Peter Ibbetson  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Peter Ibbetson is an American black-and-white drama film released in 1935 and directed by Henry Hathaway.

The picture is based on the George du Maurier's 1891 novel and the play by John Nathaniel Raphael.

This tale of a love that transcends all obstacles relates the story of two young lovers who are separated in childhood and then drawn together by destiny years later, even after they die. The movie's transitions between reality and fantasy are captured by the cinematography of Charles Lang.

The film's cinematography work was discussed in the documentary Visions of Light (1992).

The feature had been made once before, a silent film named Forever (1921) directed by George Fitzmaurice.


The story tells of Peter Ibbetson (Gary Cooper) an architect who is working on a restoration job for the British Duke of Towers (John Halliday).

He discovers that The Duchess of Towers (Ann Harding) is Mary, his childhood sweetheart.

The duke becomes jealous and pulls a gun on Ibbetson, but he kills him in self-defense.

Ibbetson is sent to prison for life and he's certain that he'll never meet Mary again.

However, the lovers are reunited in one another's dreams, which connect them spiritually. The years pass, but the aging Peter and Mary remain youthful in their dreams.

When they pass away they are reunited in the next life.

Critical reception

The film was well received by film critics.

Critic Andre Sennwald, writing for The New York Times, liked Henry Hathaway's adaptation of the novel on film, his direction, and the acting. He wrote, "Mr. Hathaway bridges the spiritual gulfs between that rousing super-Western and the fragile dream world of duMaurier's sentimental classic with astonishing success. With his directness and his hearty masculine qualities, he skillfully escapes all the lush pitfalls of the plot and gives it a tenderness that is always gallant instead of merely soft. The photoplay, though it scarcely is a dramatic thunderbolt, possesses a luminous beauty and a sensitive charm that make it attractive and moving. Under Mr. Hathaway's management Miss Ann Harding, who has been losing prestige lately, gives her finest performance, while Gary Cooper fits into the picture with unexpected success."

Reception by French surrealists

As the book Midnight Movies notes, the film was particularly well received by the French surrealists. André Breton considered it comparable only to Luis Buñuel's L'Age d'or in its depiction of l'amour fou. The fact that Paul Éluard discovered Peter Ibbetson by impulsively trailing an attractive woman into a movie theater was seen as ultimate proof for the surrealists that the relationship between film and spectator was primarily libidinal.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Peter Ibbetson" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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