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Encyclopedia > The Barretts of Wimpole Street
The Barretts of Wimpole Street

original movie poster
Directed by Sidney Franklin
Produced by Irving Thalberg
Starring Norma Shearer
Fredric March
Charles Laughton
Music by Herbert Stothart
Cinematography William H. Daniels
Editing by Margaret Booth
Release date(s) 1934
Running time 110 minutes
Country Flag of the United States United States
Language English
IMDb profile

The Barretts of Wimpole Street is a 1934 film depicting the real-life romance between poets Elizabeth Barrett (Norma Shearer) and Robert Browning (Fredric March), despite the opposition of her father Edward Moulton-Barrett (Charles Laughton). The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was written by Ernest Vajda, Claudine West and Donald Ogden Stewart, from the play by Rudolph Besier. The film was directed by Sidney Franklin. Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Sidney Franklin, (21 March 1893, San Francisco, USA - 18 May 1972, Santa Monica, USA), was an American film director and producer. ... Irving Grant Thalberg (May 30, 1899 – September 14, 1936) was an American film producer during the early years of motion pictures. ... Edith Norma Shearer (August 10, 1902 (some sources indicate 1900) – June 12, 1983) was an Academy Award-winning Canadian-American actress. ... Fredric March (August 31, 1897 – April 14, 1975) was a two-time Academy Award-winning American actor. ... Charles Laughton (1 July 1899 – 15 December 1962) was an English stage and film actor. ... Herbert Stothart (11 September 1885 - 1 February 1949) was a composer, born of Scottish and Bavarian descent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. ... William H. Daniels (December 1, 1901 - June 14, 1970) was a film cinematographer best known as Greta Garbos personal lensman. ... Margaret Booth (January 16, 1898 - October 28, 2002) was a film editor. ... See also: 1933 in film 1934 1935 in film 1930s in film years in film film // Events January 26 - Samuel Goldwyn (of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) finally purchased the film rights to The Wizard of Oz from Frank J. Baum for $40,000. ... Image File history File links This is a lossless scalable vector image. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... See also: 1933 in film 1934 1935 in film 1930s in film years in film film // Events January 26 - Samuel Goldwyn (of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) finally purchased the film rights to The Wizard of Oz from Frank J. Baum for $40,000. ... Elizabeth Barrett Browning (March 6, 1806 – June 29, 1861) was one of the most respected poets of the Victorian era. ... Edith Norma Shearer (August 10, 1902 (some sources indicate 1900) – June 12, 1983) was an Academy Award-winning Canadian-American actress. ... Robert Browning (May 7, 1812 – December 12, 1889) was a British poet and playwright whose mastery of dramatic verse, especially dramatic monologues, made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. ... Fredric March (August 31, 1897 – April 14, 1975) was a two-time Academy Award-winning American actor. ... Charles Laughton (1 July 1899 – 15 December 1962) was an English stage and film actor. ... // The Academy Award for Best Motion Picture is one of the Academy Awards, awards given to people working in the motion picture industry by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which are voted on by others within the industry. ... Ernest Vajda was a Hungarian actor, playwright and novelist. ... Donald Ogden Stewart (1894-1980) an American author and screenwriter, member of the Algonquin Round Table. ... Sidney Franklin, (born Sidney Frumkin, 1903-1976), was the first American to become a successful bullfighter. ...


In 1957, Sidney Franklin filmed a word-for-word, and nearly shot-for-shot Metrocolor remake, of The Barretts of Wimpole Street, in Cinemascope. This version starred Jennifer Jones as Elizabeth, John Gielgud as her father, Bill Travers as Robert Browning, and Keith Baxter in his film debut. While the 1934 version was a huge success, the 1957 one was not, although Gielgud's performance is thought by some to be among his best. Year 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link displays the 1957 Gregorian calendar). ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... In film, a remake is a newer version of a previously released film or a newer version of the source (play, novel, story, etc. ... A Fox logo used to promote the CinemaScope process. ... Jennifer Jones (born as Phylis Lee Isley on March 2, 1919) is an Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning American actress. ... Sir Arthur John Gielgud, OM, CH (14 April 1904 – 21 May 2000), known as Sir John Gielgud, was an English theatre and film actor. ... William Lindon-Travers (January 3, 1922 – March 29, 1994) was a British actor, screenwriter, director and an animal rights activist. ... With Orson Welles (left) in the film Chimes at Midnight Keith Baxter (born April 29, 1933) is a Welsh theatre, film, and television actor. ...


Both of these films were released by MGM. MGM logo Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM, is a large media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of cinema and television programs. ...


Summary

The story takes place for the most part within the lavish home of Edward Barrett (Charles Laughton) and his many grown children. Upstairs, Elizabeth (Norma Shearer), the oldest girl, consults with her doctor. She is recovering from an undisclosed illness and is extremely weak, but the doctor says it is possible for her to make a full recovery. She has great difficulty standing and walking, but he urges her to try. Charles Laughton (1 July 1899 – 15 December 1962) was an English stage and film actor. ... Edith Norma Shearer (August 10, 1902 (some sources indicate 1900) – June 12, 1983) was an Academy Award-winning Canadian-American actress. ...


