The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957 film)

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The Barretts of Wimpole Street
File:Poster of The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1957 film).jpg
Directed by Sidney Franklin
Produced by Sam Zimbalist
Written by John Dighton (screenplay)
Based on The Barretts of Wimpole Street
1930 play 
by Rudolf Besier
Starring John Gielgud
Jennifer Jones
Bill Travers
Virginia McKenna
Music by Bronisław Kaper
Cinematography Freddie Young
Edited by Frank Clarke
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • 16 January 1957 (1957-01-16)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $2,208,000[1]
Box office $1,055,000[1]

The Barretts of Wimpole Street is a 1957 Metrocolor CinemaScope film originating from the United Kingdom, and was a re-make of the earlier 1934 version by the same director, Sidney Franklin.[2] Both films are based on the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street by Rudolf Besier. The screenplay for the 1957 film is credited to John Dighton, although Franklin used exactly the same script for the second movie as he did for the first.[3] The film, set in the early 19th century, stars Jennifer Jones, John Gielgud, and Bill Travers.


Elizabeth Barrett (Jennifer Jones) is the disabled grown-up daughter of Edward Moulton-Barrett (John Gielgud) of Wimpole Street, and has an intense interest in poetry. However, she lives under the obsessive rule of her father, and this severely limits her ability to develop her love of rhyme amongst her peers. Edward in fact shows clear incestuous tendencies towards her, and discourages close contact with any males. When the poet Robert Browning (Bill Travers) enters her life, though, matters are brought to a head, through the intervention of Browning. Edward finds that his control over Elizabeth, and her younger sister Henrietta (Virginia McKenna), is far from complete.[2]


Production notes

To lend the whole project an air of authenticity, producer Sam Zimbalist moved filming from the 1934 location in the USA to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios[4] in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England, using only "fine English actors" with the exception of American actress Jennifer Jones, and as many correct locations as possible, including St Marylebone Parish Church in London.[5] Bill Travers (Browning) and Virginia McKenna (Henrietta), though cast to play future in-laws in the film, were actually husband and wife in real life.[6]

The film was made in Metrocolor, using CinemaScope, with an aspect ratio of 2.35 : 1 on 35mm film.[7] The 4-track stereo sound was supplied by Westrex.[8]

Relationship to the real story of the Brownings' courtship

Although most of the names of the individuals involved are correct in the play and films, by definition motivations of individuals cannot be known. The numerous love letters that Robert and Elizabeth exchanged before their marriage, however, can give readers a great deal of information about this famous courtship in their own words. The correspondence was well underway before they ever met in person, he having admired the collection Poems that she published in 1844. He opens his first letter to her, 'I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett,' and a little later in that first letter he says 'I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart—and I love you too' (January 10, 1845).[9]

Several editions of these letters have been published, starting with one by their son in 1898. Flush by Virginia Woolf, a version of the courtship from the perspective of Elizabeth's dog, is also an imaginative reconstruction, though more closely based on reading the letters. Both the play and film reflect popular concerns at the time, particularly Freudian analysis. Although Edward Barrett's behaviour in disinheriting the children who married seems bizarre, there is no evidence of his being sexually aggressive toward any family members.[10]


The film was an expensive financial failure. According to MGM records it earned $330,000 in the US and Canada and $725,000 in other countries, resulting in a loss of $1,897,000.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Film synopsis and details: New York Times website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
  3. Same script: website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
  4. MGM studios, Borehamwood, circa 1938: Francis Frith website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
  5. Marylebone Church, London, used as film location: website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
  6. Production details: from an article at the TCM website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
  7. Technical specifications: website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
  8. Other technical info: website. Retrieved on January 15, 2008.
  9. Kelley, Philip, et al., eds., The Brownings' Correspondence. Wedgestone Press, 1992. Vol. 10, pg. 17
  10. The Courtship of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett, Daniel Karlin. Oxford University Press, 1987. Pgs. 1 and 3.

External links