ANOTHER PART OF THE FOREST
US, 1948, 108 minutes, Black and white.
Fredric March, Florence Eldridge, Ann Blyth, Dan Duryea, Edmond O' Brien, John Dall.
Directed by Michael Gordon.
Another Part of the Forest is by Lillian Hellman. In the '30s she had great success with her story of the Hubbard family: The Little Foxes. It was filmed successfully by William Wyler with Bette Davis leading an excellent cast in 1941. She then wrote this play about the Hubbard family 20 years prior to the action of The Little Foxes. It lacks the immediacy of The Little Foxes but is a very interesting and engrossing (if unpleasant) melodrama in its own right.
The film was directed by Michael Gordon who at this time made such films as Cyrano de Bergerac. Fredric march, who had just won his second Oscar for The Best Years of Our Lives, gives an excellent performance as the patriarch Marcus Hubbard. He is well supported by the entire cast. Ann Blyth takes up the role of the younger Regina (Bette Davis in The Little Foxes). Edmond O' Brien has one of his best roles as the scheming Benjamin. Dan Duryea reappears from the earlier film and Florence Eldridge (March's wife) is his wife in this film. There is a very good brief performance by Betsy Blair as Birdie. The film is an absorbing melodrama of power struggles and manipulation and an ugly look at the American heritage.
1. The impact of the film as American melodrama, the portrait of a 19th century family, a family of the south? Lillian Hellman's critique of the American heritage, wealth, the bases of wealth, exploitation, power struggles and cruelty? Surface respectability and deep immorality?
2. The work of Lillian Hellman - her views on society? The impact of her drama and adaptation for the screen? Audience interest in The Little Foxes and the idea of this film explaining those characters?
3. The production values: the stars and the quality of their performances, the adaptation of a stage play for the screen, the retaining of speeches, the constriction to sets? The black and white photography and the use of interiors? The opening out of the play?
4. The suggestions of Greek tragedy ? Marcus' references to the classics, the echoing of Eugene O'Neill's use of classic Greek tragedy for explaining and dramatising American families and their evil? The basic themes of tragedy: fate, greed, guilt and punishment? The impact of the film, with audience expectations from The Little Foxes?
5. The brief time span of the action, heightening the characters and their drama? Persuasive? The opening on Confederate Day? The coincidence of Lavinia’s birthday? The opening ceremony, Lavinia's secret watching and the hints of what was to come? Hints of the betrayal and the massacre of the town? Marcus having his shop open on the day? Ben's return? Oscar unwelcome in the town? Regina and her rendezvous with John and putting pressure on him? The quick and effective introduction of the characters and the potential tensions? Themes of betrayal, southern pride, families and money, respectability?
6. The Hubbards and Marcus as the patriarch? His control of each member of his family? His sardonic attitudes and cruel way of speaking? His particular cruelty to Lavinia? His infatuation with Regina? His plans for the family, his being manipulated by them into counter-plans? His hostility towards the Bagtrys? The musical night and the hostility of his fellow pianists? Their later criticism of him? His preservation of Oscar's reputation after the lynching party’s attack on Taylor? Paying off opposition? The ignoring of Lavinia, the suspicions of Regina but her being able to wind him round her finger? His dismissal of Oscar? The fencing with Benjamin and underestimating him? Lavinia telling the truth and his being vulnerable? Abandoned by his children? The importance of the story of his betrayal of the town, the selling of the salt, his hard work, his being self-taught, his love of the classics? His exploitive building up of his family yet estrangement from them? An American symbolic character?
7. Lavinia and the opening of the film, her memories, suggestions of madness, the wreath on the memorial, her being taken home to dinner, her birthday and people not knowing it? Her family's ignoring and despising her? The prospect of Chicago and her being certified? Her love for Benjamin? Her seeing through Oscar and Regina? Her love for Marcus but knowing the truth about him? Her illness and refusal to go to Chicago? Her being manipulated by her breaking through this in telling the truth? Her being caught by the truth and not wanting Benjamin to be lynched? Her not liking her children and her decision to leave? Audience response to this assertion of freedom?
8. Ben and his return, audience sympathy for him, his resemblance to Marcus? The discussion about the opening of the shop? His contempt for Oscar? His manipulation of Oscar and Loretta? The loan to Birdie and his manipulating the Bagtrys? His hold over Regina? His hints, manipulating situations? His embezzlement of the $2000? His eagerness to unmask his father, his using his mother and her fears? His ability to sell ideas? and exploit victory? A manipulative man, an evil man? The nature of his victory and Oscar and Regina joining him?
9. Audience expectations of Regina from The Little Foxes? Regina at 20 and her wilfulness, beauty, wanting to escape from her father, her plans for John and his rejection of them? Her wanting to escape? Her walk with her father and persuading him to let her go to Chicago? The party and her manipulation of the Bagtrys? Her love of wealth, the dresses? Her contempt for her mother? Her persuasiveness with her father and getting out of his condemnations? Ben and his manipulating her? Her decision to leave her father and take sides with Ben? The potential for growing into the Regina of The Little Foxes?
10. Oscar and his weakness, unwelcome in the town, infatuation with Loretta? His father's instruction for him to harm Taylor? The Ku Klux Klan interlude and its viciousness? His participation? His father buying off the Colonel? His continued need for money? His allowing himself to be bullied? The manipulation of getting Loretta to the party and her embarrassing behaviour? His utter humiliation? His searching for the money in order to leave? His staying on with his brother? Weak evil?
11. The Bagtrys and their reputation as gentry, the drought and the lack of cotton market? John and his love for war? The attitudes of the south especially towards slavery? His going to Brazil? His inability to love Regina? Birdie and swallowing her pride, asking for the loan, going to the music evening? Her being humiliated and used by the Hubbards?
12. The background of the south and the losing of the war, the memory of the southern lifestyle? Southerners unwilling to accept the end of the war? Marcus and his exploitation of the war? The freedom of his servants? The hollow victory for northern and antislavery principles?
13. The atmosphere of the town, the hotel and the cancan dancers, the Ku Klux Klan, the possibility of lynching?
14. Themes of money, class, gentry, fortunes? Investment of money and manipulation of it? Guilty money?
15. The portrait of family ? as seen in the meal sequences, Marcus walking with Regina, the music night and its aftermath, the final breakfast?
16. The impact of the party and the music sequences? The clash and the telling of the truth? The contrast with the vitality of the hotel and the cancan dancing?
17. Themes of truth, manipulation, power? The moral purpose of this melodrama? The heightened melodramatics - but their truth and insight?