AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Beyond the Forest
Director: King Vidor (Dir)
Release Date:   22 Oct 1949
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 21 Oct 1949
Production Date:   23 May--early Aug 1949
Duration (in mins):   95 or 97
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Cast:   Bette Davis (Rosa Moline)  
    Joseph Cotten (Dr. Lewis Moline)  
    David Brian (Neil Latimer)  
    Ruth Roman (Carol [Lawson])  
    Minor Watson (Moose [Lawson])  
    Dona Drake (Jenny)  
    Regis Toomey (Sorren)  
    Sarah Selby (Mildred Sorren)  
    Mary Servoss (Mrs. Wetch)  
    Frances Charles (Miss Elliott)  
    Harry Tyler (Station master)  
    Ralph Littlefield (Driver)  
    Creighton Hale (Old man)  
    Joel Allen (Minister)  
    Ann Doran (Edith Williams)  
    Eve Miller (Switchboard operator)  
    James Craven (Man in reception room)  
    Judith Wood (Waitress)  
    Eileen Stevens (Operator)  
    Harold Gerard (Waiter)  
    Jim Haward (Bar manager)  
    Sherman Sanders (Old fiddler)  
    Charles Jordan (Foreman of jury)  
    Frank Pharr (Coroner)  
    Buddy Roosevelt    
    Bobby Henshaw    
    Gail Bonney    
    Hallene Hill    
    June Evans    

Summary: In the mill town of Loyalton, Wisconsin, Rosa Moline, whose husband Lewis is the town's doctor, is on trial for the murder of Moose Lawson, caretaker of a nearby hunting lodge owned by wealthy Chicago industrialist Neil Latimer. On the stand, Rosa swears that the death was an accident: Five months earlier, Lewis, Rosa and Moose travel to the lodge for the weekend. When they arrive, Rosa gives Lewis a message from a patient who has gone into labor. Feigning an ankle injury, Rosa stays behind while Lewis makes the long trip back to town to attend the delivery. Rosa then contrives to get Moose drunk. After he passes out, Rosa waits in the main lodge for the arrival of Latimer, with whom she is having an affair. Dissatisfied with life in Loyalton, Rosa determines to marry Latimer. When she tells him about her plan, however, he roars with laughter and points out that he can have his pick of any Chicago society girl. Later, Moose's daughter Carol visits, and Rosa longingly tries on her fur coat. She then begs Lewis for two hundred dollars to pay for a shopping trip to Chicago. When Lewis protests that he does not have that much money, Rosa bills his accounts receivable. After learning what Rosa has done, Lewis angrily gives her the money and then orders her to leave and never return. After Rosa arrives in Chicago, she contacts Latimer, who tells her that he has fallen in love and plans to marry. A distraught, hopeless Rosa then returns to Loyalton and Lewis, and soon becomes pregnant. Later, at a birthday party that Carol is giving for Moose, Rosa again encounters Latimer, who privately tells her that he now wants to marry her. The next day, before the guests leave for a hunting party, Moose, who suspects the truth about Rosa's relationship with Latimer, warns her that Latimer will not want her when he learns that she is pregnant. He adds that if she does not tell Latimer the truth, he will. To prevent this, Rosa kills Moose. Because there is no evidence to the contrary, the jury rules that the death was a hunting accident, and Rosa is acquitted. Desperate to marry Latimer, Rosa then begs Lewis to end her pregnancy. When he refuses, she tells him about her affair and admits that she killed Moose. After Lewis insists that Rosa go through with the pregnancy, she borrows clothes belonging to her Indian maid and runs away, but Lewis goes after her and brings her home. On the way, she throws herself down a hill in an attempt to abort her baby. Rosa loses the baby but develops an infection. In her delirium, she accuses Lewis of making her sick and breaks the bottle containing the last of the medicine. After Lewis leaves for the hospital to obtain more medicine, Rosa dresses and goes to the train station, where she collapses and dies. 

