Beyond the Forest

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Beyond the Forest
Beyond the Forest.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by King Vidor
Produced by Henry Blanke
Screenplay by Lenore J. Coffee
Based on the novel Beyond the Forest 
by Stuart D. Engstrand
Starring Bette Davis
Joseph Cotten
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Robert Burks
Edited by Rudi Fehr
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • October 21, 1949 (1949-10-21) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Beyond the Forest is a 1949 American film noir directed by King Vidor and featuring Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, David Brian and Ruth Roman. The screenplay is written by Lenore J. Coffee based on a novel by Stuart Engstrand.[1]

The film marks Davis' last appearance as a contract actress for Warner, after eighteen years with the studio. She tried several times to walk away from the film (which only caused the production cost to go through the roof), but Warner refused to release her from their employment contract.[2] She remembered the project as "a terrible movie"[3] and the death scene at her end in the film as "the longest death scene ever seen on the screen."[2]


Rosa Moline is the neglected wife of a small-town Wisconsin doctor. She grows bored and becomes infatuated with a visiting Chicago businessman. She extorts money from her husband's patients and uses the cash to flee to Chicago, but the businessman does not welcome her. She returns home and becomes pregnant by her husband. The businessman has a change of heart and follows her to Wisconsin. He wants her back, but not her baby, so she attempts to abort by throwing herself down a hill, gets peritonitis and dies.



Critical response[edit]

Film critic Bosley Crowther dismissed the film upon its release, writing,

To be sure, the script by Lenore Coffee offers little for her to do but run through the usual banalities of an infidelity yarn ... For those who have not been embarrassed by pretensions in a fairly long time, let us recommend the climax of this incredibly artificial film—the final scene in which the lady, apparently burning up with a bad case of peritonitis, drags herself out of bed, pulls herself to her mirror, smears make-up on her face and gets dressed in disheveled finery to stagger forth toward the railroad tracks and death. With the clashing refrain of 'Chicago' beating in her head, she pays for her selfish sins and follies. Quite an experience, we'd say ... Not to be coy about it, we can see no 'Oscars' in the offing for this film.[4]

Writing in 2004, Dennis Schwartz was nearly as dismissive, summarizing the plot as "bombastic melodrama", but noting that, "The film's only redeeming value is in its almost camp presentation, which might find some in the audience entertained by the overblown acting on Bette's part (she caricatures herself) and the intense but laughable soap opera story."[5]


Composer Max Steiner was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture) in 1950.

The film is listed in Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.[6]

Reference in Film[edit]

The film contains the line spoken by Davis, "What a dump!", later also said by her in the film Dead Ringer (1964), and made famous by being quoted in the opening scene of Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962). The line is #62 on the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema.


  1. ^ Beyond the Forest at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  2. ^ a b Medved, Harry; Medved, Michael (1984). The Hollywood Hall of Shame. Penguin. p. 204. OCLC 9969169. 
  3. ^ Bette Davis interview on YouTube.
  4. ^ Crowther, Bosley (October 22, 1949). "'Beyond the Forest' With Bette Davis and Joseph Cotten Is New Bill at Strand". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Schwartz, Dennis (October 18, 2004). "Beyond the Forest". 
  6. ^ Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0. 

External links[edit]