The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934)

109-111 mins | Biography | 21 September 1934

Director:

Sidney Franklin

Producer:

Irving G. Thalberg

Cinematographer:

William Daniels

Editor:

Margaret Booth

Production Designer:

Cedric Gibbons

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Full page view
HISTORY

Rudolf Besier's play had its initial performance at the Malvern Festival in England on 20 Aug 1930. The title on the viewed print was A Forbidden Alliance , presumably a television title created to avoid confusion with M-G-M's 1957 remake of Besier's play. According to modern biographical sources, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose father, Edward Moulton, took the name Barrett after he acquired a Jamaican estate, suffered a spinal injury at the age of fifteen that left her a semi-invalid for many years. As portrayed in the film, Barrett married Robert Browning in 1846 and lived most of her remaining years in Italy.
       A 1932 HR news item announced that Marion Davies was to star in the picture. M-G-M borrowed Charles Laughton from Paramount for the production. According to a production news item in HR , the studio tested over one hundred actors in an effort to find six who looked sufficiently alike to be cast as Elizabeth's brothers. A pre-production HR news item announced that M-G-M was borrowing Mona Barrie from Fox for a part in the film, but that actress did not appear in the final film.
       The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture but lost to It Happened One Night . Norma Shearer was nominated as Best Actress but lost to Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night . FD 's "Poll of Critics" voted the film as one the ten best pictures of 1934. Modern sources add George Kirby ( Coachman ), Robert Bolder ( Old man ) and Margaret Seddon to the cast. Besier's play ... More Less

Rudolf Besier's play had its initial performance at the Malvern Festival in England on 20 Aug 1930. The title on the viewed print was A Forbidden Alliance , presumably a television title created to avoid confusion with M-G-M's 1957 remake of Besier's play. According to modern biographical sources, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose father, Edward Moulton, took the name Barrett after he acquired a Jamaican estate, suffered a spinal injury at the age of fifteen that left her a semi-invalid for many years. As portrayed in the film, Barrett married Robert Browning in 1846 and lived most of her remaining years in Italy.
       A 1932 HR news item announced that Marion Davies was to star in the picture. M-G-M borrowed Charles Laughton from Paramount for the production. According to a production news item in HR , the studio tested over one hundred actors in an effort to find six who looked sufficiently alike to be cast as Elizabeth's brothers. A pre-production HR news item announced that M-G-M was borrowing Mona Barrie from Fox for a part in the film, but that actress did not appear in the final film.
       The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture but lost to It Happened One Night . Norma Shearer was nominated as Best Actress but lost to Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night . FD 's "Poll of Critics" voted the film as one the ten best pictures of 1934. Modern sources add George Kirby ( Coachman ), Robert Bolder ( Old man ) and Margaret Seddon to the cast. Besier's play has been adapted several times: On 9 Sep 1946, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a version starring Loretta Young and Brian Aherne, in his original stage role; on 5 Dec 1950, the CBS television network broadcast a version on its Prudential Playhouse , which was produced and directed by Donald Davis and starred Helen Hayes and Robert Pastene; the ABC television network broadcast a version for Kraft Theatre on 22 Oct 1953, which starred Valerie Cossart and Alexander Scourby and was produced and directed by Fielder Cook; on 8 Jun 1955, CBS broadcast another version, directed by James Sheldon and starring Geraldine Fitzgerald and Robert Douglas; the NBC television network broadcast its version, which was adapted by Besier and directed by Vincent Donehume and starred Katharine Cornell and Anthony Quayle, on 2 Apr 1956; and in 1957, M-G-M released its second version, which also was directed by Sidney Franklin and starred Jennifer Jones, Bill Travers and John Gielgud. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
22 Mar 34
p. 2.
Daily Variety
13 Jul 34
p. 3.
Film Daily
8 Sep 34
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 32
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 34
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Mar 34
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 34
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 34
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jul 34
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 34
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
14 Jul 34
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald
4 Aug 34
pp. 30-32.
MPSI
1 Feb 35
p. 26.
New York Times
29 Sep 34
p. 12.
Variety
2 Oct 34
p. 37.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
2d cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dresser
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
Rec dir
Mixer
PRODUCTION MISC
Stageman
Still photog
Press agent
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street by Rudolf Besier (London, 23 Sep 1930).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 September 1934
Premiere Information:
Pittsburgh premiere: 14 September 1934
Production Date:
23 March--late June 1934
Copyright Claimant:
Metro Goldwyn Mayer Corp.
Copyright Date:
28 August 1934
Copyright Number:
LP4940
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
109-111
Length(in reels):
11
Country:
United States
PCA No:
146
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In London of 1845, renowned poet Elizabeth Browning lives quietly as an invalid with her tyranical, pious father Edward and her six younger brothers and two younger sisters, Henrietta and Anabel. Although nearly forty years old, Elizabeth is so dominated by her widowed businessman father that she is unable to refuse even his most trivial command. By denying them parental approval to court men, Edward, who believes that romantic love is a sin, also controls Henrietta and Anabel, and only allows Elizabeth to correspond with fellow poet Robert Browning because he believes the relationship is strictly professional. When Robert finally visits the bedridden Elizabeth, however, he reveals that, through her letters and poetry, he has fallen in love with her. Elizabeth tries to dismiss Robert's proclamations, but he is adamant and declares his intention to see her often. Three months later, Elizabeth's physical condition, which previously had been diagnosed as terminal, improves so greatly that her doctors recommend that she spend the winter in Italy. Buoyed by the news, Elizabeth descends the house stairs by herself and thrills Robert with her love-induced rejuvenation. After Robert announces that he, too, is going to Italy, Edward arrives and, soundly chastizing Elizabeth for over-extending herself, instantly deflates his daughter's resolve. Edward then refuses to grant Elizabeth permission to go to Italy and calls her selfish and ungrateful for suggesting the separation. Although Elizabeth briefly defends her right to live and be happy, she once again gives in to Edward and tells Robert the trip to Italy is cancelled. Determined to free Elizabeth from her father, Robert forcefully proposes to her, but while admitting her love, Elizabeth maintains that ... +


