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A luscious film, this breaks a few molds in the casting department. Greer
Garson is superb as the unfulfilled wife who "held out for a higher
(Great line!) Errol Flynn as the cold husband? It worked for me -- he
a subtle side to his acting that worked perfectly. A young and
not-so-debonair Robert Young, with his "uncombed" hair and his
less-than-elegant wardrobe, plays the seducer with just the right touch of
impishness. And Janet Leigh as the spurned fiance brings great pathos to
The story is a bit contrived at the end, but the rest of the film succeeds in depicting frustration, arrogance, control, and passion with aplomb.
By the end of the 1940s, the WB had relegated one-time box office king Errol
Flynn to 'B' movies, and offered him little studio support. While most of
the stars under contract to the studio were still protected from
unflattering publicity, Flynn's rape trial and subsequent revelations
revealed a public far more tolerant of the star than the studio was, so
Flynn was left 'to his own devices', and found himself the constant subject
of scandalous headlines, a situation that became so intolerable that he
would eventually sue 'Confidential' magazine, the most virulent of the
Therefore, when, negotiating a new contract in 1947, Flynn asked to be allowed to do one film a year away from the WB, the studio agreed, happily, more than pleased to let another studio pay the actor's salary and deal with his unsavory reputation. While the result of this new 'freedom' did not produce any Flynn 'classics' (KIM would be the best received of his work away from the WB), it did give him a seat at the table with Gable, Tracy, Hepburn, Garland, Taylor, and MGM's other legendary stars, when the studio celebrated their 'Golden Anniversary', in 1949.
THAT FORSYTHE WOMAN, Flynn's first film away from the WB, was a heavy-handed, ultimately unsuccessful adaptation of the first of John Galsworthy's trilogy of the rise and fall of a British aristocratic family, a popular series of works that would become the basis of the classic BBC series, 'Upstairs, Downstairs'. Offered his choice of the male 'leads' in the film, Flynn lobbied for, and got, the 'villain' of the story, the coldly ruthless Soames Forsythe, who marries MGM 'queen' Greer Garson, and proceeds to make her life a living hell. It was a major departure for Flynn, who had watched his roles at the WB deteriorate into a collection of jaded roués with a 'taste' for married women. While he acknowledged that he wasn't the easiest person to work with, he wanted to demonstrate, once and for all, that he was an actor capable of far more than leaping horses over cannons and swinging a sword. With Soames, Flynn proved he 'could deliver', even as a character you would be hard-pressed to feel sympathetic about.
As the men Garson would find comfort with, Robert Young (who had his own 'typecasting' problems, again playing a near juvenile when, in fact, he was older than Flynn!), and Walter Pidgeon (also playing a role younger than his actual age, but, as usual, winning Garson's heart), had to contend with poorly written, nearly cardboard roles (that Pidgeon 'comes off' so well is a testament to his often-overlooked acting talent...he was FAR more than just 'Garson's Leading Man').
Greer Garson, long 'typed' as the most aristocratic of MGM leading ladies, had to deliver some truly 'ripe' dialog, and her manipulation by 'class conscious' Soames seemed unrealistic and out of character, but she managed to survive the stodgy production with her reputation unblemished.
Filming was smooth and untroubled, and Garson was impressed by Flynn's professionalism (he was on his best behavior, for a change). He did, however, pull one memorable practical joke; in a very dramatic scene, as she packed to leave Soames, she opened a wooden wardrobe to discover Flynn, standing inside, naked, grinning from ear to ear! One NEVER pulled a stunt like that on a Major Star (Bette Davis would have had a tantrum), but Garson simply burst out laughing, appreciating Flynn's irreverence.
THAT FORSYTHE WOMAN would be one of Errol Flynn's favorite movies, even if it didn't turn his career around.
