|Finding Neverland (2004)
Starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet
based on Peter Pan author James Matthew Barrie's relationship with Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her children
June 9, 1963
Birthplace: Owensboro, Kentucky, USA
||James Matthew Barrie
May 9, 1860
Birthplace: Kirriemuir, Angus, Scotland, UK
Died: June 19, 1937, London, England, UK (pneumonia)
October 5, 1975
Birthplace: Reading, Berkshire, England, UK
||Sylvia Llewelyn Davies
Died: 1910 (cancer)
February 14, 1992
Birthplace: London, England, UK
||Peter Llewelyn Davies
April 5, 1897
Died: April 5, 1960, London, England, UK (suicide)
"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it. " - J.M. Barrie, from his novel The Little Minister (1891)
Questioning the Story:
Was James Matthew Barrie a pedophile?
After viewing the movie Finding Neverland in 2004 with a few friends, one of them, who was an English Major in college at the time, left the theater telling us that the movie wasn't true because James Matthew Barrie was really a disgusting pedophile. She was exuberant in her claims and seemed to enjoy giving us the "real" story. I questioned whether to believe her or not, and after doing my own research I
have discovered that there is little, if any proof to support her statement.
The youngest Davies boy Nico, who died in 1980, arrived at the balanced conclusion that the author of "Peter Pan" was "a lover of childhood, but was not in any sexual sense the pedophile that some claim him to have been." J.M.'s obsession with childhood is speculated to have been the result of his own emotionally traumatic life as a boy. When J.M. was six-years-old his older brother
David died in a skating accident. At the time of his death, David had grown to be the perfect child in his mother Margaret's eyes. When David passed away Margaret ignored her other children, refusing their pleas for her affection.
Young James (J.M.) suffered greatly. He adopted his deceased brother's mannerisms in an attempt to win his mother's affection. Once he even dressed in David's old clothes. Nothing he tried worked. Margaret never recovered from the loss of her favorite son, and James never stopped trying to become the child that was his brother David, even after his mother's death in 1895 and on into his adult life.
Where did J.M. Barrie meet the Davies children?
Like in the movie, Barrie (Johnny Depp) first met the children of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) at his favorite park, Kensington Gardens. Sylvia's sons George (the eldest) and Jack were the first Davies boys that Barrie met. He encountered George, Jack, and the family nurse Mary during his walks at the park, entertaining the lads by "wiggling his ears and perform[ing] magic tricks with his eyebrows".
He also told the boys stories of pirates and treasure. George would return home and tell his mother Sylvia about the imaginative man in the park.
Where did J.M. Barrie first meet Sylvia Llewelyn Davies?
In real life, Barrie did not first meet Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (portrayed by Kate Winslet in Finding Neverland) in the park at Kensington Gardens. He met her in 1897 at a dinner party hosted by Sir George (a lawyer) and Lady Lewis. Barrie was seated next to Sylvia, whom he would later refer to as "the most beautiful creature he had ever seen," with "a tip-tilted nose, wide, grey eyes....and a crooked smile."
Barrie began a conversation with Sylvia after he noticed her tuck a few desserts under her coat. She explained that
they were for her son Peter. The two began talking and eventually realized a common connection, Sylvia's son George whom Barrie had entertained several times in the park.
Was Sylvia's husband Arthur still alive when Barrie befriended the family?
Yes. Unlike in the movie Finding Neverland, Sylvia's husband Arthur was still alive when J.M. Barrie befriended the family in 1897. Arthur Llewellyn Davies had observed Barrie's affection for Sylvia and the children for nearly ten years, until he died from cancer of the jaw in 1907. During that time Arthur often resented Barrie's interference with his family.
Despite the two not being the best of friends, J.M. Barrie included Arthur in the dedication at the start of "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens", which read, "To Sylvia and Arthur Llewellyn Davies and their boys (my boys)." The absence of Arthur in the movie was one of Finding Neverland's most significant omissions.
Did Barrie really have a St. Bernard dog like in the movie Finding Neverland?
