That Forsyte Woman

That Forsyte Woman (released in the United Kingdom as The Forsyte Saga) is a 1949 romance film directed by Compton Bennett and starring Greer Garson, Errol Flynn, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Young and Janet Leigh. It is an adaptation of The Man of Property, the first novel in The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy.

That Forsyte Woman
1949 theatrical poster
Directed byCompton Bennett
Produced byLeon Gordon
Written byJan Lustig
Ivan Tors
James B. Williams
Arthur Wimperis (additional dialogue)
Based onThe Man of Property novel by John Galsworthy
StarringErrol Flynn
Greer Garson
Walter Pidgeon
Robert Young
Janet Leigh
Music byBronislau Kaper
CinematographyJoseph Ruttenberg
Edited byFrederick Y. Smith
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • November 3, 1949 (1949-11-03)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,697,000[1]

Walter Plunkett and Arlington Valles were nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume Design, Color. The original music score was composed by Bronislau Kaper.


Irene (Greer Garson) is the wife of Victorian "man of property" Soames Forsyte (Errol Flynn), having married without love but after many proposals. Rebelling against her husband's preoccupation with material possessions, a list in which she is included, Irene falls in love with unconventional architect Philip Bosinney (Robert Young), who is engaged to Soames' niece June (Janet Leigh), one of Irene's closest friends. Soames learns of Irene's affair with Bosinney, and rather than allowing Irene to leave him, he reasserts his physical rights. When Soames and Bosinney discover that Irene has run away, Bosinney rushes out in the foggy London streets after her, only to be run over in an accident. After Irene learns of Bosinney's death she takes refuge with Soames' cousin Young Jolyon (Walter Pidgeon), who is June's estranged father but has sympathy for Irene's plight. Irene and Young Jolyon eventually marry, after Irene spurns Soames's attempts at reconciliation.



Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought the film rights to The Forsyte Saga in 1937 after much negotiating over a long period of time.[2] Initial plans were to make an all-star film in the vein of Dinner at Eight or Grand Hotel, with Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Franchot Tone mentioned as possible stars.[3] Joseph L. Mankiewicz was assigned to the project, which at one stage was going to be turned into two films.[4]

James Hilton wrote a screenplay in 1938 and in 1939 it was reported the film would be made as a vehicle for Myrna Loy.[5] Clark Gable was going to star as Soames, in his follow up performance to Gone with the Wind.[6]

This did not proceed. Then in July 1940 it was announced Greer Garson would star in the film, which would most likely use many of the support cast from MGM's 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice (which had starred Garson).[7] Again, no film eventuated.

In 1945, it was announced that Robert Lord was going to produce the first in a series of proposed movies based on the series, from a script by Robert Nathan.[8] Deborah Kerr and Garson were named as possible leads.[9] Eventually Garson was set for the female lead. She had reservations about the script and threatened to pull out but changed her mind after further work on it.[10][11] Compton Bennett signed to direct and eventually producing duties were taken over by Leon Gordon, who said the film would mostly concentrate on the story of A Man of Property (written between 1903–06).[12]

(When the script went to credit arbitration with the Writers Guild of America, it was revealed that thirteen writers had done seventeen adaptations in all. The writers included James Hilton, Richard Llewellyn, Robert Nathan, Ivan Tors, Robert Lord, Lawrence Weingarten, John Balderstone, Arthur Wimperis, Ann Cunningham, Franclien McConnell, John Collier, Jan Lustig and J. B. Williams. Under guild rules at the time only three writers could be credited.[13] These ended up being Tors, Lustig and Williams.)

MGM wanted Michael Wilding for one of the leads but were unable to get him.[14] In November it was announced Errol Flynn would join the cast – he was under contract to Warners, but MGM had had a one-picture call on his services ever since Warner Bros borrowed William Powell from MGM for Life with Father.[12] Robert Young, Janet Leigh and Walter Pidgeon rounded out the main stars.

Reportedly, Flynn was originally cast as the bohemian artist Jolyon, and Pidgeon as the stuffy banker Soames. When they met on the set, and discovered that they both were tired of being typecast, they decided to switch roles.[15] (This casting was publicly confirmed in December.[16])

Filming took place from January to March 1949. Flynn and Garson were recalled for reshoots in June.[17]

Robert Young later claimed he developed his English accent from listening to records of Maurice Evans and Laurence Olivier.[18]

Flynn and Garson got along surprisingly well during filming and discussed making another film together, such as a project about female pirate Mary Burns.[19] However this did not eventuate.


