Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Release Year: 1931
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Writers: Samuel Hoffenstein (screenplay), Percy Heath (screenplay), Robert Louis Stevenson (based on his 1887 novella Strange Case of Dr Jaekyll and Mr Hyde)
Starring: Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart, Holmes Herbert, Halliwell Hobbes, Edgar Norton, Tempe Pigott
Rating: Won 1 Oscar: Best Actor (Fredric March). Nominated for 2 Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #175, week 43 2017
The scienticst Dr. Henry Jekyll (Fredric March) invents a portion that separates his good side from his bad side and turns him into the beastly Mr. Hyde (Fredric March) with grave consequences.
The have been countless adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Gothic novella, 8 before this 1931 adaptation alone. Something about this classic tale of duality seems to thrill us and captivate our interest and imagination across generations. It tells the story of a respected scientist whose theory of the dual nature of the human soul leads to a potion-induced split in his own personality. Jekyll brings out the dark side of his own character, opening the floor for contemplations about decency, social norms, good and evil, repression, impulse etc. Not only is the story a well-known and popular one, Armenian-American director Rouben Mamoulin (The Mark of Zorro, 1940) delivers a great adaptation of the highest quality. The Academy Award nominated camera work is fantastic and makes the film doubly entertaining. The is never any scene of monotony or mindless cutting, the film is always visually interesting and even plays with point of view, showing portions of the film as if through the eyes of Dr. Jekyll. But the film is not only high on quality in the technical department, it is also graced by great and Academy Award winning performance from Fredric March (A Star is Born, 1937) in the dual role of Jekyll and Hyde. March suffered from his art, the make-up in particular trying and damaged him physically, but is performance is truly marvelous, free of conventionality and energetic. The film i part of the period in Hollywood known as pre-code; the time between the advent of talkies in 1929 and the implementation of the new production censorship code in 1934. Freer films were made in this period, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde does not shy away from its share of exposed lady legs and sexual innuendo. A great film that is often overshadowed by the horror films from the rival company, Universal. Highly recommended.
No trailer for the film is available, so we give you the famous first transformation scene instead:
The first horror movie to win an Academy Award.
John Barrymore was originally asked to reprise the role of Dr. Jekyll whom he had played in the 1920 version. However, Barrymore was under contract with another studio and the part went to March who was already signed with Paramount and happened to resemble Barrymore.
When MGM remade the film 10 years later with Spencer Tracy in the lead the studio bought up all copies they could find of the 1920 and 1931 version and for decades the film believed to be lost. Ironically, the version starring Tracy was less succesful and lead to renewed appreciation of March’s performance. As a consequence, March sent Tracy a telegramme thanking him for giving his career a boost.
Picture Copyright: UIP