Peter Ibbetson (1935) Poster

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Peter Ibbetson
Jackson Booth-Millard4 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
There is no way I would have ever heard about this film without seeing it listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and I was definitely more interested when it was supplied by the BFI (British Film Institute), based on the novel by George du Maurier, grandfather of Daphne du Maurier, directed by Henry Hathaway (Niagara, True Grit). Basically young English boy Gogo (Dickie Moore) is growing up in Paris, and he is very friendly with neighbour girl Mimsey (Virginia Weidler). After the death of his mother, Gogo is taken to England by his uncle, who gives him the new name, based on his mother's maiden name, he becomes Peter Ibbetson. Now an adult Englishman, Peter Ibbetson (Gary Cooper) works as an architect in Yorkshire, his latest project is being hired by the Duke of Towers (John Halliday) to design and bring restoration to a building for him. Peter is introduced to Mary, Duchess of Towers (Ann Harding), he falls in love with her, and although she is already married, she develops feelings for him as well. The Duke discovers their love affair and demands they explain themselves, in doing this Peter realises that Mary is in fact Mimsey, his childhood sweetheart, and she realises he is Gogo. The Duke becomes jealous and pulls out a gun to shoot Peter, in the scuffle Peter gets the gun, and the kills the Duke in self-defence. Peter is unjustly convicted and sentenced to life in prison for this accidental killing, he despairs that he will never see Mary again, however they are reunited in their dreams. The years pass, but Peter and Mary remain youthful in their dreams, in the end Mary dies from old age, but she goes to her dream world one last time, there she is joined by Peter as they go to Heaven together. Also starring Ida Lupino as Agnes, Douglass Dumbrille as Colonel Forsythe, Doris Lloyd as Mrs. Dorian, Elsa Buchanan as Madame Pasquier, Christian Rub as Major Duquesnois, Donald Meek as Mr. Slade and Gilbert Emery as Wilkins. The casting of Cooper and Harding is perhaps a little odd, but that's partly good, it is a slightly strange film anyway, lovers who communicate mostly through dreams, though it is an oddity it became something of a landmark, I don't think it's the sort of thing I'd watch more than once, a reasonable classic drama. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Music for Irvin Talbot and Ernst Toch. Good!
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Peter Ibbetson was believable for a while until the last 15 or so minutes
tavm25 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
If you've read my reviews under my username, you probably realized I'm currently reviewing the "Our Gang" shorts in chronological order as well as some feature films that have at least one of its members the same way when it comes between whatever OG shorts were released at the time. Actually, this one came about a year after the eps I'm currently reviewing but anyway, this one has Dickie Moore as a young boy who experiences a tragedy and only the girl who lives next door-played by Virginia Wiedler-manages to get him through it. Unfortunately, he's forced to move and it's a while before they communicate again. So years later, Moore's character becomes Gary Cooper and Ms. Wiedler becomes Ann Harding though neither know it yet. Oh, and Ms. Harding's character is married by this time. Now up to this point, I was willing to go with the story but when the jealous husband is killed by Cooper-in self defense-who then gets a life sentence, suddenly he and Ms. Harding are communicating with each other in dreams. And it takes place for so many years that we're then just treated to only them and no one else for most of the rest of the movie. I'm sorry but I just couldn't take that part as something to believe in and I found myself anxious for the movie to quickly end when those dreams were depicted. Good thing this was only about 90 minutes. I'm at least glad to have finally seen this after reading about it a little. And I was really impressed by Dickie Moore's performance. So on that note, Peter Ibbetson is worth a look. P.S. Moore would eventually get to share a scene with Cooper when they both appeared in Sergeant York.
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Confused fantasy
jjnxn-110 October 2013
Odd semi fantasy film has a good performance from a dashing Gary Cooper to recommend it but the pacing is off. The mood is too earthbound to make it haunting and too celestial for a standard telling. Part of the problem is in the female lead. Ann Harding while a fine actress is miscast as the object of Gary's lifelong desire, a more ethereal performer was required, Merle Oberon would have been perfect. The film drags in parts and feels stilted in others, a defect in the direction more than in the story. The appearance of an almost unrecognizable Ida Lupino as a bit of Cockney baggage is a treat but she's in and out of the film in under fifteen minutes.
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what dreams may come
blanche-220 June 2012
Okay I'm a sap but what a beautiful story of transcendent love.

Based on a novel by George du Maurier, the story concerns an unhappy, empty-feeling architect, Peter Ibbetsen (Gary Cooper), who is hired by the Duke of Towers (John Halliday) to design new stables for him. Ibbetson and the Duchess (Ann Harding) are attracted to one another, and then find they have each had the same dream. The Duke picks up on something between them and confronts them, but the two haven't even touched. Peter owns up to his feelings, talking about a little girl neighbor he played with as a child, and that is the only love he's ever known.