In London of 1845, renowned poet Elizabeth Browning lives quietly as an invalid with her tyranical, pious father Edward and her six younger brothers and two younger sisters, Henrietta and Anabel. Although nearly forty years old, Elizabeth is so dominated by her widowed businessman father that she is unable to refuse even his most trivial command. By denying them parental approval to court men, Edward, who believes that romantic love is a sin, also controls Henrietta and Anabel, and only allows Elizabeth to correspond with fellow poet Robert Browning because he believes the relationship is strictly professional. When Robert finally visits the bedridden Elizabeth, however, he reveals that, through her letters and poetry, he has fallen in love with her. Elizabeth tries to dismiss Robert's proclamations, but he is adamant and declares his intention to see her often. Three months later, Elizabeth's physical condition, which previously had been diagnosed as terminal, improves so greatly that her doctors recommend that she spend the winter in Italy. Buoyed by the news, Elizabeth descends the house stairs by herself and thrills Robert with her love-induced rejuvenation. After Robert announces that he, too, is going to Italy, Edward arrives and, soundly chastizing Elizabeth for over-extending herself, instantly deflates his daughter's resolve. Edward then refuses to grant Elizabeth permission to go to Italy and calls her selfish and ungrateful for suggesting the separation. Although Elizabeth briefly defends her right to live and be happy, she once again gives in to Edward and tells Robert the trip to Italy is cancelled. Determined to free Elizabeth from her father, Robert forcefully proposes to her, but while admitting her love, Elizabeth maintains that she is too ill to marry. Later, however, Elizabeth learns that Edward, who has been apprised of Robert's true feelings, is buying a house in Surrey in order to separate her from the poet. Sobered by the seriousness of Edward's actions, Elizabeth promises Robert that she will give him a decision regarding their marriage before her father returns from Surrey. To the surprise of Elizabeth and Henrietta, who has been been courting Captain Surtees Cook in secret, Edward returns home early and catches his daughters entertaining the officer. Outraged by Henrietta's confession of love, Edward demands that, unless she swears on a Bible that she will not see Cook again, he will disown her. Henrietta reluctantly makes the vow, after which Elizabeth condemns her father and, through her maid Wilson, sends a letter to Robert in which she accepts his proposal. Overjoyed, Robert tells Wilson that Elizabeth and he are eloping to Italy that night. Elizabeth is terrified by the immediacy of Robert's plan and at first balks, but when Edward clearly reveals the unnatural, clinging nature of his love for her, she regains her courage and prepares to leave. After Elizabeth sneaks away with Wilson, Henrietta, who has vowed to break her pledge regarding Cook, informs her father of her departure. Stunned by his loss, Edward vindictively orders one of his sons to destroy Elizabeth's dog, but is told that the animal is safe with his mistress. While Edward fumes at his defeat, Elizabeth weds Robert. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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