The Barretts of Wimpole Street

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Katharine Cornell reprising her role in the Producers' Showcase television production of the play in 1956

The Barretts of Wimpole Street is a play written by Rudolf Besier in 1930, based on the romance between Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, and her father's unwillingness to allow them to marry.

The play was Besier's only real success as a playwright. He had been turned down by two London producers, but managed to have it staged in Malvern, directed by Sir Barry Jackson.

He then turned to the United States, but was rebuffed by no fewer than 27 producers, before the actress Katharine Cornell took a personal interest in the play and had it staged at the Hanna Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio in 1931. The role of Elizabeth Barrett worked so well for Cornell that it became her signature role.[1]

The Barretts of Wimpole Street then went to Broadway, where it opened on 9 February 1931 at the Empire Theatre, starring Katharine Cornell and Brian Aherne.[2] It was revived there in 1934 and 1945.



It was filmed in 1934, starring Fredric March, Norma Shearer and Charles Laughton. That film was remade scene-for-scene and almost shot-for-shot, in colour, in 1957, starring Bill Travers, Jennifer Jones and Sir John Gielgud. Both films were directed by Sidney Franklin.


The play also spawned a musical. It was first set as The Third Kiss by Judge Fred G. Moritt, which was never produced, but that was reworked as Robert and Elizabeth, with music by Ron Grainer. It opened in London in 1964, starring June Bronhill and Keith Michell.


A 1982 TV series The Barretts of Wimpole Street was made by the BBC starring Jane Lapotaire, Joss Ackland, Jeremy Brett and Nigel Stock.