Home > 1920 - 1939 > Peter Ibbetson

Peter Ibbetson

Peter Ibbetson title card

Year - 1935
Studio - Paramount
Stars - Gary Cooper, Ann Harding, Ida Lupino, John Halliday, Douglas Dumbrille, Virginia Weidler, Dickie Moore
Director - Henry Hathaway
Writing Credits - George L. Du Maurier (novel), John Nathaniel Raphel (play), Constance Collier, Vincent Lawrence (adaptation)
Music - Ernst Toch, Hugo Friedhofer

Synopsis

Gogo (Dickie Moore), age 8, and Mimsey (Virginia Weidler), age 6, are next door playmates at their homes outside of Paris. They bicker constantly but secretly have a great deal of affection for each other. After Gogo's mother dies, his uncle comes from London to take him back to live with him. Gogo and Mimsey are devastated to be separated.

His uncle tells him that he must have a good English name and Gogo selects "Peter" and his mother's maiden name, Ibbetson.

Years later, Peter (now played by Gary Cooper) is an architect in London, but is depressed and dissatisfied with his life. He tells his employer (Donald Meek) that he wants to resign, but is persuaded to take a holiday to Paris instead. There he visits his old home, now boarded up and vacant, and, even more, feels the void left by his young playmate.

His boss assigns him to a project in Yorkshire, designing a new horse stable for the Duke and Duchess of Towers (John Halliday and Ann Harding). There he creates a new design for stables, but Mary, the Duchess, insists she wants it simply to match the other stable on the property. Peter stubbornly refuses to use that approach and, ultimately, he convinces Mary to do it his way. He supervises the construction and when it is completed, two months later, he and Mary have become close, although their affection is unspoken. It is, however, sensed by the Duke, and he accuses them of being in love. Peter and Mary realize it is true, and Peter explains that his heart has been empty since he was taken from Mimsey as a child. Mary exclaims that she was that little girl.

Peter Ibbetson poster

Peter later goes to Mary's bedroom to ask her to return to London with him. The Duke bursts in the door, pistol in hand, and sadistically orders his wife to embrace Peter. As he raises his gun, Peter throws a chair, and the Duke is fatally injured as his head strikes the floor.

Peter is convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. There he is cruelly treated by the jailers and his back is broken when he is clubbed by one of them. As he lies unconscious, Mary comes to him in a dream and tells him that they can see each other in their mutual dreams whenever they wish.

In his dream, he gets up and passes through the bars of his cell, completely healed and dressed in his fine suit, goes to Mary and they walk the idyllic countryside together, professing their undying love. They go to their Paris homes, where he builds a wagon for her, an unfinished job from their childhood. He shows her a magnificent mountain castle he has built for her.

Their reverie is interrupted by a violent earthquake which destroys the dream castle and separates them as they flee. When they find each other, they realize that their doubts created that quake and that their dreams will be there for them, as long as they both shall live.

Years pass, and Peter and Mary, now very old, have continued their dream rendezvous. As Mary lies dying in her bed, she goes to Peter in his dream, tells him that they will soon be together forever, and then she vanishes to him. Peter find her gloves left behind on the ground and, then, dying in his prison cell, raises his hand to the light and declares, "Mary, you've forgotten your gloves. I'm coming to give them to you."

Show Spoilers