This is one of the few non-swashbuckling films of Wicked, Wicked Ways Errol and one where he plays a character totally unsympathetic. He does it not merely well but superbly. He could act. Tragically, he was so damn good at using his natural athletic abilities in costume dramas, he never got good roles until he was over the hill. This film made right after the time of his famous sex trial reveals another side of a talented actor. Garson is great as is Robert Young, albeit coming off a bit insipid alongside Errol, playing a foppish socialite. The story of this film is a bit tiresome by today's standards and drags in spots. It is gorgeously photographed with lush costuming but it's Flynn who steals the show-- without even trying. He was only 50 when he died from a debauched lifestyle. Sadly, his last film, Cuban Rebel Girls, made during Fidel's revolt, is an abortion and a pathetic tribute to a man, a talented man, who trilled us all so many times in our youth with his panache, elan and verve. But, this little film, made about 10 years before his demise shows he was indeed, an actor and not merely a star.
The main problem with this film is the casting. As Greer Garson's cold husband, Errol Flynn was cast. He is nothing short of superb, and he and Garson have great chemistry together. But the casting of Garson's lover went to Robert Young, and he is totally wrong for the role. One can never accept Garson's feelings for him over Errol Flynn!
I'm not surprised that many viewers find this film frustrating,
particularly those unfamiliar with the novels or the later TV
adaptations - coming to this film with such knowledge definitely helps
one be more charitable towards it.
THAT FORSYTE WOMAN is one of MGM's "prestige" literary productions, tackling the first novel of one of Britain's most beloved series of novels by one of its most beloved authors, John Galsworthy. It's another well-executed, professional MGM effort. Yet it's another strange choice for MGM (as was THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY earlier in the decade), since in this case the story's main plot is an adulterous affair,casting its two leading players (Flynn and Garson) very much 'against type' - one can't blame Flynn for being willing, but I'd like to know just exactly which MGM executive thought to cast Greer Garson as the adulteress! The lady was simply too likable!
These are complex characters, and it actually took Galsworthy 6 novels to reveal them fully to the reader. Neither Soames nor Irene (the Garson role) are particularly likable in the first novel - both seem selfish and willful, but the reader ultimately comes to understand both of them better (although Galsworthy never really does give a satisfactory reason for Irene's loathing of Soames).
MGM originally produced the film under the title THE FORSYTE SAGA (I have a copy of the movie tie-in edition of the novel published by Scribners in 1949)) but, since the film was merely a slice of the Saga anyway, they changed the title to the more catchy THAT FORSYTE WOMAN emphasizing Irene's 'fast' nature. It remained THE FORSYTE SAGA in the UK.
One has to admire MGM's ambitious attempt, but let's face it, they'd really bitten off more than they could chew: THE FORSYTE SAGA was too big, too rich, and too multi-layered for one film. Rather, it was a work destined for success in another medium which was still in its infancy - television, in a format to which its breadth, length and varied cast of characters would be perfectly suited - the "mini-series", for which it would provide the pioneer effort with spectacular success in the late 1960s.
Greer Garson is "That Forsyte Woman" in a 1949 film that also stars
Errol Flynn, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Young and Janet Leigh. The story is
told in flashback. Garson is Irene, a beautiful but poverty-stricken
woman who marries Soames Forsyte (Flynn), admitting from the first that
she does not love him. Soames isn't the only Forsyte in whom Irene has
an interest - she loves the paintings done by Jolyon Forsyte (Pidgeon),
though she learns quickly that he is the family outcast, not even
permitted to see his daughter, June (Leigh). Irene seeks to bring
Jolyon back into the family and to reunite him with June, who is about
to be married to an architect, Philip Bosinney (Young) - while she
herself is falling for Philip, and he with her.
MGM spared not one cent in giving "That Forsyte Woman" primo attention - the cost of Garson's gorgeous costumes alone could have probably paid for three lesser films; the Technicolor, sets, and photography are all stunning; and in Flynn and Garson, you have two top stars.
