|Janet Leigh, Robert Young, Errol Flynn, Greer Garson|
MGM's That Forsyte Woman was an ambitious project, seeking to somehow condense about four long novels into the length of one standard movie -- in 1949, no one had thought of ultralong blockbusters like Dances With Wolves. The part of the story Hollywood chose to include is basically a love -- well, not a triangle, a pentangle! -- a love situation between Soames Forsyte, a very successful businessman and art collector, the beautiful and unconventional woman he loves and is set on marrying, Irene (Greer Garson), his black-sheep artist cousin, Jolyon Forsyte (Walter Pidgeon); a young and talented architect, Philip Bosinney (Robert Young), and Jolyon's daughter, June (Janet Leigh), who was brought up by her grandfather after he was banished to France in disgrace.
|Tea on the set|
I'm sure he was familiar with the original books. Flynn was an auto-didact. He escaped higher education (well, he was expelled, but he didn't really mind at that point) and made for a life of adventure at the age of sixteen. A few years later, however, he had some regrets, and wrote his professor father (with whom he always remained close) a lively and charming letter describing his course of self education (*see note at the end). He was a very bright guy, and one thing he dedicated himself to was reading -- and he read every classic play and every classic novel in the British canon, Dickens, the Brontes, George Eliot, Trollope -- I'm sure he wouldn't have neglected Galsworthy.
|Irene and Soames|
Although he is remembered as the ultimate swashbuckler (because let's face it, he was a swashbuckler!), he actually made a strong effort to play a variety of roles in a variety of types of film, from westerns to mysteries to some of the best war films Hollywood turned out. Despite his efforts, by the time MGM decided to produce John Galsworthy's saga, or at least a fraction of it, Errol Flynn was still thought of as an action hero, and he had to work to get the part.
|Irene and Soames|
Soames reacts with rage and pain, and Irene flees the house, ending up at Bosinney's studio, where she finds Jolyon, the artist, whom she has met before and found a sympathetic friend. But, shockingly, Bosinney is killed in an accident on the way to see Soames; Soames and Jolyon witness this event. Both Irene and June are devastated by this. Irene flees to France, with Jolyon's help, and refuses to see Soames again.
|Garson looked gorgeous in the period costumes|
In the books, of course, the story goes on to another generation, and Soames does indeed find somebody to love unconditionally -- his daughter by a later marriage. But this film ends with the end of his relationship with Irene, when they meet by chance in a Parisian art gallery, and he walks off alone, stiff, proud, and still slightly resentful.
|Soames alone at the end|
*NOTE: Many of Errol Flynn's letters to his father, Professor T.T. Flynn, are quoted in the wonderful biography Errol Flynn: The Life and Career, by Thomas McNulty, which I cannot recommend too highly. It is available as an ebook for google books and kindle. Prof. Flynn was and is a highly regarded scientist and innovator, whose studies of what we now call the ecology of Australia and Tasmania were groundbreaking.