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Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
Most classic horror films star unknown actors and low cost special effects. However, the 1941 remake of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde was driven by the star power and eclectic casting of Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner and Ingrid Bergman.
Set in 1887, Tracy plays the refined, well-known and respected Dr. Jeckyll. Sir Charles, the father of his fiancé, Beatrix (Turner), is pushing Jeckyll to establish a traditional and lucrative medical practice. However, Jeckyll is fascinated with his recent studies of the human mind. He believes each person has a good side and a dark side, which can be controlled with the proper chemicals. Jeckyll feels his studies and experiments will yield medicine to cure metal illness. Although he is discouraged by peers, he forges ahead.
Driven by his desire to prove critics wrong and show his genius, Jeckyll cannot receive approval to test any of his mind-altering drugs on humans, so he decides to use himself as a test subject. He discovers a chemical that unleashes the dark side of man and successfully transforms into an alter ego, Mr. Hyde, who embodies all of his darkest desires and fantasies.
After Sir Charles threatens to end Jeckyll's engagement to Beatrix, the Doctor seeks relief from the pressure. He has been working long hours and his most trusted peers feel he has gone too far. Tired of being proper, mannered and responsible, Jeckyll takes the chemical to transform into Mr. Hyde and goes out for a wild night on the town. Soon, he cannot control his behavior, transforms without the drugs and goes mad, leading Mr. Hyde to kidnap a barmaid, Ivy (Ingrid Bergman), who he helped save from a previous attacker. Will Jeckyll be able to control his wild side? Will he be able to marry Beatrix? Will he kill Ivy or someone else?
Tracy was the perfect choice for the film after displaying great versatility playing both mob tough guys (Up the River) and a clergy man (Boys Town). He was one of the few actors in Hollywood who could convincingly play good and evil without driving the audience away. Tracy particularly shines as Mr. Hyde. With the help of some great make-up, he is able to play a wild, Neanderthal man driven by primal urges. Tracy is so adept at playing the evil villain that you will probably have a hard time believing that it's him. He is frightening.
This was a big role for Lana Turner. After being discovered in Schwab's drugstore while sipping a soda at the counter, Turner became known as "The Sweater Girl" because she was wearing a tight fitting, sexy sweater at the time - an outfit she would wear in many of her films. After starring in such romps as Dancing Co-Ed, These Glamour Girls, Love Finds Andy Hardy and Ziegfeld Girl, Turner wanted to breakout from her image as a "sweater sweetheart". This role gave her that opportunity and helped transform her into a more glamorous star.
Ingrid Bergman also deserves kudos for her role. She plays the sexy barmaid from the wrong side of town that stirs Dr. Jeckyll's passions. Early in the movie, she is in control and using her feminine wiles to seduce the Doctor, but later in the film, she cowers and pleads for the mercy of a mad man. It is a daring character considering that the studio, after this film, started to promote her as a wholesome role model throughout the 40's even as she appeared in scandalous roles such as Notorious.
Bergman achieved great success on the Swedish screen throughout the 30's, which led legendary producer David O. Selznick to bring her to America. She appeared in several films before starring in Casablanca. In the late forties, she was taken with the work of Italian director Roberto Rosellini. She wrote him a letter asking to work with him.
In 1949, Bergman shocked the world by leaving her husband and young daughter for Rossellini as they were making the film Stromboli. She was pregnant with the first Rossellini-Bergman child. The events almost destroyed her career as religious groups, women's clubs and politicians criticized her publicly. One Senator claimed on the senate floor that Bergman was, "Hollywood's apostle of degradation" and "a free love cultist." The charges came during the 1950's red scare, a time when all public figures were under extreme scrutiny for any communist or anti-American sentiment, especially foreigners. Bergman's career was destroyed until her Oscar winning comeback in 1956's Anastasia. Her marriage to Rossellini was annulled in 1958, but yielded that son and two daughters, one of whom is Isabella Rossellini. She later married a Swedish stage producer, but they divorced in 1975.
If you want to view a traditional Hollywood horror film this weekend, rent Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.
Director: Victor Fleming
Writer: John Lee Mahn
Spencer Tracy Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde
Lana Turner Beatrix
Ingrid Bergman ... Ivy
Ian Hunter .. John
Donald Crisp .. Sir Charles
Frances Robinson Marsha
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