Unfortunately, the superficial gloss can't cover the film's flaws. For an adulteress, Greer Garson is pretty ladylike - there is no unbridled passion - and zero chemistry - between Irene and Philip. In fact, the inference is that while she loves Philip in her heart, nothing except a few kisses has actually happened. Not being familiar with the source material, I don't know if this was the case or not. And I'm sorry - if I had to pick between the handsome Flynn and Robert Young wearing some sort of curly hairpiece, I know which way I'd go. Philip Bosinney is described as a little older than June - well, Janet Leigh was 21 or so at the time of the filming and probably playing an 18-year-old. Young was about 40. And looked it. Fond as I am of Young's work, this was blatant miscasting. The role needed to be sexed up a little so we see what the fuss is about - Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, someone hot and in that 30-ish age range.
Errol Flynn does an excellent job as the angry, frustrated and jealous Soames. It seems that with a few exceptions, by the late '40s, Flynn no longer played roles that exhibited what made him Errol Flynn - charm, dash, a devilish smile, and natural athleticism. While this is certainly a better role than he had in "Cry Wolf," again, it does not play to Flynn's strengths. Walter Pidgeon is very good as Jolyon and of course he's great with Garson. He should be, considering all the films they made together.
Though the story isn't that absorbing, I still recommend this film for its sheer beauty - not only in its look, but for the beauty of Garson, Flynn and Leigh, and the sturdy handsomeness of Pidgeon. "That Forsyte Woman" is a cake with an incredible icing, but the cake is pretty dry.
How could any woman choose another man over Errol Flynn? I don't know either. That's why I didn't buy the premise of this but was impressed with the performances. Errol Flynn is always great to watch and proves here that he can deliver the acting goods and always of course looks distractingly handsome. Greer Garson and Walter Pigeon are a treat to watch together. A previous poster mentioned the fact that Greer Garson having an adulterous affair didn't work because she was just too likable really doesn't apply here because the fact that their marriage is unhappy is established. Robert Young comes off less sympathetic than Flynn's Soames Forsythe, in my opinion. Here he takes advantage of the young and naive June Forsythe and the unhappy marriage of Mrs. Forsythe at the same time. The story is contrived but overall a good flick to watch on a rainy day. I would recommend it.
PBS made two great mini-series on "The Forsyte Saga" in 1968 and 2002. MGM
made a good movie, too, about the Forsytes; they called it "That Forsyte
Woman". It is a shorter version, but tells the story perfectly.
Casting Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) for Soames Forsyte is very creative, but it worked. This is Mr. Flynn's best performance. Greer Garson plays Soames beautiful but suffering wife, Irene. The chemistry between them makes the movie work. Too bad these great friends never worked again.
What does not work is Robert Young as Philip Bosinney. He was the wrong type and accent. The director should have hired an English actor for the Bosinney role.
The color scheme of the movie is black and white, but it is filmed in color. That is distracting! It is a black and white story. However, the movie is still interesting and it moves quickly.
According to the Citadel Film Series book, The Films Of Errol Flynn,
MGM and Warner Brothers did a swapping of stars for the services of the
other. Errol Flynn went to MGM for a picture in return for Warner
Brothers getting the services of William Powell for Life With Father. I
think Powell made out far better in the deal than Flynn did with an
Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his film.
Not that Errol Flynn was bad in That Forsyte Woman, in fact his casting as the proper and stuffy Soames Forsyte was quite a revelation. But the movie-going public simply wouldn't buy it. Errol, not the dashing hero with sword in hand and cape over the other shoulder was not accepted. If That Forsyte Woman had been made a decade earlier and for Warner Brothers, Flynn would have been perfect to play Robert Young's role of Philip Bossiney.
Flynn is married to Greer Garson and is guardian of niece Janet Leigh. Leigh is the daughter of black sheep brother in this proper Victorian family, Walter Pidgeon. Pidgeon years ago ran away with his niece's governess after the family did not permit the recently widowed Pidgeon to marry her. Back in those days proper English families did things like that.
