17 May 2006 | johno-21
Shearer shines as sickly sonnetist
This film is adapted from the 1931 Rudolf Besier Broadway play that starred Katherine Cornell and Brian Aherne in the roles of poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. For the MGM film version Norma shearer and Fredrick March take over the roles. No one from the stage version that briefly returned to Broadway in a revival after this film's success, was cast for the film. Charles Laughton plays the tyrannical, repressive, domineering and possessive father of Elizabeth Edward Moulton-Barrett, Maureen O'Sullivan is Elizabeth's sister Henrietta. Una O'Conner provides comic relief as the maid Wilson in a role where she glides into each room feet unseen under her long Victorian skirts which show not a ruffle or indication of movement of legs or feet to stir the skirts material so the film makers must have had her on some type of platform on wheels to achieve the effect. Leo g. Carroll is also among the cast. Flush the dog is here to and it's possible it may have been the same dog used in the Broadway play. Veteran cinematographer William H. Daniels photographed the film. His career would take him into the 1970's and he did several Frank Sinatra films like Von Ryan's Express and Ocean's Eleven in the 1960's. Daniels was also Greta Garbo's cinematographer and he photographed 20 of her films. He also photographed 10 films in the career of Norma Shearer and is with her again here in the Barretts of Wimpole Street, the story of two poets falling in love and their fight to break the chains of her father's suppression and her own invalidism. Norma Shearer is always great to watch on screen. She came out of the silent film era and uses such facial expression and hand movements that were necessary in silents. Many actors couldn't drop their stage theatrics in the transition to talking pictures and they faded from overacting. Shearer keeps her theatrics and pulls it off. She's also one of my favorite screen beauties. Another of my favorites is Maureen O'Sullivan and she is beautiful here and handles her comedic moments with skill. The part where she's secretly meeting her boyfriend across the street from her house and she keeps telling not to look at the house is a riot. Sidney Franklin who had directed Shearer in a couple of her previous films is the film's director. Shearer received her fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for 1934 and the movie was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in a field that had 11 pictures nominated for Best Picture that year. Claudet Colbert appeared in three of those nominated Best Picture films including It Happened One Night which won Best Picture and gave Colbert Best Actress. The Barrets of Wimpole Street is a little too stagy but it has a lot going for it and I would give it an 8.0 out of 10.