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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Video Beaverhausen: Buddy Beaverhausen and Bette Davis Go Beyond the Forest

"What a dump!" The line immortalized in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was a reference to this King Vidor-helmed camp classic. "Some goddamned Warner Brothers classic starring Bette Davis," Martha brayed.

Beyond the Forest was released in 1949 and was the last movie Ms Davis made in her long contract with Warner Bros. Hardly considered a classic -- or a box-office success -- in its day, it was embraced by its gay audience of the time who immediately picked up on the so-bad-it's-good quality of it all.

Released on VHS here in the USA, it has not been available on dvd. Luckily, a friend converted this for me from a Region 2 dvd (European and other markets outside the United States). The quality is excellent.

"I'm Rosa Moline, Rosa Moline, Rosa Moline!" Davis howls out her character's name at one point. Rosa is unhappily married to Louis Moline, a small town doctor (Joseph Cotton). Bette has admitted the contempt she displayed in this movie was how she felt at the time about her studio. She begged Warner Bros. not to put her in the black fright wig and tight dresses they insisted on and that we see in the film. David Brian and Ruth Roman co-star.

The scheming, slatternly, two-timing, egomaniacal and, ultimately, murderous Rosa is like a Baby Jane Hudson in training. Bette Davis was criticized after the film's release for having turned into a parody of herself. Indeed, the actress pulls out all the stops and all the mannerisms, camping it up with the scorn she felt toward her studio. Rosa's interactions with struggling alcoholic Moose Lawson (Minor Watson) and her Native American maid, Jenny (Donna Drake), are sidesplittingly hilarious.

Jenny: Mrs. Moline, let's not start calling each other names. I got some fancy ones saved up just achin' to be used. 
Rosa: You get out of this house! No red Indian is gonna talk to me like that in my own house!

Moose: You're somethin' for the birds, Rosa, somethin' for the birds. 
Rosa: And you're somethin' that makes the corn grow tall!

When Rosa walks through the town, a neighboring woman says to her friend, "A small town like this must be hard on a woman like Rosa." Says the friend: "Ha! She's hard on the town!"

If the square dance sequence looks messy, it's because Davis refused to return to the set for any further re-shooting. Her next film would be All About Eve. The tagline for Beyond the Forest was "Nobody's as good as Bette when she's Bad!" And she is bad in more than one sense of the word. And that, it turns out, is so good.

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