THAT FORSYTE WOMAN(director: Compton Bennett; screenwriters: Jan Lustig/Ivan Tors/James B. Williams/Arthur Wimperis/based on Book I of John Galsworthy’s “The Forsyte Saga” from the novel A Man of Property; cinematographer: Joseph Ruttenberg; editor: Fredrick Y. Smith; music: Bronislau Kaper; cast: Errol Flynn (Soames Forsyte), Greer Garson (Irene Forsyte), Walter Pidgeon (Young Jolyon Forsyte), Robert Young (Philip Bosinney), Janet Leigh (June Forsyte), Harry Davenport (Old Jolyon Forsyte), Stanley Logan (Swithin Forsyte), Lumsden Hare (Roger Forsyte); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Leon Gordon; MGM; 1949)
“It’s all done with great dignity, but is immensely stuffy and dull.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An American stab at filming the most British of British writers, John Galsworthy. It uses the first part of his genteel 1906 novel A Man of Property; the screenplay is by Jan Lustig, Ivan Tors, James B. Williams and Arthur Wimperis. MGM gives it the high-gloss treatment, as it threads water over the Victorian English landscape of the upper-crusts (filmed in the British studio). Though the acting is bearable (Errol Flynn is surprisingly good in a role cast against type) and the Technicolor is dazzling, the costume period piece is a stodgy and artificial production. Compton Bennett (“Daybreak”/”The Seventh Veil”/”King Solomon’s Mines”) helms this tale of an outsider woman of great beauty and sensitivity who marries into an established and wealthy family and then falls in love with the younger man engaged to her niece. It’s all done with great dignity, but is immensely stuffy and dull.
It’s told in flashback; it begins seven years prior to 1887 in London. We learn that the rigid man of property, a dye in the wool materialist, who always gets what he wants, Soames Forsyte (Errol Flynn), pursues the unobtainable beauty Irene Forsyte (Greer Garson), a piano teacher from a lower class, and convinces her to marry him even though she doesn’t love him and turns him down initially. The snobbish Forsyte family ostracizes her except for the family’s black sheep, an artist named Jolyon (Walter Pidgeon).
Irene settles for a loveless marriage to the possessive Soames, and his family gradually begins to accept her. Irene becomes friends with her young niece June (Janet Leigh), who becomes engaged to the promising and charismatic architect Philip Bossiney (Robert Young). Irene acts as chaperone, and soon falls in love with Philip. He reminds her of the unconventional man she loved, who was killed fighting in the war.
It then goes off into heavy melodramatics, as Irene enrages both June and her husband when her affair with Philip is uncovered. She then disappoints Philip by not returning his love for her, and finally seeks comfort in the arms of Jolyon after a great tragedy.
REVIEWED ON 6/20/2007 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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