Peter Ibbetson (1935)

Peter Ibbetson Poster Peter Ibbetson (1935)

Run time: 88 min
Rating: 7.1
Genres: Drama | Fantasy | Romance
Director: Henry Hathaway
Writers: Vincent Lawrence, Waldemar Young
Stars: Gary Cooper, Ann Harding, John Halliday
Architect Peter Ibbetson is hired by the Duke of Towers to design a building for him. Ibbetson discovers that the Duchess of Towers, Mary, is his now-grown childhood sweetheart. Their love revives, but Peter is sentenced to life in prison for an accidental killing. Mary comes to him in dreams and they are able to live out their romance in a dream world. Written by Jim Beaver <>
Release Date: 7 November 1935 (USA)

6 responses to “Peter Ibbetson (1935)”

  1. rgkeenan says:

    Sometimes you watch a film which is so good that you wonder why it isn't better known. Peter Ibbetson is such a film. It takes a concept which is highly original but undoubtedly 'out there' and makes you believe in it for just under an hour and a half. It also manages to be a truly moving love story whose basic concept,a man and a woman who are apart for most of their lives meet in their dreams,and it's message,that love does indeed conquer all, should warm the hearts {and shed the tears}of die hard romantics everywhere.

    It's a bit stilted as many 30s films are,especially at first,but Charles Lang's expressionistic photography immediately creates a fairy tale feeling. The growing love between the young boy and girl is extremely touching. When they meet again as adults,it seems like the film is going to settle down into being a conventional love triangle tale {she's married}. Then the film suddenly changes,and although separated the two lovers carry out their relationship in their dreams. The film is quite subtle is depicting the dream world,although there are wonderful touches,such as the fairy tale castle that she creates with her imagination,only for it to crumble when he fails to believe in it. As for the ending,well,you would have to be very strong not to shed a tear. Like much of the film,it's almost underplayed,and is all the more moving for not being over the top.

    Gary Cooper shows once again what a great actor he was in his early days {as in A Farewell To Arms},really making us feel his character's pain and joy,although Ann Harding is perhaps a bit too earthy for her role. Director Henry Hathaway was generally a solid craftsman,but here he shows real engagement in his story.A great deal of attention is paid to set design,look at the way for instance the pair are often separated by bars of some sort in the 'real'world. Also notable is the music score by Ernest Toch,suitably romantic,but quite low key and sparse-Max Steiner would have plastered the film with music,but would it have really been as effective?

    Peter Ibbetson is a wonderful movie, and deserves to be ranked with some of the more better known fantasy romances of Hollywood's Golden Age. I'd actually like to see a remake of this,as it's such an amazing idea. But before that let's have a DVD release,please!

  2. IMDBReviewer says:

    Once again, like many other film’s I’ve finally come to see, after reading so many about them and longing to have the opportunity of watching them (i.e. "Trouble in Paradise"), I was afraid this one was not going to meet my expectations, and I was wrong.

    First of all, Gary Cooper really impressed me so favorably; so early in his career he was able to handle such a difficult role and give a complex and sensitive performance, conveying Peter Ibbetson’s ethereal aspects. Gary Cooper was really a fine actor (not only a charming personality and huge star), good at Drama, Adventure, Western, Romance, Comedy et al.

    Cooper portrays the idealistic Peter Ibbetson, a young man so deeply attached to his childhood memories, that he cannot feel fulfilled or happy, in spite that he’s supposed to have everything a man would wish, to find happiness.

    Ann Harding, on the other hand, of whose performance regarding this film I’ve read that she wasn’t ethereal enough to play this part (Peter Ibbetson’s childhood sweetheart, Mary), I must say that I found her well suited to it, as always giving a sincere, sensitive, natural and restrained performance, looking perfect in period clothes.

    Both lead performers transmit truth into their characterizations, embodying the love that transcends all the obstacles or "L’amour fou" as French defined it, giving endearing performances. Beautiful Cinematography by the great Charles Lang and great sets by Hans Dreier.

    John Halliday plays expertly the stern Duke of Towers; Ida Lupino looks pretty and shows her great talent in a supporting role as a vulgar English woman Peter Ibbetson befriends in Paris and Douglass Drumbille is the "menacing at first sight", uncle of the Title character.

