Architect Peter Ibbetson is hired by the Duke of Towers to design a building for him. Ibbetson discovers that the Duchess of Towers, Mary, is his now-grown childhood sweetheart. Their love ...
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With King Ranjit visiting him, King Sohat sees an opportunity to kill his young cousin and take over his kingdom. One of Sohat's henchmen fells Ranjit with a poisoned arrow, making it look ... See full summary »
Architect Peter Ibbetson is hired by the Duke of Towers to design a building for him. Ibbetson discovers that the Duchess of Towers, Mary, is his now-grown childhood sweetheart. Their love revives, but Peter is sentenced to life in prison for an accidental killing. Mary comes to him in dreams and they are able to live out their romance in a dream world. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
An inventive and utterly unashamed utopian romance here on planet earth
Peter Ibbetson (1935)
An un-repenting romance, and I mean romance in the sense of two people being in true love for ever and ever no matter what. There is almost nothing less going on here, but who needs anything else? The best of it, in a way, is the fantasia near the end, some remarkable dream and surreal scenes with great effect. Also a great treat is seeing a young Ida Lupino as a sweet and somewhat self-absorbed young woman who is interested in our hero, played by Gary Cooper.
But Lupino is secondary, and once things get fully in gear in the present, it is Cooper's romance as Peter Ibbetson with Ann Harding, playing his childhood girlfriend, that makes it click. And no romantic stone is left untouched. By the time the movie gets to its final third you know what is happening, and then it takes a huge turn and things get both crazy and sentimentally moving. A romance turns violent, and then a crime turns first dark and then bright and almost religious (though never actually religious) and a sense of winning against all the odds is the final theme. This may strike some viewers as just wishful thinking and directorial excess, but it's so well done this isn't fair. The special effects are stunning, better than many recent effects, for sure.
And what about the filming and acting? All quite first rate. You might pigeonhole this as some kind of Depression-era escapist dream come true kind of film, but it really rises above that. It's about an impossible but not quite impossible ideal of absolute love, something that rises even above having a young Ida Lupino want you in your youth, or above giving up when chained to a wooden plank with a broken back. It's about hoping when it seems there is no hope.
But then, that's what people were doing everyday in the mid 1930s, after half a decade of terrible economic times (and without even knowing that another half a decade lay ahead). It's not a great film, but it's a great theme handled well enough to make you perk up. Someone else might have played Cooper's part with more subtlety or sophistication, but Harding is terrific in her role as rich kid turned angel. And Henry Hathaway, directing his heart out for a change, pulls off some great shifts in tone and temperament form one section of the film to the next, and narrowly avoids the sickly sweetness or downright camp that might have trapped another director. He may not have had a really classic film to his name, but among a good dozen very very good ones, from these 1930s dramas to some post-war film noirs, this is one of his best.
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