The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957 film)
|The Barretts of Wimpole Street|
|Directed by||Sidney Franklin|
|Produced by||Sam Zimbalist|
|Written by||Rudolf Besier (play)
John Dighton (screenplay)
|Music by||Bronisław Kaper|
|Edited by||Frank Clarke|
|Release dates||16 January 1957|
|Running time||105 minutes|
The Barretts of Wimpole Street is a 1957 film originating from the United Kingdom, and was a re-make of the earlier 1934 version by the same director, Sidney Franklin. Both films are based on the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street by Rudolf Besier. The screenplay for the 1957 film is credited to John Dighton, although Franklin used exactly the same script for the second movie as he did for the first. The film, set in the early 19th century, stars Jennifer Jones, John Gielgud, and Bill Travers.
Elizabeth Barrett (Jennifer Jones) is the disabled grown-up daughter of Edward Moulton-Barrett (John Gielgud) of Wimpole Street, and has an intense interest in poetry. However, she lives under the obsessive rule of her father, and this severely limits her ability to develop her love of rhyme amongst her peers. Edward in fact shows clear incestuous tendencies towards her, and discourages close contact with any males. When the poet Robert Browning (Bill Travers) enters her life, though, matters are brought to a head, through the intervention of Browning. Edward finds that his control over Elizabeth, and her younger sister Henrietta (Virginia McKenna), is far from complete.
To lend the whole project an air of authenticity, producer Sam Zimbalist moved filming from the 1934 location in the USA to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England, using only "fine English actors" with the exception of American actress Jennifer Jones, and as many correct locations as possible, including St Marylebone Parish Church in London. Bill Travers (Browning) and Virginia McKenna (Henrietta), though cast to play future in-laws in the film, were actually husband and wife in real life.
Relationship to the real story of the Brownings' courtship
Although most of the names of the individuals involved are correct in the play and films, by definition motivations of individuals cannot be known. The numerous love letters that Robert and Elizabeth exchanged before their marriage, however, can give readers a great deal of information about this famous courtship in their own words. The correspondence was well underway before they ever met in person, he having admired the collection Poems that she published in 1844. He opens his first letter to her, 'I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,' and a little later in that first letter he says 'I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart--and I love you too' (January 10, 1845).
Several editions of these letters have been published, starting with one by their son in 1898. Flush by Virginia Woolf, a version of the courtship from the perspective of Elizabeth's dog, is also an imaginative reconstruction, though more closely based on reading the letters. Both the play and film reflect popular concerns at the time, particularly Freudian analysis. Although Edward Barrett's behaviour in disinheriting the children who married seems bizarre, there is no evidence of his being sexually aggressive toward any family members.
The film was an expensive financial failure. According to MGM records it earned $330,000 in the US and Canada and $725,000 in other countries, resulting in a loss of $1,897,000.
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- Film synopsis and details: New York Times website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
- Same script: IMDB.com website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
- MGM studios, Borehamwood, circa 1938: Francis Frith website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
- Marylebone Church, London, used as film location: IMDB.com website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
- Production details: from an article at the TCM website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
- Technical specifications: IMDB.com website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
- Other technical info: IMDB.com website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
- Kelley, Philip, et al., eds., The Brownings' Correspondence. Wedgestone Press, 1992. Vol. 10, pg. 17
- The Courtship of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, Daniel Karlin. Oxford University Press, 1987. Pgs. 1 and 3.