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Berkeley Square (film)

Berkeley Square
Berkeley Square (1933, Lobby Card), Leslie Howard and Betty Lawford
Directed by Frank Lloyd
Produced by Jesse L. Lasky
Screenplay by Sonya Levien
John L. Balderston
Based on Berkeley Square
1926 play 
by John L. Balderston
1917 novel
The Sense of the Past by Henry James
Starring Leslie Howard
Heather Angel
Music by Louis De Francesco
Cinematography Ernest Palmer
Edited by Harold D. Schuster
Distributed by Fox Film Corporation
Release dates
  • September 15, 1933 (1933-09-15)
Running time
85 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Berkeley Square is a 1933 American Pre-Code science fiction/drama film produced by Fox Film Corporation, directed by Frank Lloyd, and starring Leslie Howard and Heather Angel. It recounts the tale of young American Peter Standish, played by Howard (nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor), who is transported back to London shortly after the American Revolution, where he meets his ancestors. The film was based on the play of the same name by John L. Balderston,[1] itself loosely based on the incomplete novel The Sense of the Past by Henry James. Howard also played Standish in the Broadway play.[2]

The film was thought to have been lost until it was rediscovered in the 1970s.[3] A newly restored 35mm print has been made, and the restored version was first shown at the 2011 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Reception 3
  • Remake 4
  • In popular culture 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


In 1784, shortly after the United States wins its independence, American Peter Standish (Leslie Howard) sails from New York to England to marry his cousin. Upon hearing of a Frenchman crossing the English Channel in a balloon, Peter regrets that he will not be able to see the marvels the future has in store.

In 1933, his descendant, also named Peter Standish (Leslie Howard again), unexpectedly inherits a house in Berkeley Square, London. He becomes increasingly obsessed with his ancestor's diary, causing his fiancée Marjorie Frant (Betty Lawford) great concern. When they have tea with the American ambassador (Samuel S. Hinds), Peter confides to the diplomat with eager anticipation his conviction that he will be transported back 149 years at 5:30 that day. Peter is convinced that all he needs to do is follow his ancestor's diary, since he already knows what happens, from reading it.

He rushes home, and just as he opens the door, he is indeed back in 1784, taking the place of the earlier Peter Standish just as he arrives at the house, then owned by his relations, the Pettigrews. Lady Ann (Irene Browne), and her grown offspring, Tom (Colin Keith-Johnston), Kate (Valerie Taylor) and Helen (Heather Angel) are there to greet him. The Pettigrews, being in desperate financial straits, are anxious for Kate to marry the wealthy American. Peter is determined not to alter the future he has read about, until he sees Helen for the first time. He tries to fight his attraction to her, but ultimately fails. Helen, meanwhile, is being pressed by her mother to marry Mr. Throstle (Ferdinand Gottschalk), but, Helen has determined, even before Peter's arrival, not to marry. She later confesses to Peter, that she had been dreaming of him, before she saw him.

As time goes on, Peter keeps inadvertently giving offense with his unfamiliarity with 18th century customs. People also begin to fear him, as he blunders and speaks of things which have not yet taken place. For example, when he commissions Sir Joshua Reynolds to paint his portrait, he praises another Reynolds work by name, one the painter has only just begun. Kate becomes convinced that Peter is demonically possessed and breaks their engagement. Helen, however, is sympathetic to his difficulties, and falls in love with him.

Helen eventually presses Peter for an explanation of his "second sight", which he has only hinted at. Though he refuses to speak openly, she somehow sees in his eyes visions of his modern world, with all its horrors as well as its marvels, and guesses the truth. Knowing he has become disillusioned, living among ghosts born 149 years before his time, and desperately unhappy with the day-to-day realities of her era (including a lack of hygiene and plumbing, and not bathing regularly in what he calls a "filthy little pigsty of a world"), she urges him to return to his own time. He wants to stay with her regardless of the consequences, but in the end, he does go back to 1933.

When he visits Helen's grave, he learns that she died on June 15, 1787 at the age of 23. Marjorie comes to see him, worried about his sanity because he has been saying that he is from the 18th century. Peter believes his ancestor had switched places with him. He tells her he cannot marry her. Peter is consoled by the epitaph on Helen's grave, and her conviction that they will be together, "not in my time, nor in yours, but in God's".



The New York Times reviewer Mordaunt Hall called it "an example of delicacy and restraint, a picture filled with gentle humor and appealing pathos."[1] He particularly praised Leslie Howard, writing, "He has done excellent work in other films, but it is doubtful whether he has ever given so impressive and imaginative a performance."[1]


The film was remade in 1951 as Irene Browne reprised her role as Lady Ann Pettigrew in the remake.

In popular culture

The film was an inspiration for the H. P. Lovecraft story "The Shadow Out of Time" (1936).

See also


  1. ^ a b c Mordaunt Hall (September 14, 1933). "Berkeley Square (1933)". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Berkeley Square at the Internet Broadway Database
  3. ^ "Berkeley Square Movie Review (1933)". Channel 4. 

External links

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