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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
USA 1941
Directed by Victor Fleming
Running time 110 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Producer/director Victor Fleming's take on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, made by MGM under the strictures of the Hays Code has been criticized as a more sanitized and consequently weaker version than Rouben Mamoulian's 1932 production. I haven’t seen the latter but taken in itself this version stands up well to scrutiny. Stevenson’s classic representation of man’s dual nature (and it is man’s, woman's is neatly split into the classic virgin/whore opposition in the Bergman/Turner characters) is well brought out in the script by John Lee Mahin which early in the piece establishes the pent-up frustration and anger which will manifest itself in Hyde’s sociopathic behaviour.

Central to the success of the film is Spencer Tracy’s against type performance in the lead. Although the metamorphosis of Jekyll into Hyde and back again is technically  crude by today’s standards, Tracy’s make-over as Hyde is very effective and his performance creepily malevolent. Continuing the unusual casting Ingrid Bergman makes an unlikely a Cockney trollop whilst Lana Turner plays Jekyll's sugar-and-spice society fiancé. The only type-casting is Donald Crisp as her very proper father.  Helped by tasteful black and white photography by cinematographer, Joseph Ruttenberg who does a fine job of creating the fog-shrouded streets of Victorian London this is well-crafted production that only occasionally strays into B grade territory.

 

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