Anyway the rather staid marriage of Flynn and Garson gets a jolt when opportunistic Robert Young who Leigh has been keeping company with, falls for Garson and she, him. In modern times it would be a no fault divorce, but things aren't done that way in Victorian England.
If there is a weakness in casting it's that of Robert Young. I'm surprised that MGM did not use someone like Peter Lawford whom they had under contract and was British besides. Greer was British, but the rest of the cast had two Americans in Young and Leigh, a Canadian in Pidgeon and Flynn was Australian. Young was older than Errol Flynn and just doesn't come over as the young opportunistic lover.
Garson of course is the perfect English lady who usually wan't allowed dalliances by MGM, but she's fine here. Greer wrote the introduction to the Films Of Errol Flynn and she says that she found Flynn to be a perfect gentleman and anxious to prove himself a serious actor.
He did in many ways in That Forsyte Saga. He was a prisoner of his own legend at this point.
John Galsworthy's sometimes ponderous but very interesting social drama "The Forsyte Saga" has been attempted as a TV-mini series since this production of a feature film, based on the earlier books of the series, was issued by MGM Studios' heads. The film they produced turned out to be an absolutely-gorgeous color offering, by anyone's standards, featuring costumes by Walter Plunkett and Valles, cinematography by talented Joseph Ruttenberg, and art direction by Daniel B. Cathcart and Cedric Gibbons. The interesting original music for the film was composed by Bronislau Kaper, and Edwin B. Willis produced lovely set decorations. The script for the piece was furnished by Jan Lustig, Ivan Tors and James B. Williams, drawing the events largely from "The Man of Property" by John Galsworthy. In the cast were lovely red- haired Greer Garson as Irene Forsyte, and Errol Flynn as Soames Forsyte, the eponymous new-money tycoon of the "The Man of property"s" original title. Walter Pigeon played young Jolyon Forsyte, whom the family has disowned for following an artistic career, among other complaints. Robert Young was architect Philip Bossinney and respected British actors played the delightfully and frighteningly stuffy Forsyte family including Halliwell Hobbes, Lumsden Hare, Aubrey Mather and more. Janet Leigh played young June Forsyte and Harry Davenport the elder Jolyon Forsyte. With all this talent, the film which is quite good could perhaps have been made even better. Compton Bennett's direction is angular, always interesting and more-than-competent at all points by my standards. The story-line, for those who have never seen it, involves a loveless marriage between Soames Forsyte, who regards his wife as an article of property and Irene, a 19th-century woman who has to marry, being without profession, who grows to despise his miserly nouveau riche pretensions, controlling behavior, and bullyings. She takes up with an excitingly-imaginative architect, who has been hired by Soames to build their new home. Finding out about their attachment, Soames uses his financial power against Bossinney, who grows distraught and then is killed in a street accident. Irene turns to the black-sheep of the family, who had married for love, the artist Jolyon, leaving Soames to confront the colossal failure of his pretensions. The classically-trained Garson and Pigeon are wonderful and memorable in their parts. Flynn tries hard, but lacks a bit of the vocal power he developed soon after this film as released; nevertheless he is more-than-adequate and intelligent in his role. The entire supporting cast ranges from very good to even better by my standards; but their parts seldom allow them to stand out for very long in this look at an entire social class. As a writer, I must suggest that the only loss of power in this strong film appears to stem from MGM's studio heads asking for a script that stressed Soames's emotional coldness; the strongest line of development appeared to have been to stress the tyranny aspect of Soames as versus the regard for individual dignity and rights-- regardless of the wealth owned by any man--on the part of Irene and Jolyon and the other ethical sorts in the work. The film has quite a bit to say about the misuses of power, I suggest; it depicts the imperial side of Britain and the postmodernist unethicals it spawned, folk who never noticed that they were acquisitive types who seemed to admire piracy more than honesty. "That Forsyte Woman" I find to be a very absorbing, beautiful and sobering cinematic production.
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