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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
When producer Irving Thalberg cast his wife, Norma Shearer, in the role of Elizabeth Barrett, William Randolph Hearst was enraged that his protégé, Marion Davies, was not given the role. So Hearst pulled Davies out of MGM and placed her with Warner Brothers for the remainder of her career, and for over a year the name "Norma Shearer" did not appear in any Hearst newspapers. 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 »
In 1845 London, invalid poetess Norma Shearer (as Elizabeth Barrett) finds reasons to live, after meeting fellow writer Fredric March (as Robert Browning). "The Barretts of Wimpole Street" focuses on one particular Barrett; not surprisingly, it is the one played by Ms. Shearer. At the time, she was considered one of the best actresses of all-time, and this MGM production captures Shearer's appeal perfectly. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Shearer approached most of her later roles from a movie star perspective, and stayed there. So, rather than trying to inhabit Elizabeth Barrett, she brings the character to Shearer. Herein, it works. This was the last time Shearer had the use of her greatest behind-the-scenes collaborators, director Sidney Franklin and husband Irving Thalberg. The latter assembles the usual top talent, and Franklin expertly presents his star.
With William Daniels' loving camera, Shearer is given numerous close-ups and medium shots, made to showcase her acting.
So, you will see the litany of Shearer looks. Much of it is unnecessary, but it certainly makes the picture fun to watch. And, Shearer's performance is one of her best. The "Academy Awards" took notice, and Shearer finished #2 behind Claudette Colbert in the annual "Best Actress" race, ahead of Bette Davis. Many people think Ms. Davis was "robbed" that year; but, Shearer was even more slighted. The film was "Best Picture" according to "Film Daily" and "Photoplay" while Oscar placed it second. There were no "Supporting Actor" awards yet, or Charles Laughton would surely have been noticed; if only for the way he practically commands Shearer to fall on their home's imposing staircase. Franklin is also award-worthy; when maid Una O'Connor glides into the screen, you know he intends to lift a stagy story about a mostly immobile woman up off its heels.
******** The Barretts of Wimpole Street (9/14/34) Sidney Franklin ~ Norma Shearer, Frederic March, Charles Laughton, Una O'Connor
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