Peter Ibbetson is based on a book and has also been adapted into a ballet, play, a silent movie released before this one, and a radio show starring Orson Welles. I have never heard of it before, let alone read the book it’s based on or any other adaptation, so I’m not sure how accurate it is to the source material.
The story is that when Gogo is a child, there’s a young girl who he’s friends with and is his neighbor. Then his mother dies and his Uncle comes by and takes him away, changing his name to Peter in the process. He gets older, meets a Duchess, realizes she’s that young girl from his past, and they fall in love. But she’s married and they’re about to run away together, but the Duke finds out and tries to kill Peter and Peter makes the Duke shoot himself in self-defense. This gets Peter put in jail for life.
That’s when Peter and his lover, Mary, start sharing dreams. It’s never explained why they can do this and I found it to be something that was just weird more than having to play any part in the plot. It almost felt like the movie could have ended as he went to jail before the whole “we share dreams” thing and it wouldn’t have changed anything about the movie. A tragic ending, I know, but it’s no better than how the movie actually concluded.
Outside of that, the acting wasn’t anything special. Gary Cooper is okay, sometimes, but there’s large bits of his dialogue meant to be dramatic but instead comes off as over-acting. Ann Harding does a better job of it, though her part isn’t nearly as prevalent as Cooper’s and the movie suffers for it. The dream sequences, which could have been something really cool and revolutionary, just aren’t those things.
Why I think it’s on the list: Honestly, I don’t have a clue. It could maybe be because the idea of meeting in dreams was really original for its time but there’s better films than this from this era.