While he's talking, the Duchess realizes that he is Gogo, her childhood friend, and the two ultimately declare their love. Peter wants to leave with her. The Duke enters the room while Peter and Mary are kissing and a fight ensues, during which the Duke is killed by accident. Peter is sent to prison, where he discovers that he can communicate with Mary through dreams. Because of this, though he's tried to starve himself to death, and then his back is broken, he becomes determined to live.

This is a stunning film that should be better known. Gary Cooper gives perhaps his most emotional performance, filled with passion. Ann Harding is subtle, soft-spoken, and yet determined in her love, and she is Peter's steadying force.

A story of sustaining love that transcends separation and ultimately life, Peter Ibbetsen is sensitively directed by Henry Hathaway. It's the ultimate love story, and not to be missed.
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Somewhere in time, Love will Prevail.
mark.waltz11 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Where does love begin and where does it end? Do our dreams keep us connected with the person we truly loved no matter where they are, even if they are deceased? A few films in Hollywood history have asked this profound question, the most famous of which is 1980's "Somewhere in Time" in which lovers Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour played time travel with each other in order to be together. In "Peter Ibettson", Gary Cooper and Ann Harding are childhood sweethearts who are somehow able to have similar dreams that ultimately are the method in which they are able to be together when circumstances tear them apart.

Cooper seems like a strange choice for this type of role, being too all-American for this dashing European character born in France and raised in England. It takes a while to accept him in this part, more obviously made for actors like Fredric March or Ronald Colman. Ann Harding, a popular leading lady barely remembered today (except by obsessive classic movie fans such as me), resembles the more famous Irene Dunne; In fact, the two of them were often cast in similar parts in the early 1930's when they were under contract to RKO. The only difference is that Dunne was able to show off her talent for comedy and was a good singer for operettas, while Harding was primarily a dramatic actress. Harding did have some comical skills she gets to show here. The roles of the characters as children are played by the talented Dickie Moore and Virginia Wiedler. Douglas Dumbrille, usually cast as the imperious heavy, is good as Moore's serious uncle, but unlike Basil Rathbone in the same year's "David Copperfield", his similar character actually means well, if not totally sympathetic. The actual villain is John Halliday as Harding's count husband whose actions are understandable considering the time, setting and circumstances. It is more the outcome of his actions than the things he does which bring on the tragedy (and fantasy) of the romantic situation. Donald Meek is also memorable as Cooper's blind employer who sees the world through a different light that instills him with much wisdom.
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unique atmosphere
Karl Ericsson7 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
When a film manages to create an atmosphere all its own and that atmosphere is something that you like to return to and explore further, then that film is a valuable one. There are films, that are unique, like Salo or that late one from Lars von Trier with Daniel Defoe (I don't care to remember its name) or some artsy-fartsy film (which the two just mentioned are not), but these films are enough to have seen just once and you seldom find reason to see them again. But then there are films that are so surprisingly mystic, that the only reason why you don't see them over and over again is because you want to preserve that mysticism in your memory and not risk having it washed out. Such a film is Peter Ibbetson, which I don't revisit in vain but gladly so when my memory of it wears out a little. It's one of those rare films about true love of which the carnal part may be very dear but of very slight importance when considering the whole of it. Again, it is that love which will not respect death as its end and which can only end by betrayal. In this, there is some similarity with The Enchanted Cottage, which otherwise, however, displays a different part of love's mystery. As other reviewers have pointed out, the biggest surprise is that this kind of film was done so long ago and with such production-values including the dire cast. The only other film, that deals with astral travel that comes into my mind is Basket Case, which, in production, was more like a C-film, done independently on a shoe-string budget.
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An inventive and utterly unashamed utopian romance here on planet earth
secondtake12 June 2011
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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Fantastic Voyage
GManfred7 June 2010
In the abstract,"Peter Ibbetson" is a lovely idea. It's quite another matter in practical terms. It gets off to a good start with the principals as children - in fact, the child actors are better than the adult versions, which is one of my main objections to the film. I am a fan of Gary Cooper despite his limitations as an actor. He's great in action pictures - the strong, silent type with a minimum of expression and dialogue. But he's in over his head as the title character and just lacks the required acting range. There are scenes in which a better actor would register the nuance and facial expression necessary, but Coop registers... not much, I'm afraid. Ann Harding is pretty in a dowdy, fat-faced sort of way but is simply not good enough for the part.

Having said that, the picture has a lovely score and the pacing is brisk. Director Hathaway had a long and distinguished career in Hollywood and does his darndest here but is hamstrung by my second objection, the last half of the story, which is, ah, a challenge. I can appreciate fantasy but, ladies and gentlemen, this is over-the-top fantasy and I know when I'm being taken for a ride.

I tried, Lord knows, I tried to go with it, but give me a break. I found the first half of the picture hauntingly beautiful ,as a professional movie reviewer might say. And I am as romantic as the next guy. I found the scene in which they re-connected after so many years very touching. I found the scenes between their parting as children even more so. But not the 'dream' scenes as adults - those were far-fetched, and let's leave it at that.

