PETER IBBETSON (director: Henry Hathaway; screenwriters: from the novel by George duMaurier and the play by John Nathaniel Raphael and Constance Collier/ Vincent Lawrence/Waldemar Young/John Meehan/Edwin Justus Mayer; cinematographer: Charles Lang; editor: Stuart Heisler; music: Ernst Toch; cast: Gary Cooper (Peter Ibbetson), Ann Harding (Mary, Duchess of Towers), John Halliday (Duke of Towers), Ida Lupino (Agnes), Douglas Dumbrille (Colonel Forsythe), Donald Meek (Mr. Slade), Virginia Weidler (Mimsey at six), Dickie Moore (Gogo at eight), Christian Rub (Major Duquesnois); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Louis D. Lighton; Universal; 1935)

"Incredibly peculiar."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

A fantasy romance that's well-produced and elegantly photographed by Charles Lang, which makes up a great deal for how the fanciful story never seemed anything more than incredibly peculiar. Director Henry Hathaway ("5 Card Stud"/"True Grit"/"the Sons of Katie Elder") bases it on a novel by George duMaurier. The novel was cheered by surrealists as a fine work of l'amour fou, and the film's gentle far reaching love story also greatly pleased them.

It's set in the middle of the 19th century and opens in the suburbs of Paris, where prominent English families reside. The eight year old Gogo (Dickie Moore) and the six year old Mimsey (Virginia Weidler) reside in mansions next to each other and play together. When Gogo's mom suddenly dies, his London residing uncle, Colonel Forsythe (Douglas Dumbrille), brings him back to London as his guardian. He also renames the strange and sensitive lad Peter Ibbetson. The lad, now played with intensity by Gary Cooper, grows up to be a promising architect. His blind boss, Mr. Slade (Donald Meek), sends him to Yorkshire to rebuild the stable of the Duke of Towers (John Halliday). After working there for two months, Peter is accused by the jealous Duke of falling in love with his wife and asked to leave. Peter has failed to show any other interest in a woman other than his love for his childhood playmate. When it's suddenly discovered that Mary is Mimsey, Peter can't leave her. When the Duke pulls a gun on Peter after catching him embracing his wife, he fires a shot at his rival but is accidentally killed when Peter defends himself. Peter receives a life sentence, but discovers that he and Mary have such a deep love that they share the same dreams and are able to mystically communicate with each other and meet magically in their childhood garden spot while they are both alive. Later, they will reunite in heaven.

The pic could never sell me on its dreamy Elysian stuff, but I can respect the production for the lyrical ways it tries to bridge the dream world with reality.

REVIEWED ON 10/21/2011       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"