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So I had thought too.
But it does matter.
Some more experiments showed that Class.forName fails on code containing a var decl using an unresolvable class in a try block if that code was compiled with Java 1.4 or Java 5. It does not fail when the code is compiled with J6 or 7. Must have something to do with the bytecode definition. Have tried only with Sun/Oracle Java compilers/VMs and Eclipse's built in JDT compiler/generator.