In August 1949, it was announced the film's US title would be That Forsyte Woman.[20]

The movie was selected for the Royal Command Performance of 1949.[21] This happened on 17 November, attended by the King, Queen and two princesses.[22]

Critical reception

The Washington Post said "while it's long, talkative and musty, there is a certain lush sincerity about it."[23] The Los Angeles Times said the casting of Errol Flynn as Soames "is about the only neat trick with which the filmmakers have succeeded in enlivening a photographed novel and one that is virtually without other surprises."[24]

Box office

That Forsyte Woman was the 9th most popular film at the British box office in 1949.[25][26] It recorded admissions of 1,341,629 in France.[27]

According to MGM records the film made $1,855,000 in the US and Canada and $1,855,000 overseas, ultimately earning the studio a loss of $574,000.[1][28]


  1. 'The Eddie Mannix Ledger’, Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study, Los Angeles
  2. "STUDIO AND SCREEN: Directors Wanted--A Comic Colman--Health and Beauty Films" The Manchester Guardian [Manchester (UK)] 28 Oct 1937: 12.
  3. '"FORSYTE SAGA" BY GALSWORTHY TO BE FILMED WITH ALL-STAR CAST: Radio Sports Announcer Awarded Lead' Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 29 May 1937: A7.
  4. "Hedda Hopper's HOLLYWOOD" Los Angeles Times 28 Apr 1939: 13.
  5. "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Warners Sins Ruth Gordon for Role of Wife in 'The Life of Dr. Ehrlich ANOTHER NEW FILM FRIDAY 'Hollywood Cavalcade,' History of the Cinema Since Sennett Days, to Open at Roxy Merle Oberon Is Released Yola D'Avril With Universal Of Local Origin" by DOUGLAS W. CHURCHILL New York Times 10 Oct 1939: 32.
  6. "DRAMA: Mickey Rooney Heads Box-Office Champions" Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 22 Dec 1939: 13.
  7. "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD: Metro to Revive Galsworthy's 'Forsyte Saga' as a Probable Vehicle for Greer Garson MUNI IN BEETHOVEN ROLE Two Pictures, 'My Love Came Back' at Strand and 'Maryland' at Roxy, in Second Week "Chad Hanna" to be in Color Of Local Origin" New York Times 19 July 1940: 25.
  8. "Looking at Hollywood" Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 11 Dec 1945: 20.
  9. "Looking at Hollywood" Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 7 Mar 1947: 28.
  10. "UA WILL RELEASE 'VIOLENT HOUSE': Cassidy and Banks in Deal for Their Film Based on Lewis Browne's Novel" by THOMAS F. BRADY New York Times 03 Feb 1948: 31.
  11. "Looking at Hollywood" Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 12 July 1948: A4.
  12. "FLYNN WILL STAR IN 'FORSYTE SAGA': To Appear With Greer Garson in Metro Film Adaptation of Galsworthy Trilogy" by THOMAS F. BRADY New York Times 08 Nov 1948: 24.
  13. "OWN TO THE SEA IN EXPLOITATION: The Movie Junket Comes Into Its Own Again at New Bedford Fete" by THOMAS M. PRYOR NEW BEDFORD, Massachusetts. New York Times 20 Feb 1949: X5.
  14. "Looking at Hollywood" Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 05 Nov 1948: a6.
  15. Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer & Clifford McCarty, The Films of Errol Flynn, Citadel Press, 1969 p 162-163
  16. "ARNALL TAKES POST IN MOVIE INDUSTRY: Former Governor of Georgia to Be Voted Tomorrow as Head of Independents" by THOMAS F. BRADY New York Times 11 Dec 1948: 12.
  17. "DEL RUTH TO DIRECT MILTON BERLE FILM: Signed by Warners to Handle 'Always Leave Them Laughing' -- Wald Producing Movie" by THOMAS F. BRADY New York Times 24 June 1949: 29.
  18. "Greer Garson Assigned To 'Forsyte' Film" by Frank Daugherty. The Christian Science Monitor [Boston, Mass] 4 Feb 1949: 5.
  19. "Flynn and Dandy: LOOKING AT HOLLYWOOD WITH HEDDA HOPPER" Chicago Daily Tribune 29 May 1949: C4.
  20. "RKO AND WARNERS BUY NEW STORIES: Former Acquires 'Macao,' by Robert Williams -- 'Fires of Orinoco' Goes to Latter" by THOMAS F. BRADY New York Times 13 Aug 1949: 6.
  21. "KING TO SEE METRO FILM: Approves 'That Forsyte Woman' for Command Performance" New York Times 4 Oct 1949: 32.
  22. "THOUSANDS ATTEND ROYAL MOVIE SHOW: King, Queen, Two Princesses at Command Performance of American Picture" New York Times 18 Nov 1949: 33.
  23. "A Leisurely Job On the Forsytes" by Richard L. Coe. The Washington Post [Washington, D.C] 10 Nov 1949: 19.
  24. "'That Forsyte Woman' Saga of Victorians" Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 08 Feb 1950: B9.
  25. "Lockwood out to regain status". The Mail. Adelaide: National Library of Australia. 13 January 1951. p. 6 Supplement: SUNDAY MAGAZINE. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  26. Thumim, Janet. "The popular cash and culture in the postwar British cinema industry". Screen. Vol. 32 no. 3. p. 258.
  27. 1951 French box office figures at Box Office Story
  28. "Top Grossers of 1949". Variety. 4 January 1950. p. 59.
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