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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.
Best Music, Original or Comedy Series
What a dump!- Rosa Moline
If I don't get out of here I'll die. If I don't get out of here I hope I die and burn.- Rosa Moline
Life in Loyalton is like sitting in the funeral parlor and waiting for the funeral to begin. No, it's like lying in a coffin and waiting for them to carry you out."- Rosa Moline
In some parts of the US the scene in which Rosa induces a miscarriage by jumping from an embankment were cut.
Bette Davis was so unhappy over being cast in this film that she threatened Warner Brothers Studio Chief, Jack L. Warner, that she would walk off the production with the picture only half finished. Warner was forced to cancel her contract and Davis completed the film, ending 18 years with the studio.
Bette Davis begged the studio to use Virginia Mayo instead, saying, "She's good at those sorts of roles."
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.
Released in United States Fall October 22, 1949
Released in United States Fall October 22, 1949