There is a question that comes with our reviews on the website that asks, "Did you find this review useful?". This review IS useful, even if you don't agree with it. I just think that there is a fine line between romanticism and goofiness.
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Close to Heaven
wes-connors15 May 2010
In the mid-1800s, cute Dickie Moore (as "Gogo") and pretty Virginia Weidler (as "Mimsey") - both around eight years old, according to the script - argue about what to do with a pile of wood. He wants to make a wagon, and she wants to build a dollhouse. The wagon wins. Despite their tender age, the youngsters are "desperately in love." When Master Moore's ailing mother dies, he is taken away from the Parisian suburb, to live in England. He vows to return for his little sweetheart, someday...

In the film's first real problem, Moore grows up to become Gary Cooper (re-named Peter Ibbetson). An architect, Mr. Cooper goes back to the old Paris home, where he is contracted to rebuild stables for his childhood friend, now played by Ann Harding (as Mary). When Ms. Harding appears, you immediately know she's the grown-up version of Ms. Weidler, but Cooper doesn't. Understandably, Harding doesn't recognize Cooper as Moore - the two look nothing alike.

They are still in love, but... alas, Harding is married...

This romantic fantasy began as a Gothic-tinged novel by George du Maurier, grandfather of Daphne (best known in cinema as the author of Alfred Hitchcock's "Rebecca" and "The Birds"). A hit Broadway "Peter Ibbetson" (1917) starred John Barrymore, and led to a silent success for popular Wallace Reid and Elsie Ferguson, re-titled "Forever" (1921). In a more perfect world, George Fitzmaurice might have updated his production for Laurence Olivier and Greta Garbo. Still, much here is excellent.

This version's musical score, by Ernst Toch, won an "Academy Award" nomination; and, the combination of work evidenced by director Henry Hathaway and cinematographer Charles Lang is unquestionably award-worthy. The film is extraordinarily beautiful, using the Paramount production team to great effect. Cooper succeeds by building intensity (filling Mr. Reid's shoes, if not Mr. Barrymore's), and Harding is at her personal best. If only love was this eternal…

******* Peter Ibbetson (10/31/35) Henry Hathaway ~ Gary Cooper, Ann Harding, John Halliday, Dickie Moore
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Mimsie & Gogo
bkoganbing28 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I'm glad that Peter Ibbetson has been done as an opera by Deems Taylor because that is the medium that this strange story would most likely be revived. It's a sad and romantic tale that they wrote back in Victorian days, but would hardly make it today.

Originally a novel by George DuMaurier, Peter Ibbetson became a play on Broadway that was written by John N. Raphaelson and starred John and Lionel Barrymore on Broadway during the 1917 season. The notion that people in love separated by man could be united and live a life in dreams would have found great popularity in that year with so many lovers and married folks separated by war.

Two children played by Dickie Moore and Virginia Weidler grow up to be Gary Cooper and Ann Harding. Moore and Weidler are best friends and neighbors in Paris, a pair of English expatriate families. When Moore's mother dies, his uncle Douglass Dumbrille comes to Paris to take him back to Great Britain to raise and the children are separated.

Fast forward many years later and Ann Harding is now the Duchess of Towers and her husband John Halliday the Duke hires a promising young architect to do some major renovations on the estate and its Gary Cooper. At some point Harding and Cooper realize who they are and the memories of a bygone carefree childhood cause them to fall in love. When Halliday finds them in a compromising position, he tries to shoot Cooper who flings a chair at him and kills him.

If all things were equal Cooper at most should have been charged with manslaughter. But Halliday being a Duke gains him celebrity status and Cooper apparently without a good attorney gets sentenced to life imprisonment.

But as they are separated now, Harding and Cooper connect in their dreams each night and live an incredible life which of course means they never grow old.

For today's audience Peter Ibbetson is a bit hard to swallow, but the players are so charming and sincere you actually let your cynicism fall away. The story is remarkably similar to the operetta Maytime and no wonder Deems Taylor saw it as suitable grand opera material. In fact Peter Ibbetson's one Academy Award nomination was for its romantic musical score.

As good as Cooper and Harding are, I think in retrospect the film belongs to Dickie Moore and Virginia Weidler. As the children Mimsie and Gogo, the film really belongs to them, you remember their performances throughout the movie as you watch their grownup counterparts.

Oddly enough even with a French and later English setting, Peter Ibbetson's cast is mostly American. No one in fact is more American than Gary Cooper, but few also are have as romantic persona and a face the movie camera loved as it did few others. For that reason and others Peter Ibbetson holds up well even in today's far more realistic and cynical age.
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A dissenting word...
MartinHafer28 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
While it's obvious that almost all the reviewers adored this film, I feel a voice of dissent is needed, as I have a different perspective. Although this is one of the loveliest looking films I can think of from the era, I was left cold by the film because I felt the plot didn't make much sense and because the characters were jerks---yes, jerks. To me, the film was NOT about true romance but blind infatuation and selfishness, but more about that later.

