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
This was a prestige effort in every way in 1934, gathering together the Academy Award winners of the past three years to appear together in the film version of a highly respected play. That the play no longer holds the stage, and that it is old fashioned melodrama, is hardly the point. The script may lean towards the treacly, but both Charles Laughton and in particular Norma Shearer give it s real lift.
Laughton is somewhat hammy, playing Mr. Barrett as a slightly toned down Dr. Moreau. But I defy anyone to look away; and towards the end of the film he does give a fine impression of a man in torment. But it is Shearer who really carries the film; absolutely lovely performance, restrained and wisely underplaying with Laughton. Observe their final confrontation and note how Shearer's performance rises in intensity as Laughton's grows more subdued. This is a high class of ensemble acting.
Only Fredric March lets the film down by being far too energetic as Robert Browning; meant to be cockily eccentric, he succeeds in putting your teeth on edge. Still, Norma loves him convincingly enough.
A highly recommended film for a rainy afternoon.
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