Her mind is quite lively; she writes and publishes poetry, has a cute cocker spaniel named Flush, and she likes being entertained by her siblings, especially her youngest sister, Henrietta. However, Edward is greatly displeased by the goings-on in "Ba"'s room. He wastes no opportunity to remind Elizabeth that she is very ill and perhaps dying. He seems determined to keep her confined, and not to allow her to recover fully, to the point of countermanding her doctor's orders. When she reports that a prescription for porter (beer) makes her feel worse, the doctor takes her off it and puts her on hot milk instead, but Edward forces her to continue drinking porter in a spirit of obedience to his will. His tyranny over the boys is portrayed in less detail, but it is clear that they as well as the girls are terrified of him. Porter is a beer with a dark colour. ...


Meanwhile, Henrietta is interested in marrying one of the brothers' friends, Surtees Cook, who has a promising career in the military. But she tells him it is impossible. An incredibly possessive father, Barrett has forbidden any of his children -- even the six boys -- to marry.


Robert Browning (Fredric March) arrives in a snowstorm, and immediately sweeps Ba off her feet. He says he's read her published poems and is in love with her already. He dismisses the idea that she is dying and tells her she must live. When he leaves her room, she rises from her settee for the first time and drags herself to the window so she can see him as he departs. Fredric March (August 31, 1897 – April 14, 1975) was a two-time Academy Award-winning American actor. ...


Months pass; Ba is able to walk slowly and to go downstairs to see Robert. Edward warns her not to overdo it and tells her it's just a temporary recovery. The doctors prescribe a trip to Italy for the winter. Edward is considering it, when chatty Cousin Bella spills the beans that Ba's relationship with Robert isn't just the meeting of two poetic intellects. Edward immediately vetoes the trip and leaves the house, saying he's got another idea that may help her get the fresh air and sunshine she wants without having to leave the country. While he's gone, Robert and Ba meet in Kensington Gardens. He assures her that he himself will take her to Italy and that she should be ready by the end of the month. She says she'll think about it and let him know.


Edward's plan turns out to be a scheme to get Ba out of London, away from friends and activity, all for the good of her health, of course. He writes to her, bidding her tell her siblings that he's about to sell the house and move them all out to Surrey, six miles from the nearest railway station. Ba relays the message but doesn't tell Henrietta, who is now firmly committed to Surtees.


Edward returns unexpectedly and catches Henrietta and Surtees showing off his dress uniform for Ba in her room. Brutally grasping her wrists, he forces Henrietta to confess that she and Surtees have been seeing each other. Denouncing her as a whore, he makes her swear on the Bible never to see Surtees again and to lock herself in her room until he allows her freedom. Ba witnesses all of this. When Edward starts in on her for aiding and abetting the relationship, she tells him the truth about how she feels -- that far from obeying him out of love, she hates him. He leaves the room saying she can send for him when she has repented of her sins.


Ba conspires with her maid Wilson to let Robert know she will elope with him. Henrietta, when set free, runs to Ba and exclaims that she will break her Bible oath, lie to her father if necessary, and run away with Surtees if she must.


Edward enters and dismisses everyone to speak to Ba alone. He opens up to her and confesses his real feelings and the motivation for his "dragon" behavior. Edward apparently thinks of himself as having a sex addiction, and although the language in this scene is extremely euphemistic, we can gather that he tyrannized his wife as well, and that some of the children may actually have been conceived through marital rape. Edward now suppresses all his desires, equating all sex with sin, and he wants his children never to fall prey to carnal passion. As he goes into detail about how he wants Ba all to himself, to have her confide in him all her thoughts and feelings, he embraces her and actually comes close to making a sexual pass. Horrified, Ba repulses him, and cries out that he must leave her. He apologizes and leaves, saying he'll pray for her. Sex Addiction is a state in which a person has a compulsive physiological and psychological need for habitual sexual activity. ...


Ba summons Wilson, puts on her cloak and hat, takes her little dog Flush and departs. As the two sneak down the stairs, we hear Edward saying grace over dinner. A few moments later, we hear the hysterical laughter of Ba's sister Arabel. The boys rush upstairs, followed by Henrietta, to find that Ba has left one letter for each of the siblings and Edward. Edward reads his letter and staggers to the window. As if drunk, he mutters "I'll have her dog," and bids his son Octavius take Flush to the vet and have her destroyed. Octavius cries out that it is unjust, and Henrietta triumphantly drives the final blow; "In her letter to me Ba writes that she has taken Flush with her..." The film closes with a brief scene of Elizabeth's and Robert's marriage, with Flush waiting patiently by the church door.


Trivia

  • Edward's explanation of his life and the reason he won't let his children marry or have relationships is a dead ringer for Margaret White's in Carrie.
  • The stage play made Edward's incestuous designs on Ba much more explicit, but Laughton said he felt he'd been able to make it quite clear just what Edward was thinking.

Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... Carrie is a 1976 American horror film directed by Brian De Palma based on the novel by Stephen King, with a screenplay written by Lawrence D. Cohen. ...

External links

  • Biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • Irreverent look at Elizabeth's life

 
 

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