Yes. Peter Pan author JM Barrie really did own a large Saint Bernard dog named Porthos, which he walked in Kensington Gardens. The dog had been a present that JM gave to his wife Mary on their wedding day. Pictured at right is J.M. with Porthos and in the upper right is the movie Finding Neverland's canine character Porthos.
Why didn't Barrie and his wife Mary have any children?
It was rumored that J.M. Barrie may have been impotent. However, it is just as likely that Barrie and his wife, actress Mary Ansell, rarely consummated their marriage. Barrie had little interest in sex, and he found more pleasure in playing with other people's children than having any of his own. Biographer Andrew Birkin (author of J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys) stumbled upon several revealing entries from some of Barrie's private notebooks, which seem to indicate his feelings about marriage. Written in the third person, the entries appear to be story ideas.
—Greatest horror—dream I am married—wake up shrieking.
—Even while proposing, the thought of how it wd read go thro' him.
—He never has contact with a woman—If he had this might have made him exult less
in making women love him.
Barrie further eluded to his own troubles at being intimate in his story "Tommy and Grizel," which tells of a devastated marriage. It was published six years into his own marriage to Mary Ansell. "Grizel, I seem to be different from all other men; there seems to be some curse upon me. . . . You are the only woman I ever wanted to love, but apparently I can't."
Did J.M. Barrie really divorce his wife Mary?
Yes. Married in 1894, author J.M. Barrie divorced his wife Mary Ansell in 1909 after she sought consolation in the arms of another man. Most historians sympathize
with Mary and do not condemn her for any kind of adulterous behavior that she may have undertaken. Her marriage to Barrie had been an unhappy one partly because Barrie gave much of his attention to the Davies family instead of his wife.
The Davies children had practically become his own (he would legally adopt them in the year following Sylvia's death), leaving Mary feeling childless and abandoned.
I heard that the real J.M. Barrie was a dwarf, is that true?
Yes. J.M. Barrie suffered from psychogenic dwarfism. As an adult he stood only 4'10". This is a whole foot shorter than his onscreen counterpart Johnny Depp. Psychogenic dwarfism is a growth disorder that occurs between the ages of 2 and 15, brought on by extreme emotional deprivation or stress. The condition results in decreased growth hormone (GH) secretion, inappropriate height and weight, and immature skeletal age.
What caused J.M. Barrie's extreme emotional stress during his childhood and teenage years?
The emotional stress in J.M. Barrie's life took hold of him when he was only six. It was
then that his thirteen-year-old brother David died in a skating accident while away at school. His mother Margaret's grief over the loss of her favorite son caused her to alienate herself from her remaining children. Barrie's father did not interact with the children at all. As a result of extreme neglect and likely psychological abuse, Barrie became afflicted with psychological dwarfism (see above). He never grew beyond 4'10".
Barrie's short and frail physique led to feelings of insecurity. As a result, his shyness worsened during his teen years, and by the age of seventeen he began to avoid social gatherings altogether. Barrie wrote his feelings down in one of his school notebooks, "The boys write on walls, [a] name of boy and girl,
coupling them together. As they never did it to me, I wrote my own with a girl's name....[I] am ashamed at being small enough to travel half ticket by rail."
Is Peter Pan based on Sylvia Llewelyn Davies' son Peter?
The fictional character of Peter Pan created by author J.M. Barrie is based on an amalgam of all five Davies children. The story and characters are also based on elements of Barrie's own childhood. The character of Peter Pan was in fact named after Peter Llewelyn Davies, but it was reportedly Michael Davies who Peter Pan was most closely modeled after.
Michael was rumored to be Barrie's favorite of the five brothers, and it was Michael who Barrie photographed in the Peter Pan costume (shown at right). The picture was supposed to become the model for the famous statue of Peter Pan erected in Kensington Gardens in London, England. However, the sculptor ended up using a different child as a model, which disappointed Barrie.
Michael was also the name of one of the three Darling children in Peter Pan.
Did the movie Finding Neverland feature all of the Davies children?
No. In the movie we see four of the five Davies children: George Llewelyn-Davies (1893–1915), John Llewelyn-Davies or Jack (1894-1959), Peter Llewelyn-Davies (1897–1960), and Michael Llewelyn-Davies (1900–1921). The film omits the youngest child, Nicholas Llewelyn-Davies or Nico (1903–1980).