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Brand Name: A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Director: King Vidor (Dir)
  Al Alleborn (Asst dir)
  Oren Haglund (Asst dir)
Producer: Henry Blanke (Prod)
Writer: Lenore Coffee (Scr)
Photography: Robert Burks (Dir of photog)
  William Schurr (2d cam)
  Leonard South (Asst cam)
  Eugene Richee (Stills)
  Charles O'Bannon (Gaffer)
Art Direction: Robert Haas (Art dir)
Film Editor: Rudi Fehr (Film ed)
Set Decoration: William Kuehl (Set dec)
  Bud Friend (Props)
Costumes: Edith Head (Miss Davis' ward)
  Marian Dabney (Ward)
  Henry Field (Ward)
  Lillian House (Ward)
Music: Murray Cutter (Orch)
  Max Steiner (Mus)
Sound: Charles Lang (Sd)
Special Effects: William McGann (Spec eff dir)
  Edwin DuPar (Spec eff)
Make Up: Perc Westmore (Makeup artist)
  Albert Greenway (Makeup)
  Ruby Felker (Hair)
Production Misc: Eric Stacey (Unit mgr)
  Rita Michaels (Scr supv)
  Norman McClay (Best boy)
  Harold Noyes (Grip)
Stand In: Jannell Lynn (Stand-in)
  Cliff Rathjean (Stand-in)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel Beyond the Forest by Stuart Engstrand (New York, 1945).
Authors: Stuart Engstrand

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. 18/11/1949 dd/mm/yyyy LP2634

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Melodrama
Subjects (Major): Infidelity
  Lure of riches
  Lure of the city
Subjects (Minor): Abortions
  Chicago (IL)
  Fathers and daughters
  Fur coats
  Indians of North America
  Small town life
  Train stations

Note: The film begins with the following written foreword: "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." A 6 Aug 1948 HR news item reported that Warner Bros. bought the Stuart Engstrom novel in manuscript form for $50,000. Bette Davis delivers her much parodied line "What a dump" in the film. Portions of the film were shot on location at Lake Tahoe, according to a 17 Jun 1949 HR news item.
       The MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library add the following information about the film: In a 28 Jul 1948 letter to Warner Bros. executive Jack L. Warner, PCA director Joseph I. Breen warned that Engstrom's novel was unacceptable "because of its treatment of adultery and lust." In a 25 Feb 1949 letter, Breen deemed Lenore Coffee's script unacceptable because, "this is a story of a woman who...coldly and maliciously conspires to wreck both her own and another woman's marriage. Pursuing these means, she employs lust in a savage and debased way. More than that, she will not stop short of murder, of toying with the life of an expectant mother, or of attempted abortion." Breen also objected to the ending, which he felt did not compensate for the general tone of the script. To meet these objections, "Latimer" was made a single man; the portrayal of the affair between "Rosa" and Latimer was reduced; "Lewis" and "Moose" were changed into strong voices for morality; and Rosa's attempts to obtain a medical abortion were eliminated from the story.
       The film was given a "C" or condemned classification by the National Legion of Decency. According to a 21 Oct 1949 HR news item, the Legion considered the film "in the sordid story it tells, uses, in a morally offensive manner, subject material considered morally dangerous and unfit entertainment for motion picture audiences. It contains suggestive situations and costuming and...lacks sufficient moral compensation for the evils portrayed." After some revision, the Legion changed the film's classification to "B" or "morally objectionable in part," according to a 21 Nov 1949 HR news item. The scene in which Rosa jumps from the car to induce a miscarriage was eliminated from the film (but was present in the viewed print), and a shot of a doctor's shingle outside the office where Rosa goes for an abortion was replaced by the shingle of a lawyer.
       In her memoirs, Davis states that she asked Jack L. Warner not to cast Joseph Cotten as the husband because he was "so attractive and kind--why should any wife want to get away from him?" This was Davis' last film as a Warner Bros. contract player. Max Steiner received an Academy Award nomination for Best Musical Score. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   22 Oct 1949.   
Daily Variety   18 Oct 49   p. 3.
Film Daily   19 Oct 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Aug 48   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   23 May 49   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Jun 49   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Jul 49   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Aug 49   p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Oct 49   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Oct 49   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Nov 1949.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   22 Oct 49   p. 59.
New York Times   22 Oct 49   p. 11.
Variety   19 Oct 49   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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