One of the better-known and more typical of MGM's adaptations of famous stage plays, THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET is slightly strangled by its own sense of prestige, but proves worthy drama nonetheless. This historical romance tells how the near-invalid Elizabeth Barrett (Shearer) finds
happiness and renewed vitality through the love of fellow poet Robert Browning (March), despite the efforts of her dictatorial and overly protective father (played exquisitely by Laughton). Confined to her room with little but her dog and her love of poetry for comfort, Elizabeth cannot even reach
out to her brothers and sisters, also under the thumb of their father's tyranny. The battle between father and lover, seemingly simplistic, takes on increasing depth as the drama unfolds.
Though much of the acting is somewhat theatrical, it is also effective on its own terms in this rarefied atmosphere. The climactic moment as Elizabeth struggles out of her father's grasp, realizing that his smothering love for her isn't simply of a paternal nature, is extremely well handled by
both Shearer and Laughton. Although the latter's villainy dominates the film, the supporting performances are generally good, particularly those of O'Sullivan as Elizabeth's hapless younger sister and O'Connor as a loyal servant. Not as good as contemporary reviews suggest, but nostalgically
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