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Robert Z. Leonard
Rod La Rocque,
In 1845 London, the Barrett family is ruled with an iron fist by its stern widowed patriarch, Edward Moulton-Barrett. His nine grown children are afraid of him more than they love him. One of his rules is that none of his children are allowed to marry, which does not sit well with youngest daughter Henrietta as she loves and wants to marry Captain Surtees Cook. Of the nine, the one exception is his daughter Elizabeth, who abides faithfully to her father's wishes. Elizabeth does not think too much about the non-marriage rule as she has an unknown chronic illness which has kept her bedridden. She feels her life will not be a long one. With her time, she writes poetry, which she shares by correspondence with another young poet, Robert Browning. Elizabeth's outlook on her life changes when she meets Mr. Browning for the first time, he who has fallen in love with her without even having met her. She, in return, falls in love with him after their meeting. With Mr. Browning's love and ... Written by
Concerned about the public's reaction, the disturbing subplot about Father Barrett's incestuous designs on his daughter was toned down by the studio. However, Charles Laughton famously remarked that they couldn't censor the "gleam" in his eye. See more »
When the Barrett children are gathered around the piano listening to Elizabeth sing, one of the sons can be caught looking directly into the camera lens, and then trying to divert his look. See more »
I shall never in any way reproach you. You shall never know by deed or word or hint of mine how much you have grieved and wounded your father by refusing to do the little thing he asked.
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"The Baretts of Wimpole Street" released in 1934, has the stamp of MGM's great production values. Norma Schearer wonderfully plays Elizabeth Barrett, the invalid poet. She is overly protected by her father, brilliantly played by Charles Laughton. We later learn Laughton is really a tyrant of a man who is incapable of really loving anyone or being loved. Elizabeth meets the fellow poet Robert Browning (Frederic March), and they fall in love. Maureen O'Sullivan give one of her finest performances as Elizabeth's sister, who also falls in love with a Captain. Her father finds out and forbids her to see him again, in a cruel and heartbreaking scene where he makes her swear on a bible. The interplay between Laughton and O'Sullivan and Schearer is fascinating, as the family dynamics are brought to the foreground. "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" was originally a stage play, but translates just fine to the screen. The supporting case is top notch, but this is Norma Schearer's show. It is difficult to take your eyes off her. Laughton is great, as is O'Sullivan. Frederic March at times seems a bit off as Robert Browning, although he is very handsome and the chemistry between he and Schearer is credible. It is a shame that Norma Schearer left the movies by the 1940's. But we are fortunate that this gifted actress left such an amazing legacy of films - "The Barrets of Wimpole Street" is certainly one of them.
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