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The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934)

Elizabeth Barrett's tyrannical father has forbidden any of his family to marry. Nevertheless, Elizabeth falls in love with the poet Robert Browning.



(from the play by) (as Rudolf Besier), (screen play) | 2 more credits »

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Arabel Barrett
Captain Surtees Cook
Marion Clayton Anderson ...
Bella Hedley (as Marion Clayton)
Ferdinand Munier ...
Dr. Ford-Waterlow (as Leo Carroll)
Vernon Downing ...
Neville Clark ...
Charles Barrett
Matthew Smith ...
Robert Carleton ...
Alfred Barrett


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 Huggo

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When poets love, Heaven and Earth fall back to watch!


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

21 September 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Forbidden Alliance  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The first performance of the play was at the Malvern Festival in England on 20 August 1930. It then opened in London, England on 23 September 1930. See more »


The beginning of the film is set in 1845, but in the first scene Henrietta is shown singing 'Little Brown Jug', which wasn't written until 1869. See more »


Wilson: [after Miss Ba reads a poem aloud] I call that just lovely, Miss Ba.
Elizabeth Barrett: Yes, but do you know what it means?
Wilson: Oh, no Miss.
Elizabeth Barrett: Does it convey anything at all to your mind?
Wilson: Oh, no Miss Ba.
Elizabeth Barrett: Well, thank heaven for that.
Wilson: But, then, read poetry never does, Miss. Least ways not read poetry like what you make.
Elizabeth Barrett: Oh, but I didn't write that. It's by Mr. Browning.
Wilson: Oh, he must be a tailored gentleman.
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Featured in And the Oscar Goes To... (2014) See more »


Little Brown Jug
(1869) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Joseph Winner
Sung by Norma Shearer, Maureen O'Sullivan, Katharine Alexander, Vernon Downing,
Neville Clark, Matthew Smith, Robert Carleton, Allan Conrad and Peter Hobbes
See more »

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User Reviews

The image of an abusive Dad.
28 August 2008 | by See all my reviews

The Barrets Of Wimpole Street is a film based on rumours of poet Elizabeth Barrett's relationship with her father who allegedly abused her. As such the film makes for an interesting 'gossip column' type of story found in celebrity magazines. This of course does not trivialise the serious nature of abuse.

What is most interesting in The Barretts Of Wimpole Street is that the nature of abuse -which takes on an incestuous form, - and the fact that it is conveyed through the image of the great Charles Laughton who is far from abundant in classic film star good looks. Therefore, in this instance abusive parents are depicted with a certain image which lacks favourable features. If a more glamorous cinema idol had played the part of Edward Moulton-Browing, perceptions of abuse could become distorted even though looks are irrelevant to abusive behaviour.

It is also ironic that the abused Elizabeth Barrett's only opportunity to escape (at least it would appear that way) is via another controlling man. The difference is that Robert Browning wants (not totally motivated by altruistic reasons because he needs to fulfil his own emotional needs) the best for Elizabeth, whereas her completely selfish father only wants what's best for himself.

The acting in this version of the Barretts Of Wimpole Street is of the highest calibre. This is especially for the three leads. While Laughton conveys his character Edward Moulton-Barret's abuse with a malicious menace that is extremely frightening, Norma Sheara is amazing as the abused Elizabeth Barret. Her face conveys such helplessness of a woman trapped, not only by her physical condition and environment, but by the psychological anguish of a woman torn between her abusive father and the importance of her own well being. Indeed Edward Moulton-Barrett's children have learnt to receive their Father's approval via abuse.

In addition to conveying her anguish, Shearer illustrates that she is adept at illustrating the poetic Elizabeth when she interacts with Fredric March through her delivery of lines. This is reciprocated by March's efforts who is equally poetic in his highly animated delivery of lines.

The supporting cast all give tremendous performances, especially that of Maureen O'Sullivan. She plays the naive, younger sister Henrietta to her stolid older sibling Elizabeth. Comic relief comes from Una O'Conner as Elizabeth's loyal maid Wilson, and Marion Clayton Anderson as the scatty cousin Bella. Also good is canine acting from Flush the dog, who slinks into his basket right on cue at the mere sight of Charles Laughton's character Edward Moulton-Barrett.

This film adaptation of The Barrets Of Wimpole Street is cleverly adapted from the stage, and is one of the best of its era.

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