The film begins with a prologue. Young Peter Ibbetson (played by Dickie Moore) looks to be about 5 and he is alternately playing with and arguing with the little girl who is his best friend. Unfortunately, soon his mother dies and he is taken to England to live out most of the rest of his life. However, the plot demands that this little infatuation with a little girl is not only NOT forgotten but so consumes Ibbetson that decades later he returns to France to try to find this girl. This is utterly ridiculous, as was his "accidentally" discovering this same girl, now grown, quite by mistake when he fell in love with her all over again (while not realizing it was the same person). Talk about straining credibility! But, it gets worse. The lady is already married--yet Ibbetson doesn't give a darn about the husband and demands that she run off with him!!!!!! So, they're basing this "love that will withstand the ages" mostly on the vague recollections of a guy thinking about life at age 5...and this doesn't seem illogical to anyone? Plus, now the lady is married to a wealthy titled man and yet this will somehow work out?!!

When the husband finds out and tries to kill Ibettson (after all, this is a matter of honor and it is the early 19th century--a duel or simply shooting Ibbetson would have been the proper tactic), the husband is killed in the scuffle...and we are expected to feel bad only for Ibbetson and his lady love? I actually felt worse for the husband--up until then, he seemed like a decent enough sort. Sure, he shouldn't have tried to kill Peter, but can you blame him for trying to get rid of this shameless home-wrecker? Now, Ibbetson is in prison for the rest of his life.

Now here it gets weird...very weird. Ibbetson spends the rest of his life meeting with and loving Mary in his mind--and she, too, can see and experience all these meetings along with him! There is no explanation for this odd just happens as if by magic. And, when he finally dies, they meet in some external bliss together. Uggh--what hooey! These portions of the film are so sticky and tough to watch.

So, the film is based on a love affair between two dumb and selfish people. Dumb, because loving somebody as a small child should NOT be the basis for uprooting and destroying lives. This movie is all emotion and no logic from start to finish. Cooper plays a selfish and mushy character who I had a hard time liking--not a rugged or manly sort of fellow, just a jerk.

So why did I still give the movie a 4 even if I though I disliked the plot so much and felt it tried to justify adultery? Well, I gotta hand it to Henry Hathaway's direction--it was a truly lovely film to look at and it was very manipulative. Plus, the great sound track really pulled on your heartstrings (whatever a 'heartstring' is).
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A good three-tissue classic starring Gary Cooper
zetes21 April 2008
I've never been a big fan of Cooper, but he's adequate here as an architect who is obsessed with his long lost female best friend from childhood. I actually thought the first section of the film, which takes place during childhood with the characters played by Dickie Moore and Virginia Weidler, was the strongest. It's always surprising to come along a competent child actor in Golden Age cinema, so it was nice to have two of them here. The second section of the film has Cooper meeting the girl again, this time played by the beautiful Ann Harding. Unfortunately, she's married to a Duke. The third chapter I won't ruin, but I have to say I wasn't too happy with the fantastical premise of the two characters sharing each other's dreams. It seemed too out there for what is otherwise a realistic film. Still, you'd have to be made of stone not to be moved by it all. Henry Hathaway's direction is fine, and the cinematography is often exquisite. The score, which is the only aspect of the film that received an Oscar nomination, is particularly beautiful. Ida Lupino gives a short but great supporting performance as an Englishwoman Cooper meets on his holiday in Paris.
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All we have to do is dream..
dbdumonteil27 March 2008
To think that Henry Hathaway made the same year "the lives of a Bengal Lancer" and "Peter Ibbetson"!Both are classics in their genre :the first was an adventures film no one could do today;the second one is simply my favorite Hathaway movie.I know it was his favorite too.

"Lancer" and "Peter" could not be more different,they are worlds apart,and who could believe the same director (and actor) made the two works?

"Peter Ibbetson" had a strong influence on the French cinema of the thirties/forties ,particularly those of Marcel Carné ("Les Visiteurs du Soir""Juliette ou La Clé des Songes" ) Marcel Lherbier ("la Nuit Fantastique" ) and Cocteau/Delannoy ("L'Eternel Retour").Henry Hathaway's film spawned a whole school of "escapism" cinema.

The first part deals with childhood and depicts the worst misfortune a young boy can know:the death of his mother.It takes place in the chic suburbs of Paris ,where,we are told,wealthy English people own their town house.After his mother's decease ,"Gogo" is separated from the little girl with a white dress...and returns to England where he will live with his uncle.

Peter/Gogo's only desire (and it's everyone's desire ) is to come back to this lost paradise ,to the place he was a child ..Early in the movie,we have a first pilgrimage with a girl (Ida Lupino ,a future great actress/director in one of her first parts)who does not care (she cannot share his memories)and whose only interest is the swing.

Although he briefly appears ,Slade is a very important character.He is a blind man,but he can see;his words are not different from those by Saint Exupery in "Le Petit Prince" -which was yet to come for it was published in 1943) ("It is only with the heart that one can rightly see;what is essential is invisible to the eyes") If the heart can give eyesight to the blind ,then what can true absolute love do?When you are in jail,a paralyzed prisoner ,what can you expect from life?

The last part is one of the peaks of the American cinema of the thirties ,predating dozens of films not only the French escapism movies from the German Occupation but also such works as "Stairway to Heaven" (Powell) or "Portrait of Jennie" (Dieterle) and "Bid Time Return" (Swarc) These dreams when the lovers meet up are the impossible return to childhood man longs for in his whole life;but these dreams are fragile:the castle Peter built for his beloved one is nothing when the storm set in.A surrealistic film,"Peter Ibbetson" is love's triumph over everything:the laws that man made,our Cartesian spirit ,even death itself.Just make your dream longer than the night.

Gary Cooper and Ann Harding have become legendary hearts.
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Interesting but too weird
kenjha2 September 2007
Strange film about the life-long love between a man and a woman is told in three parts. The first part shows them as childhood friends in Paris who are separated after he leaves for London. The second part has them meeting again as adults when he is an architect and she is a duchess. So far so good, with an engaging love story, but then things get too weird in the third part, dragging the film down. Although he is raised in London as the title character, Cooper doesn't even attempt a British accent while Harding's British accent comes and goes. Lupino, in a small role, does a fine British accent. Hathaway creates a haunting atmosphere.
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Beautifully photographed romance story
nnnn450891919 April 2007
Peter Ibbetson seemed like a wonderful movie until the movie changed its tone the last part of the story.The turn to melodrama and fantasy wasn't too my liking.Gary cooper and Ann Harding deliver good performances as the leads.There's also a noteworthy early performance by Ida Lupino.The movie is beautiful to look at thanks to the exquisite photography by Charles Lang."Peter Ibbetson" reminded me of a movie with a similar theme made a few years later "Wuthering Heights". I didn't find "Peter Ibbetson" as good as that one.Henry Hathaway who earlier that year made "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" was better directing action-adventure sagas, but does a competent job here. Not a bad movie, but not among those I will return to often.
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A Rare Gem from the Golden Age of Hollywood
malvernp18 March 2007
If you are at this site and reading about "Peter Ibbetson"-----congratulations on having an exotic taste in films coupled with a deep-seated fascination with romance, fantasy, destiny and the power of love to conquer the most formidable of difficulties! We have seen a number of films from Hollywood's Golden Age that touched upon similar themes. From "Death Takes a Holiday" (1934) to "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" (1941), we suffered along with sympathetic lovers whose path to true fulfillment was strewn with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But in the end---somehow-----the force of love overcame every problem to ultimately allow for what was meant to be.

These stories are ageless and have appeared as recently as "Somewhere In Time" (1980) and "Meet Joe Black" (1998)---itself a reworking of "Death Takes a Holiday." "Peter Ibbetson" may be one of the very best films to explore the force of destiny on young lovers linked from childhood to be together "forever." The beauty of this film is in its design, execution and performances.

Henry Hathaway, the director, worked with Gary Cooper earlier in 1935 in the rousing action adventure "Lives of a Bengal Lancer." Are there two more dissimilar films than these? It is a tribute to Hathaway's skill and artistry that he could make both stories work so well when they were completed almost at the same time.

Cooper excelled in portraying sensitive characters ("Pride of the Yankees" (1942), "Sergeant York" (1941), etc.) and Peter Ibbetson was well within his range of projecting an introspective romantic hero whose great love must be found in the world of dreams. It is a fine, deeply felt performance.

Ann Harding, not well known today as a romantic actress, captures the complexity and subtlety of the story. Her ability to will the Cooper character into believing that their love must persist even if it exists only in their own imagination is both powerful and enduring.

When contemporary critics take shots at the old Hollywood Studio System as nothing more than a glorified factory grinding out entertainment fodder for the masses, they ought to take a look at this strange, moving and truly unusual film. Its creators probably knew going in that it was not likely to be a box office hit given the nature of the subject matter. The fact that it was made at all and in such a sumptuous manner is an excellent tribute to the taste of the powers that be at Paramount.

Seek out "Peter Ibbetson," You will be transported to a world that no longer exists---and into a story that requires the viewer to be a real romantic with great imagination. It will reward you with a deeply touching tale where true love finally wins out under the most extraordinary of circumstances. What more need be said?
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Serious, Memorable and Deserving
Kara Dahl Russell12 February 2007
This 1933 Gary Cooper film is highly regarded and mentioned in many film books. It was a serious film in tone and content, and also in it's techniques. Initially, it seems a rather bland melodrama about two childhood sweethearts who are parted then reunited. The blandness is somewhat heightened by the visual blandness of Ann Harding, the female star. (She is blonde, but very visually monochromatic… minimal eyebrows or eye make-up, which makes her seem very very plain, even though she is pretty.) This was the "taste of the times" for a serious "good" woman, and the reason I have this listed as an 8 is that it is definitely dated, and will be much too slow for many viewers.

The story is about dreams and architecture, so keep an eye on the buildings, there are really inventive and beautiful buildings. The stable that is supposed to be "horrible" is like a forest cottage in a fairy tale. The child casting at the beginning is funny by today's standards of continuity. These actually are pretty good child actors for the time – not cloying or overly precious - but the boy's coloring is quite dissimilar to the adult. Big brown eyes of the boy becoming the famous baby blues of Cooper. But let these things go, and the early scenes are an effective and emotionally effective set up for the payoff.

The best part of the film comes in the last third. Suddenly, we are in an expressive fantasy – completely grounded in the earlier part, but also completely different. Not only are the effects here still magical, reminiscent of Durer etchings, but they are also really overwhelming when we think about how difficult it was to achieve these effects in this time period. (Any thing that fades in or out - this had to be done by re-filming with the same piece of film, etc.) While never named, it is clearly colored by the "astral body" theories of the Eastern religions that were popular in Hollywood at the time, having a strong influence on art, architecture, and design during this period.

Ultimately this is a beautiful and memorable film about the strength of love, dreams, and the triumph of pure heart. This makes for a very quiet but powerful film. (Quiet and powerful became the hallmark of Cooper's screen character.) The strength of this film is its simplicity of message, and the really memorable and soulful performance of Cooper.
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A beautiful, timeless story...the Orson Welles radio adaptation is also very good...
Peter Andres19 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Thanks to online interlibrary loans, I finally got a chance to see this unique romantic fantasy film after months of wanting to see it. Before then, the only means I had of enjoying the story was by listening to an excellent radio adaptation online, performed by Orson Welles and the Campbell Playhouse in 1939. But now my prayers have been answered...and it was certainly well worth the wait.

Since this is a mid-1930s film, I was expecting a slow, creaky movie with little or no incidental music, melodramatic acting, and stagy cinematography like so many of the Universal horror films or MGM films of the period. When I saw the film on DVD, I was deeply impressed—the black-and-white cinematography by Charles Lang is imaginatively and beautifully done throughout and an omnipresent music score benefits the scenes in the film, making the film years ahead of its time. Lang went on to photograph two other excellent fantasy films and got Oscar nominations for both of them: THE UNIVITED (1944), another Paramount film, and THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947) at 20th Century Fox. The Oscar-nominated music score, by Ernst Toch, is forgettable yet beautiful and bittersweet in places. The film moves at a brisk pace with the help of imaginative editing, concluding at a short 85 minutes.

The story here is simplified in comparison to the Orson Welles radio adaptation, which is probably more faithful to the original George du Maurier novel. For example, it is the Duke of Towers who is the villain here and not Colonel Forsythe, Ibbetson's false "uncle." The film is straightforward and does not contain a childhood flashback as in the radio adaptation. Nevertheless, the film is entertaining and seldom drags under Henry Hathaway's imaginative direction. By the way, the Orson Welles broadcast is available for playing on this website,

The reason why I gave the film 9 out of 10 stars is because of Gary Cooper's performance as the title character. To me, he seemed miscast and as lifeless as a wooden board at times—he just didn't seem to have the sensitivity for the character, something that Orson Welles really mastered in the radio adaptation. Gary seemed to be more suitable for playing a cowboy who relies on practicality, something he mastered in HIGH NOON (1952), rather than playing a Victorian gentleman who relies on imagination.

Nevertheless, it's a beautiful, overlooked romantic fantasy classic that is right up my alley—pretty soon it's destined to be a favorite of mine. And, of course, the film contains some of the most touching final lines I've ever heard, uttered by Gary and followed by a single musical chord played over the end credits:

"Mary, you've forgotten your gloves. You mustn't lose them. I'm coming to give them to you."
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Nicholas Rhodes10 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I imagine this is exactly the sort of film that if you saw it at an impressionable age in your youth, it would make a lasting impression on you for the rest of your life. As I am not old enough to have been young when the film came out I cannot vouch for this. Nevertheless, I have possessed this film for several years on VHS and generally view it every 24 months or so. Picture and sound quality are below par as to be expected for a film of this age. I see that a DVD is now available but only as part of a boxed set and I don't fancy the idea of having to purchase a whose set, just to obtain one DVD !! With repeated viewings I have grown to like the film more. I originally only liked the first half and thought the second half to be a little boring but now I find that it is more watcheable. The thing is, there are unfortunately very few of this type of film made, the one that immediately comes to mind is of course Portrait of Jennie which had much better picture and sound quality and moved me emotionally far more than Peter Ibbetson. That said, the film has good points but I find the "grown-up" passion to be not as strong as I would have hoped, given the fusion and complicity between the kids during the first half hour. The separation of the children is an extremely painful moment to watch .. we then jump forward in time and when they meet up again and find out who they are and what they mean to each other, I just couldn't feel as much emotion as I would have liked. This may due to the actors involved .. I did not know the lady actress and have appreciated Gary Cooper in cowboy rôles but not in the role of an architect though I seem to remember having seen him in a similar rôle in a film called the Fountainhead. I also found that his person was well suited to the role of Mr Deeds but here something seemed to be missing, without my being able to put a finger on precisely what. Still the film has good moments with the dream meetings in paradisiac places and the end of course is satisfying. The music score is also very emotional and I hope that in the future both sound and picture quality can be cleaned up. I hope this film is not remade as any remake today is bound to overdo the special FX side and all the charm will be lost. The film is therefore quite original in its style and is bound to appeal to those who like a dose of surrealism and escapism without necessarily being completely removed from reality.
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Very sad
Caz196430 March 2006
This film is one of five on The Gary Cooper Collection,they are all good films,and this one is my personal favourite of them.Its beautifully acted and deeply emotional,its a very well written story that is like no other story that i know of,especially from 1935.It may have been a little bit ambitious when it was released back then,as it was the depression era,and not much use to an audience who must have been feeling very low in spirits and full of worries,and weren't prepared for escapism.If the film had been made over a decade later the audience would have appreciated it more.But then many great classics were big flops in their day,Its a wonderful life was one,and thats hard to believe now isn't it,when its now the biggest Xmas selling film of all time.It would be nice to see this film have more recognition,i hope its time will come one day.
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Haunting film
VicTheDaddy14 March 2006
I thought this film was very unusual for the mid 1930s,it probably flopped then because it seemed a little weird for the time,films like these were usually made decades later,that for me made this film rather special.The cold atmosphere of the film made the love story aspect come through very strongly,making it very haunting and sad.Its the sort of film that could be brilliant remade with added special effects,more passion because we are now in 2006 and can ,although it would probably lack something the original had,but it would be worth a try,and then maby this original forgotten classic will be given its long overdue second chance of being a lot more recognised which it truly deserves.
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Great Film
Once again, like many other film's I've finally come to see, after reading so many about them and longing to have the opportunity of watching them (i.e. "Trouble in Paradise"), I was afraid this one was not going to meet my expectations, and I was wrong.

First of all, Gary Cooper really impressed me so favorably; so early in his career he was able to handle such a difficult role and give a complex and sensitive performance, conveying Peter Ibbetson's ethereal aspects. Gary Cooper was really a fine actor (not only a charming personality and huge star), good at Drama, Adventure, Western, Romance, Comedy et al.

Cooper portrays the idealistic Peter Ibbetson, a young man so deeply attached to his childhood memories, that he cannot feel fulfilled or happy, in spite that he's supposed to have everything a man would wish, to find happiness.

Ann Harding, on the other hand, of whose performance regarding this film I've read that she wasn't ethereal enough to play this part (Peter Ibbetson's childhood sweetheart, Mary), I must say that I found her well suited to it, as always giving a sincere, sensitive, natural and restrained performance, looking perfect in period clothes.

Both lead performers transmit truth into their characterizations, embodying the love that transcends all the obstacles or "L'amour fou" as French defined it, giving endearing performances. Beautiful Cinematography by the great Charles Lang and great sets by Hans Dreier.

John Halliday plays expertly the stern Duke of Towers; Ida Lupino looks pretty and shows her great talent in a supporting role as a vulgar English woman Peter Ibbetson befriends in Paris and Douglass Drumbille is the "menacing at first sight", uncle of the Title character.

Mention apart deserve lovely Virginia Weidler and Dickie Moore, who portray the leading stars as children, giving impressive, terrific performances. Their scenes together have been among the most heart-wrenching and sincere I've ever seen, featuring a couple of child actors (the 1949 film "The Secret Garden" featuring Dean Stockwell and Margaret O'Brien comes to my mind).

If you liked such pictures as "Smilin' Through", "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", "I'll Never Forget You", "Berkeley Square", "Somewhere in Time" or "Portrait of Jennie", you must see this one.

The DVD transfer (released by Universal as part of the "Gary Cooper Collection") is of very good quality.
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Coop transcends space, his own corporeal reality, and death itself; finds true love.
FilmSnobby12 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Well, it's finally here, all you rabid film enthusiasts. *Peter Ibbetson* -- never before released for home consumption, not even on VHS, and very rarely revived in art-houses since its 1935 flopped release -- is now on DVD as part of Universal's new "Gary Cooper Collection". On this five-movie set, *Ibbetson* is clearly the crown jewel, though the others are certainly worth a look, depending on your degree of interest (I've already reviewed on these pages Lubitsch's *Design for Living*, which should interest anybody interested in good movies). *Peter Ibbetson* is the very definition of the term "cult classic": its extreme rarity admits only a select club of in-the-know members, and its surrealist subject-matter -- sundered lovers who communicate to each other through their dreams -- especially as realized by such American workmen as director Henry Hathaway and actor Gary Cooper, makes this movie irresistible to the cinephile.

