The Barretts of Wimpole Street


1h 45m 1957
The Barretts of Wimpole Street

Brief Synopsis

Poet Elizabeth Barrett defies her tyrannical father for the love of Robert Browning.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Biography
Adaptation
Release Date
Feb 1, 1957
Premiere Information
New York opening: 17 Jan 1957
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Elstree,Great Britain England
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street by Rudolf Besier (London, 23 Sep 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System) (magnetic prints), Mono (optical prints)
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
9,444ft

Synopsis

In 1840s London, tyrannical widower Edward Barrett dominates the lives of his nine adult children, forbidding them to court or marry. The eldest daughter and Barrett's favorite, Elizabeth, is an aspiring poet who has been bedridden from a lingering case of rheumatic fever. Waited on by her maid Wilson, Elizabeth has been isolated with her devoted dog Flush in an upstairs room in the family's home on Wimpole Street for several years. Despite her weakness, Elizabeth draws encouragement from fellow poet Robert Browning, with whom she has been corresponding for some time. One winter evening, when Elizabeth's brother George defends Elizabeth's right to refuse the porter, a strong alcoholic beverage Barrett has prescribed, Barrett threatens to force his son out of the house and the family business if he questions his father's authority. After ordering the others out, Barrett's anger grows, weakening Elizabeth's resolve. As she drinks the porter, Barrett seems to relish in his daughter's physical decline and mental submission. The next day, Elizabeth's sister Henrietta secretly meets with Captain Surtees Cook, a guardsman seeking her affections. Surtees is intent on asking Barrett for Henrietta's hand in marriage, but Henrietta refuses, knowing her father's reply. Later that day, Henrietta is asked by her cousin Bella to be a bridesmaid in Bella's wedding. Their father's interest in Bella's flirtatious behavior and his consent to allow Henrietta to attend the ceremony surprises the Barrett siblings. Henrietta is distraught that she will not have her own wedding and confesses her love for Surtees to Elizabeth. Elizabeth tries to comfort Henrietta by explaining how she has overcome her confinement through reading Robert's letters, despite having never met him. At that moment, Robert arrives at the house seeking to finally meet Elizabeth. Blushing with excitement, Elizabeth receives the visitor in her room. Robert rushes to her side, asserting that he already knows her from the vivid descriptions in her verse. After sharing their admiration for each other's work, Elizabeth discusses her terminal prognosis, but Robert insists that Elizabeth's ailment is a "fear of life" and professes his love for her. When Elizabeth forbids him to speak of love if they are to continue their friendship, Robert agrees to her terms but insists on continuing his visits. After Robert leaves the house, Elizabeth manages to pull herself across the room to catch a glimpse of him through the window. By the following Spring, inspired by Robert's affections, Elizabeth fully recovers her ability to walk. After her doctors advise her to spend the following winter in Italy, Elizabeth insists on walking downstairs to share the news with Robert, who is waiting in the parlor. Robert is overjoyed by her improvement and makes plans to winter in Italy as well. As Elizabeth attempts to return upstairs, however, Barrett insists she is overestimating her strength and continues to taunt her until she faints. After carrying her to her room, Barrett forbids Elizabeth to go to Italy, calling her selfish for suggesting the separation from him. Later in the Fall, during one of his visits to the house, Robert argues that Elizabeth's conception of fatherly devotion is actually venegeful oppression. He begs Elizabeth to marry him and leave Barrett. When she refuses, claiming there is no future with her, Robert declares that he is happy to spend his life trying to "attain the richest prize a man was ever offered." One evening during Barrett's absence, when the siblings join Elizabeth at the piano to sing a family favorite, they receive a note from Barrett informing them that they will all be moving to a new country home to avoid any more reckless and morally reprehensible behavior. Elizabeth meets with Robert later and confides that her father is threatened by of her recovery. When Robert suggests that they elope to Italy, Elizabeth is overwhelmed by the proposal. She believes her illness will be a burden to their future, but Robert is ready to risk everything for her happiness. That evening, after Elizabeth optimistically advises Henrietta and Surtees to continue with their plans for marriage, Barrett unexpectedly arrives home and orders Surtees to leave. Barrett accuses Henrietta of indiscretions with the guardsman and twists her arm until she admits that she loves him. He then forces Henrietta to swear on her mother's bible that she will never see Surtees again. As Henrietta leaves the room, Elizabeth reminds her of the earlier advice, prompting Barrett to question Elizabeth about it. Elizabeth tells Barrett that one must "fight for one's happiness." Within days, Robert and Elizabeth confirm their plans to elope. Soon after, Barrett corners Elizabeth alone in her room and chastises her for directing her attentions to someone other than him. As his wrath escalates, he pulls Elizabeth into an amorous embrace, causing Elizabeth to finally understand that his horrific behavior is unnatural. Resolved to leave that evening in order to save herself, Elizabeth flees the house with Wilson while the family dines. The family finds a note left by Elizabeth explaining her plans. When Barrett orders the children to destroy Flush in retaliation, they discover that the dog is safe with his mistress. Elizabeth and Robert marry that evening and move to Italy to enjoy their love.

Photo Collections

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957) - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for MGM's The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957), starring Jennifer Jones and John Gielgud. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Biography
Adaptation
Release Date
Feb 1, 1957
Premiere Information
New York opening: 17 Jan 1957
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Elstree,Great Britain England
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street by Rudolf Besier (London, 23 Sep 1930).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System) (magnetic prints), Mono (optical prints)
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1
Film Length
9,444ft

Articles

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957) - The Barretts of Wimpole Street


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 Ð 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
The Barretts Of Wimpole Street (1957) - The Barretts Of Wimpole Street

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957) - The Barretts of Wimpole Street

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 Ð 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

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The film opens and closes with voice-over narration of an excerpt from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese as spoken by Jennifer Jones. Throughout the film, voice-over narration of excerpts from both Elizabeth Barrett Browning's and Robert Browning's poetry are read. According to modern biographical sources, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), 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 fellow poet Robert Browning in 1846 and lived most of her remaining years in Italy.
       According to a March 14, 1955 Daily Variety article, Grace Kelly was originally considered for the lead role, but was on suspension at M-G-M and was replaced by Jennifer Jones. As noted in a January 8, 1957 Motion Picture Daily article, the entire cast was British, except for Jones. Co-stars Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna were married in 1957. The spaniel named "Flush," which was based on the poet's actual dog of the same name, had a comedic role in the film as the antidote to her father's tyranny. For information on remakes of the original play, see the entry for The Barretts of Wimpole Street produced in 1934 by M-G-M in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-1940. The 1934 film was also directed by Sidney Franklin.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States February 1957

Released in United States Winter February 1957

c Metrocolor

CinemaScope

Released in United States February 1957

Released in United States Winter February 1957