That Forsyte Woman

  • 1949
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

This expensive Victorian drama, based on the first book in Galsworthy's trilogy The Forsyte Saga, is heavy going, despite a luxurious production, wonderful period costumes (designer Walter Plunkett grabbed an Oscar nomination) and a few good performances. Pidgeon is the son of a prominent English family whose decision to become an artist has alienated his...read more

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This expensive Victorian drama, based on the first book in Galsworthy's trilogy The Forsyte Saga, is heavy going, despite a luxurious production, wonderful period costumes (designer Walter Plunkett grabbed an Oscar nomination) and a few good performances. Pidgeon is the son of a prominent

English family whose decision to become an artist has alienated his relatives. His daughter, Leigh, was raised by the family after Pidgeon's wife died, and they have kept daughter and father apart, giving Leigh a strict upbringing according to Victorian mores. Pidgeon's cousin is Flynn, a

conservative type who nonetheless went against the clan's wishes to marry Garson, a seductive redheaded piano teacher. In doing so, he violated the family tradition of wedding for money and position, instead marrying a woman of lower social status for love. Garson and Leigh become friends, and

Leigh asks Garson to help her break down the family's resistance to Leigh's marrying Young, an architect whose insouciant ways rankle the hidebound Forsytes. Garson uses her influence to get the family to accept Young, but after meeting Garson, the architect is not so sure he still wants to marry

Leigh. Garson is gorgeous, bright, and full of robust life, thus more to Young's liking than the naive Leigh. When Flynn hires Young to design a home for him and his wife, Garson and Young are thrown together by the necessity of the architect's working with his client. Garson is beginning to lose

her passion for Flynn, but she keeps Young at arm's length because he is engaged to Leigh and she can't bear to be the other woman. Realizing she must put a damper on Young's ardor, Garson travels to his home to tell Young to let her be. But Leigh sees Garson going to visit Young, and concludes

that they are having an affair. She tells Flynn of her suspicions, and when the innocent Garson gets home she is given a tongue-lashing by her husband, who also sends for Young. When Young arrives, Flynn accuses him of dallying with Garson, and there is an argument that culminates in Young's

admitting that he loves Garson. Meanwhile, Garson has left the house and gone back to Young's place, where she meets Pidgeon, who has come there to chastise Young for the way he has been treating Leigh. Then Flynn arrives, and tells Garson and Pidgeon that Young has been killed in an accident,

when he fell beneath the wheels of a wagon on the foggy streets of London. Garson is devastated and will not return home with Flynn, letting him know in no uncertain terms that she wants nothing more to do with him. Time passes, and the picture ends with Garson and Pidgeon married and living in

glorious happiness in Paris.

THAT FORSYTE WOMAN suffers in comparison to the later BBC-TV series "The Forsyte Saga" (shown on American public television), which was able to devote more time to Galsworthy's story and characters. Here, an overabundance of plot is crammed into the film's two hours, pushing the feature into the

realm of soap opera. The film was the last picture in Henry Davenport's long and distinguished acting career; Errol Flynn, under contract to Warner Bros., was borrowed for this production as a trade for William Powell, who appeared in Warners' LIFE WITH FATHER. Flynn was paged for either the

Pidgeon or Young role, but chose the less flashy part of the conservative, apparently cuckholded husband in an effort to move beyond his dashing image. He acquits himself well, but audiences much preferred the old swashbuckling Flynn and the picture did not catch fire at the box office. The film

marked the US directorial debut of former editor Compton Bennett, who also directed KING SOLOMON'S MINES.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: This expensive Victorian drama, based on the first book in Galsworthy's trilogy The Forsyte Saga, is heavy going, despite a luxurious production, wonderful period costumes (designer Walter Plunkett grabbed an Oscar nomination) and a few good performances.… (more)

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