Robert Browning and the Cinema


God’s in his heaven, All’s right with the world  — Browning, Pippa Passes

Today is the birthday of the poet Robert Browning (1812-1889). Though he never knew it, Browning had the great good fortune to still be immensely popular in the early days of cinema. This, and the fact that many of his poems take the form of dramatic monologues or dialogues resulted in him being one of the rare poets whose works have been much adapted for the screen. Check it out! He has credits on IMDB!

His most frequently adapted work is The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Bet you didn’t know he wrote that, did you? Well, it’s a popular folk tale. A LOT of people wrote it. But his is the best known English language version and it was adapted for the screen in 1907, 1911, 1913, 1926, 1933, 1957, 1972, and 1992, and probably more times than that. This is by far his most adapted work. (Runner up is A Light Woman, 1913 and 1920). D.W. Griffith filmed two Browning works: Pippa Passes (1909) and A Blot on the ‘Scutcheon (1912). Wallace Reid directed and starred in Women and Roses (1914). Other screen versions of Browning poems include James Lee’s Wife (1913), The Ring and the Book (1914),The Flight of the Duchess (1916), and Child of M’sieu (1919), which turns out to be a remake of Pippa Passes, so that ties it with A Light Woman. 

I am clearly living in the wrong era.

For more on silent film don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from etc etc etc



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