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Beyond the Forest

Beyond the Forest(1949)

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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 August 6, 1948 Hollywood Reporter 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 June 17, 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item.
       The MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library add the following information about the film: In a July 28, 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 February 25, 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 October 21, 1949 Hollywood Reporter 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 November 21, 1949 Hollywood Reporter 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.