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For its remake of The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957), starring Jennifer Jones and John Gielgud as Elizabeth Barrett and Edward Moulton-Barrett, MGM went all out to top its classic 1934 version, in which Norma Shearer and Charles Laughton played the embattled daughter and father. Both films were based on the play by Rudolph Besier. Producer Sam Zimbalist determined that, for added authenticity, the remake would be filmed out of MGM's British studios, peopling the cast with fine English actors and using actual locations whenever possible. The film attracted a flurry of publicity in London. Jones dedicated a plaque at 50 Wimpole Street (although the original Barrett residence no longer existed), and a figure of the actress as Barrett was unveiled at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.
Bill Travers was cast as Elizabeth's romantic suitor, Robert Browning - the role taken by Fredric March in the earlier film. Virginia McKenna, Travers' real-life wife, had a supporting role. The director of the original, Sidney Franklin, now 63, was called in for a repeat performance. For Jones, playing the role of Barrett on film was the realization of a long-standing dream from her days as a drama student, when she had persuaded husband-to-be Robert Walker to play Robert Browning to her Elizabeth in a scene from Besier's play for their audition for readmission to a dramatic academy. (Her idea worked, and both were invited back.)
Jones' most glowing review for her film version of The Barretts of Wimpole Street came from The Hollywood Reporter: "The performance must be muted through much of the story, and the character can be shown only gradually emerging from the icy chrysalis her illness and her father have put her in. Finally she must show without shocking us too much - that she realizes her father's protective love... is potentially incestuous and her only hope is to risk her life and flee with the man she loves. Miss Jones does all this with great warmth and skill. Her supreme achievement is the conviction that she is a person capable of having conceived Elizabeth Barrett's piercing sonnets."
Producer: Sam Zimbalist
Director: Sidney Franklin
Screenplay: John Dighton, from play by Rudolph Besier
Art Direction: Alfred Junge
Cinematography: Freddie Young
Costume Design: Elizabeth Haffenden
Editing: Frank Clark
Original Music: Bronislau Kaper
Cast: Jennifer Jones (Elizabeth Barrett), John Gielgud (Edward Moulton-Barrett), Bill Travers (Robert Browning), Virginia McKenna (Henrietta), Susan Stephen (Bella), Vernon Gray (Captain Surtees Cook).
C-106m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe