Carrie boards the train to Chicago with big ambitions. She gets a job stitching shoes and her sister's husband takes almost all of her pay for room and board. Then she injures a finger and ... See full summary »
This version of The Barretts Of Wimpole Street lacks for nothing, it's certainly an improvement over the 1934 version in a technical sense with the wide screen and color. It even has the same musical theme that Herbert Stothart wrote for the earlier version that starred Norma Shearer, Fredric March and Charles Laughton.
Jennifer Jones was following in some mighty big footsteps in portraying Elizabeth Barrett. Not only Norma Shearer's, but Katherine Cornell who originated the role in the original Broadway production in 1931 which ran for 370 performances in those Depression years. That is something that should tell you more than anything else about how good this play is. Jen creates her own sense of intelligent regal beauty as the frail poetess who summons up the courage and strength to stand up to her tyrannical father.
Charles Laughton was widely quoted as saying that in his portrayal of the issue ridden Moulton Barrett, the censors couldn't censor the gleam in his eye to get past the Code. The Code by 1957 was cracking and John Gielgud used a couple of direct physical moves rather than camera closeups to show his incestuous feelings for his daughter. Gielgud still gives a fine account of himself, though Mr. Laughton set the standard for that role. On stage it was originated by Charles Waldron who moviegoers will best remember from his last part as General Sternwood in The Big Sleep.
Bill Travers plays a somewhat different Robert Browning than Brian Aherne on stage and Fredric March on the screen. Both of those men are refined types and Browning is a bit more boisterous in this film than he was in the previous one. Still he's ready to do right by Jones and take her from the tyranny she lives under.
Though the 1934 film is an MGM classic, none of the people associated with this version have anything to be ashamed about. This is a story that could be made today. I can see the casting already, Hugh Grant as Robert Browning, Kate Winslet as Elizabeth Barrett, and Tom Wilkinson as Moulton.
I'd pay for a ticket to that. Until then we have two very good classic screen versions.
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