    Mention apart deserve lovely Virginia Weidler and Dickie Moore, who portray the leading stars as children, giving impressive, terrific performances. Their scenes together have been among the most heart-wrenching and sincere I’ve ever seen, featuring a couple of child actors (the 1949 film "The Secret Garden" featuring Dean Stockwell and Margaret O’Brien comes to my mind).

    If you liked such pictures as "Smilin’ Through", "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir", "I’ll Never Forget You", "Berkeley Square", "Somewhere in Time" or "Portrait of Jennie", you must see this one.

    The DVD transfer (released by Universal as part of the "Gary Cooper Collection") is of very good quality.

  3. IMDBReviewer says:

    A very sensitive and beautifully photographed film, with some strong performances. I had looked forward to seeing it for quite a time, as I had seen it recommended in print a few times. Last Christmas I missed it, but I caught it this time round (even though – again – it was put on at a very early time by the BBC). Basically it’s a romance – but one which has a great deal of feeling to it. It’s aesthetic appeal reminds me of Letter From An Unknown Woman. Yet when I viewed that one again recently it disappointed me. This one though had even more of an emotional impact (like when I saw La Strada a few years ago). It isn’t really surrealistic, but it does have a power and is likely to linger in your memory. The ending is actually positive as well. It has a remarkable ability to make you believe in it, and to therebye become involved.

  4. rgkeenan says:

    Well, it’s finally here, all you rabid film enthusiasts. *Peter Ibbetson* — never before released for home consumption, not even on VHS, and very rarely revived in art-houses since its 1935 flopped release — is now on DVD as part of Universal’s new "Gary Cooper Collection". On this five-movie set, *Ibbetson* is clearly the crown jewel, though the others are certainly worth a look, depending on your degree of interest (I’ve already reviewed on these pages Lubitsch’s *Design for Living*, which should interest anybody interested in good movies). *Peter Ibbetson* is the very definition of the term "cult classic": its extreme rarity admits only a select club of in-the-know members, and its surrealist subject-matter — sundered lovers who communicate to each other through their dreams — especially as realized by such American workmen as director Henry Hathaway and actor Gary Cooper, makes this movie irresistible to the cinephile.

    It also appeals to other disparate types, such as the chick-flick connoisseur — for what can be more deliriously romantic than lovers who live in their own telekinetic, dream-world universe? It’s the kind of movie where Cooper builds Ann Harding a glistening castle in the air, made out of clouds and stardust, only to see it crumble when he doesn’t believe strongly enough in his own dream. For those who will find all of this rather silly or at least doubtful, I can tell you that the unremitting sense of tragedy throughout the story’s arc helps to keep things grounded and cleans out any extraneous gossamer. The entire movie depends upon the lovers’ grievous separation, from childhood onward to old age, and Coop spends the majority of his adult life shackled in prison for a crime from which he should have been exonerated. Rather than commit suicide or allow himself to die after a savage beating from a jailer, he decides to go on living so that he can spend every night with his girlfriend, who is sharing the same dream with him. Romantic enough for you, ladies?

    Of course, the real points of the story are both the indomitable longevity of the libido and the endless resources contained within the human imagination — fertile grounds for Surrealism. Not surprisingly, Luis Bunuel considered *Peter Ibbetson* to be one of the 10 greatest films ever made. The dreamy set-design, the gauzy photography by Charles Lang, and the beautiful score by Ernst Toch contribute to the generally bizarre feeling that the movie evokes. It’s a rare American film, from any era, that insists on dreams having at least as much, if not more, significance than so-called "reality", but such is the case here in this mainstream release from 1935. The movie failed with mainstream audiences then, and probably wouldn’t sit well with mainstream audiences today. Americans have always been practical people, even during the Great Depression: their need for escapism back then clearly didn’t outweigh their reluctance to accept Coop as an English architect suffering the pangs of transcendent love that is stronger than the grave. (Their loss.) I suspect the same is true of audiences today, who, when they bother to watch old movies, certainly do not want to see one in which Gary Cooper wanders through a European-style art-movie directed by an action-adventure journeyman like Henry Hathaway. (Their loss.)

    10 stars out of 10.

  5. Pierre Desrochers says:

    can I see this movie?

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