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The Barretts of Wimpole Street

The Barretts of Wimpole Street(1934)


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Rudolf Besier's play had its initial performance at the Malvern Festival in England on August 20, 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 Hollywood Reporter 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 Hollywood Reporter, 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 Hollywood Reporter 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. Film Daily'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 September 9, 1946, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a version starring Loretta Young and Brian Aherne, in his original stage role; on December 5, 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 October 22, 1953, which starred Valerie Cossart and Alexander Scourby and was produced and directed by Fielder Cook; on June 8, 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 April 2, 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.