Rudolf Besier Achievements
Though Rudolf Besier wrote a large number of plays, his international reputation depends on a single work, the historical drama The Barretts of Wimpole Street. This perennial favorite was produced for the first time at the Malvern Festival in England in 1930 by Sir Barry Jackson, following its rejection by two London producers. After twenty-seven American producers turned it down, Katharine Cornell accepted it, and the play opened in Cleveland and, shortly thereafter, at the Empire Theatre in New York.
Rudolf Besier Bibliography
Gillmore, Margalo, and Patricia Collinge. The B. O. W. S. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1945. A classic account of the American Theater Wing’s overseas production of Besier’s The Barretts of Wimpole Street.
Hochman, Stanley, ed. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Drama. 2d ed. Vol. 2. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984. This biographical article covers the highlights of the playwright’s career in the United States, including the production of The Virgin Goddess and Lady Patricia. The article features a photograph of Besier and Katharine Cornell in the first American production of The Barretts of Wimpole Street.
Hutchens, John. “The Actor’s Month: Broadway in Review.” Review of The Barretts of Wimpole Street, by Rudolf Besier. Theatre Arts Monthly 15 (April, 1931): 273-277. Hutchens reviews the original American performance of Besier’s most famous play, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, which featured Katharine Cornell as Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He reveals that Besier’s script attributes incestuous impulses to Barrett’s father as the root of his tyrannical behavior. At the time, this play was considered a shocking and psychologically advanced twist to a well-known romantic tale.
Skinner, Richard Dana. “The Barretts of Wimpole Street.” Review of The Barretts of Wimpole Street, by Rudolf Besier. Commonweal 13 (February 25, 1931): 469. Commonweal is a Catholic periodical, and its theater critic is predictably conservative. Skinner applauds the romance of Besier’s The Barretts of Wimpole Street, yet he condemns the psychosexual abnormality of the character of Edward Moulton Barrett as “gratuitous.” He calls the abnormality “a discordant note in what is otherwise one of the most beguiling stage romances of recent years.”
Van Doren, Mark. “Drama: Early Victorian Father.” Review of The Barretts of Wimpole Street, by Rudolf Besier. The Nation 132 (February 25, 1931): 224-225. Van Doren compliments The Barretts of Wimpole Street by saying that “Mr. Besier had the almost unique inspiration to make his famous hero and heroine behave as if they did not know they were famous. This was delightful.” He states that the play’s weakness lies in Besier’s characterization of the father as a perfect, predictable monster.