and strong until someone comes along and marks them for death. She then asks her husband, "See any mark on me?"

Cotten dismisses the question, laughing it off.

"I always thought you were a rotten doctor," Davis says.

It's a moment of self awareness on Davis's part. She knows she is doomed . . . like the scorpion.

 

Annex%20-%20Davis,%20Bette%20(Beyond%20t

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

     Why isn't this film shown on TCM? Are there some rights issues with it?

Was it ever shown on TCM? It is a Warner Bros. picture.

 

 

Yes, there are rights issues involved. I think with the writer/author's heirs. TCM used to show it, but I dont think it's been shown in at least 15 years. I'm hoping maybe the issues have been resolved if it's being shown again. Time will tell.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, there are rights issues involved. I think with the writer/author's heirs. TCM used to show it, but I dont think it's been shown in at least 15 years. I'm hoping maybe the issues have been resolved if it's being shown again. Time will tell.

 

Yes, what Hibi said...last i recall reading, the original contract when the rights to the book were sold to WB, contained (FOR SOME REASON THAT I CANNOT FATHOM) a clause that stated that the rights would- after a time- revert to the writer or writer's heirs; and they are being Pat Hichocky about things and not allowing the film "out" WHERE IT NEEDS TO BE FOR THE BETTERMENT OF OUR SOCIETY. 

 

this wwas around the same time that AYN RAND got her sweetheart deal wherein she had total power and say so in adapting THE FOUNTAINHEAD, also directed by King Vidor, also released in 1949, and also a flaming, delicious heap of trash.

 

In both cases, both authors were HELLA LUCKY ANY STUDIO WAS WILLING TO PAY FOR THEIR WORK, the fact that they got such killer deals astounds me.

 

I am assuming EVERYONE in Warner's Legal Dept. got the sack ca. 1950.

 

i think it would be awesome if- in that scene where Bette's character fritters her day away in the Chicago hotel room- the statue Dominique Francon tossed out the window in a room above flashed past her window for a second.

 

FOUNTAINHEAD and FOREST are kindred spirits, sick sisters of a sort- I think Ayn would THOROUGHLY APPROVE of Rosa Moline, btw....

 

I'm quite surprised it was allowed to be exhibited, but maybe the heirs are open to small showings of the film here and there.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

this past December, one of our members sent out an alert that BEYOND THE FOREST was available somewhere and a lot of us checked it out.

 

i had heard about it but not seen it, and i am so much the richer for having seen it. I watched it, like ten times. I even went to the gym and worked out to the entirety of the film, cracking up at points.

 

this film.

 

this film.

 

yes, like THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE, it is a film that is IMPOSSIBLE to exaggerate when discussing.

 

it is an acid bath. it is a nuclear war of attrition. DETOUR is a nasty movie, but BEYOND THE FOREST blasts well past it by Act 3 to become the most HATEFUL FILM OF THE 1940'S.

 

by the time Bette's character lifts a shotgun to KILL A GUY in order to further her designs to ensnare the man she wants, it's not even a surprise. the viewer merely shrugs it off. it's like #5 on the list of offensive acts committed by her character, right behind multiple acts of adultery and that wig.

 

There were so many things about BEYOND THE FOREST that stunned me, but the biggest first impression- in fact, what i was found mumbling as I wandered the early morning streets of my hometown a la Joan Crawford in the opening scenes of POSSESSED was:

 

"HOW did this thing GET MADE????!!!!!!!"

 

I mean, there's really no mistaking that Bette is trying to get an abortion near the ending, single shot of a lawyer's shingle be damned...

 

i know the film was edited for certain areas to omit her character throwing herself down a hill to induce a miscarriage- probably the only reason they were allowed to do that was because it had happened in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN....

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, what Hibi said...last i recall reading, the original contract when the rights to the book were sold to WB, contained (FOR SOME REASON THAT I CANNOT FATHOM) a clause that stated that the rights would- after a time- revert to the writer or writer's heirs; and they are being Pat Hichocky about things and not allowing the film "out" WHERE IT NEEDS TO BE FOR THE BETTERMENT OF OUR SOCIETY. 

 

this wwas around the same time that AYN RAND got her sweetheart deal wherein she had total power and say so in adapting THE FOUNTAINHEAD, also directed by King Vidor, also released in 1949, and also a flaming, delicious heap of trash.

 

In both cases, both authors were HELLA LUCKY ANY STUDIO WAS WILLING TO PAY FOR THEIR WORK, the fact that they got such killer deals astounds me.

