Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

This wasn't exactly a film I was seeking out to watch, but last night as I was surfing through channels, somehow I natrually landed on Turner Classic Movies. I saw a new film was about to begin and listened to Robert Osborne's description of what it was going to be. His introduction sold me, well it honestly doesn't take too much when it comes to classic films.
Now I think most of us are familiar with the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A scientist and doctor obsessed with separating the two natures of man; the good and the bad. Dr. Jekyll is sucessful in finding a way to separate them through form of a potion. When the handsome, kind and charming Jekyll takes the potion, he transforms into this ugly, mean and quite barbaric looking man he calls Mr. Hyde. Hyde is the opposite of Jekyll in every way.
In film, this was the second portrayl of Jekyll and Hyde. The first was quite successfully done in silent picture with John Barrymore portraying the lead role. Barrymore was praised for this and audiences and critics were skeptical that when they learned it was to be remade with sound and with a new actor.

Fredric March, remembered for his performances in such pictures as "The Best Years of Our Lives" and "A Star is Born", March is the actor who braved bringing a new light to Jekyll/Hyde. His Jekyll is everything you'd want a man to be. Brave, dashing, utterly charming, a true lady's man and above all, a gentleman. His look for Jekyll fits the role to a T. While Hyde, through the use of makeup and clever camera filters turns this same man into a type of a barbaric beast. His teeth protrude; he is hairy, unkept and frankly kind of disgusting. His behaviour mimics the look; he takes what he wants; doesn't hesitate in using violence, and acts like a cave man. The contrast between the times of light and dark as portrayed with the characters is striking!
His acting was so brilliant in this role that he won Best Actor in the 1932 Academy Awards.
The other notible performance comes from Hyde's lady victim (and also the final inspiration that had Jekyll motivated to drink that potion), the character Ivy played by Miriam Hopkins. A lady who lives in the slums and plays men for money. She exuded sexuality and desire; something Jekyll so secretely longed for, but denied himself as it didn't seem right. His alter-ego Hyde made no hesitations in seeking Ivy to assist in fulfilingl his dark desires.

Again, this is a film that pre-dates the Hays Code that made films so "clean" and wholesome. There are some risque scenes in this film, but all done so very well.

Its a really well done version of this great tale.

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