It also appeals to other disparate types, such as the chick-flick connoisseur -- for what can be more deliriously romantic than lovers who live in their own telekinetic, dream-world universe? It's the kind of movie where Cooper builds Ann Harding a glistening castle in the air, made out of clouds and stardust, only to see it crumble when he doesn't believe strongly enough in his own dream. For those who will find all of this rather silly or at least doubtful, I can tell you that the unremitting sense of tragedy throughout the story's arc helps to keep things grounded and cleans out any extraneous gossamer. The entire movie depends upon the lovers' grievous separation, from childhood onward to old age, and Coop spends the majority of his adult life shackled in prison for a crime from which he should have been exonerated. Rather than commit suicide or allow himself to die after a savage beating from a jailer, he decides to go on living so that he can spend every night with his girlfriend, who is sharing the same dream with him. Romantic enough for you, ladies?

Of course, the real points of the story are both the indomitable longevity of the libido and the endless resources contained within the human imagination -- fertile grounds for Surrealism. Not surprisingly, Luis Bunuel considered *Peter Ibbetson* to be one of the 10 greatest films ever made. The dreamy set-design, the gauzy photography by Charles Lang, and the beautiful score by Ernst Toch contribute to the generally bizarre feeling that the movie evokes. It's a rare American film, from any era, that insists on dreams having at least as much, if not more, significance than so-called "reality", but such is the case here in this mainstream release from 1935. The movie failed with mainstream audiences then, and probably wouldn't sit well with mainstream audiences today. Americans have always been practical people, even during the Great Depression: their need for escapism back then clearly didn't outweigh their reluctance to accept Coop as an English architect suffering the pangs of transcendent love that is stronger than the grave. (Their loss.) I suspect the same is true of audiences today, who, when they bother to watch old movies, certainly do not want to see one in which Gary Cooper wanders through a European-style art-movie directed by an action-adventure journeyman like Henry Hathaway. (Their loss.)

10 stars out of 10.
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Extraordinary,highly original romantic fantasy which deserves to be far better known
DrLenera9 May 2005
Sometimes you watch a film which is so good that you wonder why it isn't better known. Peter Ibbetson is such a film. It takes a concept which is highly original but undoubtedly 'out there' and makes you believe in it for just under an hour and a half. It also manages to be a truly moving love story whose basic concept,a man and a woman who are apart for most of their lives meet in their dreams,and it's message,that love does indeed conquer all, should warm the hearts {and shed the tears}of die hard romantics everywhere.

It's a bit stilted as many 30s films are,especially at first,but Charles Lang's expressionistic photography immediately creates a fairy tale feeling. The growing love between the young boy and girl is extremely touching. When they meet again as adults,it seems like the film is going to settle down into being a conventional love triangle tale {she's married}. Then the film suddenly changes,and although separated the two lovers carry out their relationship in their dreams. The film is quite subtle is depicting the dream world,although there are wonderful touches,such as the fairy tale castle that she creates with her imagination,only for it to crumble when he fails to believe in it. As for the ending,well,you would have to be very strong not to shed a tear. Like much of the film,it's almost underplayed,and is all the more moving for not being over the top.

Gary Cooper shows once again what a great actor he was in his early days {as in A Farewell To Arms},really making us feel his character's pain and joy,although Ann Harding is perhaps a bit too earthy for her role. Director Henry Hathaway was generally a solid craftsman,but here he shows real engagement in his story.A great deal of attention is paid to set design,look at the way for instance the pair are often separated by bars of some sort in the 'real'world. Also notable is the music score by Ernest Toch,suitably romantic,but quite low key and sparse-Max Steiner would have plastered the film with music,but would it have really been as effective?

Peter Ibbetson is a wonderful movie, and deserves to be ranked with some of the more better known fantasy romances of Hollywood's Golden Age. I'd actually like to see a remake of this,as it's such an amazing idea. But before that let's have a DVD release,please!
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Unabashedly romantic, but also cold and impersonal
Kalaman15 November 2002
The reputation of this florid Henry Hathaway fantasy/romance is amazingly high. Surrealist movie critics have praised the film as some kind of a triumph of surreal thought on par with Bunuel's "L'Age d'or". Bunuel himself hailed as "one of the world's ten greatest films". It is irrefutable that "Peter Ibbetson" is a triumph of surreal thought, but I find the film cold and utterly uninvolving. Compared with the great, ethereal romances by Frank Borzage, "Peter Ibbetson" seems weak and unaffecting. In Borzage's romances, the viewer is invited to identify with the emotions of the characters, whereas Hathaway's bizarre fantasy seems detached and overdone. If the film can be regarded as some kind of a masterpiece, it is through Charles Lang's audacious, highly evocative photography, especially the second half. Other than that, "Peter Ibbetson" is just another better-than-average romance, buoyed by the star chemistry of Gary Cooper and Ann Harding.
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