 

I am assuming EVERYONE in Warner's Legal Dept. got the sack ca. 1950.

 

i think it would be awesome if- in that scene where Bette's character fritters her day away in the Chicago hotel room- the statue Dominique Francon tossed out the window in a room above flashed past her window for a second.

 

FOUNTAINHEAD and FOREST are kindred spirits, sick sisters of a sort- I think Ayn would THOROUGHLY APPROVE of Rosa Moline, btw....

 

I'm quite surprised it was allowed to be exhibited, but maybe the heirs are open to small showings of the film here and there.

 

It's possible the problem involves broadcast showings. Whatever the problem is, it's a DA-N Shame! This film deserves to be seen and seen again and recorded and.......I could kick myself for not buying a copy when it was still "legal". :(

 

I never really thought about it, but both films have a lot in common (not only the fact it's the same director). :D

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

this past December, one of our members sent out an alert that BEYOND THE FOREST was available somewhere and a lot of us checked it out.

 

i had heard about it but not seen it, and i am so much the richer for having seen it. I watched it, like ten times. I even went to the gym and worked out to the entirety of the film, cracking up at points.

 

this film.

 

this film.

 

yes, like THE LEGEND OF LYLAH CLARE, it is a film that is IMPOSSIBLE to exaggerate when discussing.

 

it is an acid bath. it is a nuclear war of attrition. DETOUR is a nasty movie, but BEYOND THE FOREST blasts well past it by Act 3 to become the most HATEFUL FILM OF THE 1940'S.

 

by the time Bette's character lifts a shotgun to KILL A GUY in order to further her designs to ensnare the man she wants, it's not even a surprise. the viewer merely shrugs it off. it's like #5 on the list of offensive acts committed by her character, right behind multiple acts of adultery and that wig.

 

There were so many things about BEYOND THE FOREST that stunned me, but the biggest first impression- in fact, what i was found mumbling as I wandered the early morning streets of my hometown a la Joan Crawford in the opening scenes of POSSESSED was:

 

"HOW did this thing GET MADE????!!!!!!!"

 

I mean, there's really no mistaking that Bette is trying to get an abortion near the ending, single shot of a lawyer's shingle be damned...

 

i know the film was edited for certain areas to omit her character throwing herself down a hill to induce a miscarriage- probably the only reason they were allowed to do that was because it had happened in LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN....

 

 

Yes, it's amazing this film even got greenlighted at the time, let alone released! (even with cuts). I guess her "payment" for her crimes allowed for a multitude of sins (plus that moralizing intro! LOL).

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

there are quite a few films that seeing BEYOND THE FOREST gave me a new appreciation of- it makes an interesting kindred spirit/contrast/companion not just to THE FOUNTAINHEAD, but also RUBY GENTRY, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, FLAMINGO ROAD, MADAME BOVARY... and it helped me develop a deeper understanding of the origin of a lot of the impressions of Bette Davis's mannerisms.

 

most of all, it really reignited my love for Bette and it's changed the way I see a lot of her other performances in films that came before and after.

 

i really do hope they can show it someday, it's like a missing piece of history.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

there are quite a few films that seeing BEYOND THE FOREST gave me a new appreciation of- it makes an interesting kindred spirit/contrast/companion not just to THE FOUNTAINHEAD, but also RUBY GENTRY, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, FLAMINGO ROAD, MADAME BOVARY... and it helped me develop a deeper understanding of the origin of a lot of the impressions of Bette Davis's mannerisms.

 

most of all, it really reignited my love for Bette and it's changed the way I see a lot of her other performances in films that came before and after.

 

i really do hope they can show it someday, it's like a missing piece of history.

 

AMEN. :(

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, speedracer, for posting your thoughts about this movie.

 

BEYOND THE FOREST is the movie that Martha in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF is trying to think of the title of. She quotes the "What a dump" line to George and then wants him to help her remember the name of the movie, even providing details from the movie to help jog his memory: it's a Warner Brothers "epic" starring Bette Davis, Davis wears a "black fright wig" in the movie, her character is a housewife married to "modest Joseph Cotten" but is in love with the "actor with the scar," she wants to go to Chicago and she gets peritonitis at the end. 

George and Martha never figure out the name of the movie. 

 

I've never understood the line about the actor with the scar. I assume Martha means David Brian, but I've looked closely at his face in several films and there's no scar that I can see.........

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

© 2023 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...