Beyond the Forest

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.[2]

Beyond the Forest
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKing Vidor
Produced byHenry Blanke
Screenplay byLenore J. Coffee
Based onthe novel Beyond the Forest
by Stuart D. Engstrand
StarringBette Davis
Joseph Cotten
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographyRobert Burks
Edited byRudi Fehr
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • October 21, 1949 (1949-10-21) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,738,000[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.[3] She remembered the project as "a terrible movie",[4] and her death scene at end in the film as "the longest death scene ever seen on the screen".[3]


Rosa Moline is the dissatisfied, restless wife of Lewis, a small-town Wisconsin doctor. She is easily bored, uninterested in her husband's career or in anything to do with her current circumstances. She has long desired a glamorous life, in a world where she can have expensive things and meet truly interesting people. For over a year, she has been having an affair with Neil Latimer, a Chicago businessman who owns the local hunting lodge. Tired of waiting for him to ask her to marry and move to Chicago, Rosa extorts money from Lewis' patients - who often do not have cash but pay him in produce or in other non-financial ways - to finance her trip to the city.

Lewis does not yet know about the affair, but he is used to his wife's unease with her life; he discovers the extortion and throws the cash at her, telling her that if she goes to Chicago, she need not come back. Rosa immediately leaves and fully expects Latimer to welcome her. However, he avoids her at first, then when he does meet her, he tells her he is love with another woman and intends to marry. Devastated, Rosa returns to Wisconsin, where Lewis forgives her. She soon becomes pregnant and, briefly, seems to be trying to settle down.

During a party for Moose, the man who tends to the hunting lodge, Latimer shows up. He lets Rosa know that he has changed his mind and wants to marry her. Moose overhears the couple planning for her divorce and their marriage; the next day, as everyone is heading out on a hunting trip, Moose bets that her lover will not want the baby and advises Rosa that she had better tell Latimer about it, or he will. To prevent that eventuality, she shoots and kills Moose during the hunt. She is acquitted of this act by claiming she thought he was a deer.

To Rosa's consternation, Latimer wants to avoid "any dirt" associated with them and Moose's demise; he suggests they wait "a month or so" before they go through with their plans. At home, Lewis assumes that Rosa will come to feel good about having a baby, but Latimer's change of plans, and her inherent resentment of the pregnancy, drives her to confess both her affair with Latimer and that she deliberately murdered Moose. Lewis says that he only cares about his baby and that after she gives birth, she can go where ever she pleases.

From his office window, Lewis happens to see Rosa boarding a bus. He follows her to a neighboring town where she is sitting in a 'lawyer's office'; she reluctantly leaves with him but, on the way home, tricks him into stopping their car and going to the trunk. She gets out of the vehicle and throws herself down an embankment, desperate to abort. The result is peritonitis and a raging fever which makes her delirious. She enlists Jenny, her housekeeper, to help her dress and she leaves the house to catch the train to Chicago. Near the tracks, she collapses and dies.



The scenes featuring the mythical town of "Loyalton, Wisconsin" were actually shot in Loyalton, California, a small, picturesque village in Sierra County.


Critical response

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.[5]

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."[6]


The film originally received a ‘C’ classification from the Legion of Decency because of its abortion elements. This classification initially impacted the film’s box office, forcing the studio to negotiate cuts in order for the film to be reclassified as a ‘B.’[7]

Box Office

Variety said the film earned $1.5 million.[8]

According to Warner Bros accounts the film earned $1,331,000 domestically and $407,000 foreign.[1]


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.[9]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 30 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  2. Beyond the Forest at the American Film Institute Catalog .
  3. Medved, Harry; Medved, Michael (1984). The Hollywood Hall of Shame. Penguin. p. 204. OCLC 9969169.
  4. Bette Davis interview on YouTube.
  5. Crowther, Bosley (October 22, 1949). "'Beyond the Forest' With Bette Davis and Joseph Cotten Is New Bill at Strand". The New York Times.
  6. Schwartz, Dennis (October 18, 2004). "Beyond the Forest".
  7. Kirby, David A. (September 2017). "Regulating cinematic stories about reproduction: pregnancy, childbirth, abortion and movie censorship in the US, 1930–1958". The British Journal for the History of Science. 50 (3): 451–472. doi:10.1017/S0007087417000814. ISSN 0007-0874.
  8. "Top Grossers of 1949". Variety. 4 January 1950. p. 59.
  9. Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.
  10. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-07-30.
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