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Peter Standish has just inherited a house on Berkeley Square in London from a distant cousin, although he is unsure why it was given to him. It isn't until he moves in that he discovers a special bond with the house. Upon the discovery of further artifacts of his ancestors who had previously lived there, including a detailed diary, Peter comes to believe that he is destined to walk into the house at 5:30pm on September 3rd to assume the life of one of those ancestors. That man, also named Peter Standish, was an American officer in Washington's army who walked into the house for the first time at the same moment on the same day 149 years earlier in 1784, shortly after the American Revolution. Then, it was the home of Standish's distant cousins, the Pettigrews - Lady Ann and her three offspring Tom, Helen and Kate, who would become Mrs. Standish in an arranged marriage. Peter believes he knows what he should do so as not to change history by the details listed in Standish's diary. ...Written by
How many of us have wished that we might escape from the dull reality of the present into the glamor and romance of yesterday? But if we could journey back into the mystery of the past, should we find contentment - or unhappiness?"
On a stormy night in 1784, new American noble Leslie Howard (as Peter Standish) arrives in London's "Berkeley Square" to seek a distant cousin's hand in marriage. After exiting his coach, Mr. Howard seems to vanish. Meanwhile, in the present (1933), his direct descendant and namesake "Peter Standish" (Howard, in a dual role) has inherited the same house. The modern Howard troubles his fiancée and friends due to his preoccupation with the past, especially the September 1784 day when his namesake arrived. Transported to the past, Howard invites suspicion when his "modern" manners and knowledge surface. Howard talks too much. More significantly, he becomes attracted to the wrong woman, beautiful but melancholy Heather Angel (as Helen Pettigrew)...
This intriguing "time travel" film was unavailable for decades, but the story was revived often on stage and screen. It was based on an unfinished Henry James novel and inspired memorable imitations from horror mythos-makers H. P. Lovecraft ("The Shadow out of Time") and Dan Curtis ("Dark Shadows"). Howard recreates his performance from the stage well, but director Frank Lloyd and Fox don't take full advantage of cinema potential. Early examples are Howard's trip to the past. He could have appeared outside the door, wet, as both arrivals occurred in the rain. Howard also immediately knows how to sit in his 1784 costume, betraying a familiar comfort. Later, the film would have benefited from Howard visiting the actual grave mentioned in a letter...
Solid impressions are made by lustful Colin Keith-Johnston (as Thomas "Tom" Pettigrew) and sensible sister Valerie Taylor (as Kate). Matriarchal Irene Browne (as Ann) played her role again in the 1941 re-make starring Tyrone Power.
******* Berkeley Square (9/15/33) Frank Lloyd ~ Leslie Howard, Heather Angel, Colin Keith-Johnston, Valerie Taylor
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