What happened to the Davies children after their mother Sylvia died?
After both Sylvia and Arthur Llewelyn Davies died of cancer, custody of the children was given to JM Barrie as Sylvia's will had instructed. Barrie had already been acting as a surrogate father to the boys ever since their real father's death approximately three years earlier. Some have speculated that Barrie may have forged his name into Sylvia's will, replacing that of Jenny Hodgson, the boys' nurse. Regardless, Barrie was able to provide for the boys so that
they didn't have to be split up. In letters that Sylvia wrote before she died, she indicated her desire for Barrie to be involved in the children's lives, "...I should like all my dear one's love letters to me to be burnt unread...& lie with me & Arthur in the Hampstead churchyard close to that other dear grave...Of one thing I am certain -- that JM Barrie (the best of friends in the whole world) will always be ready to advise..."
In the years that followed, several tragedies befell the Davies boys, which ultimately left Barrie in an everlasting state of grief. He would never be able to create anything on par with Peter Pan ever again. On March 15, 1915, 21-year-old George Llewelyn Davies was killed in battle during a WWI advance on the Germans at St. Eloi.
Six years later in 1921, the second youngest Davies boy Michael drowned with a friend, Rupert Errol Victor Buxton, while he was away at Oxford University as an undergraduate. The two inseparable friends were found clinging together, and it was speculated that they had been lovers who had made a suicide pact.
What happened to Peter Llewelyn-Davies?
Young Peter, portrayed by Freddie Highmore in the movie Finding Neverland, won the Military Cross for his efforts in World War I. He later became a publisher. His lifelong notoriety with the character of Peter Pan troubled him greatly. He once referred to the play as "that terrible masterpiece," though no one is certain why his association with the character bothered him so much. Yet, it is certain that Peter felt insulted when James Matthew Barrie left his fortune to his secretary, Cynthia Asquith, and not to the Davies boys, who were the inspiration
for "Peter Pan". Peter's son Ruthven once wrote, "My father had mixed feelings about the whole business of Peter Pan. He accepted that Barrie considered that he was the inspiration for Peter Pan and it was only reasonable that my father should inherit everything from Barrie. That was my father's expectation. It would have recompensed him for the notoriety he had experienced since being linked with Peter Pan — something he hated."
On April 5, 1960, almost seven months after the death of his brother John, 63-year-old Peter committed suicide by throwing himself under a train as it was pulling into the station at
Sloan Square, London. It is not known why Peter Llewelyn Davies took his own life. A coroner's jury ruled that he had killed himself "while the balance of his mind was disturbed".
Did J.M. Barrie really donate the royalties from Peter Pan to a children's hospital?
Yes. In 1929 Barrie gave the copyright of his children's classic to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Even though the UK copyright expired in 1987 (50 years after Barrie's death) then Prime Minister Lord Callaghan successfully proposed an amendment to the Copyright Act, which gave Great Ormond Street the unique right to royalties from stage performances of Peter Pan (and any adaptation of the play), forever. (Section 301, Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988).
Video of J.M. Barrie & Photos Taken by Barrie:
Titled "The Boy Castaway", this YouTube video features a short video clip of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie followed by photos that he took of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies' boys at the lake in 1901. He compiled the photos into a story titled "The Boy Castaways of Black Lake Island".
Watch "The Boy Castaway"
J.M. Barrie Audio Clips:
The two J.M. Barrie audio clips listed below are from the website jmbarrie.co.uk. In the first clip, taken from a June 7, 1930 speech, the real J.M. Barrie recounts how he injured the lip of his best friend, James Robb. The second short audio clip
features Barrie speaking at the unveiling of author Thomas Hardy's statue in Dorchester on September 2, 1931.
J.M. Barrie Talks About Splitting his Friend's Lip - MP3, 0:25
J.M. Barrie Speaking About Thomas Hardy - MP3, 0:41
Johnny Depp Talks About the Character - Real Player, 0:29
Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity
Read Literature by J.M. Barrie at eLook
Roger Ebert Finding Neverland Movie Review
the Finding Neverland Movie Trailer: