Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)


Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Hyde: John Barrymore
Millicent Carew: Martha Mansfield
Sir George Carew: Brandon Hurst
Dr. Richard Lanyon: Charles Lane
Edward Enfield: Cecil Clovelly

Directed: John S. Robertson

Summary: “In each of us, two natures are at war–the good and theevil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one ofthem must conquer. But in our hands lies the power to choose–whatwe want most to be, we are.”

Dr. Lanyon visits Dr. Jekyll and objects tohis microscopic investigations: “Damn it! I don’t like it! You’re tampering with the supernatural!” Jekyll visitshis clinic, a “human repair shop.” Meanwhile, an odiousSir George Carew awaits Jekyll with a table of guests and hisdaughter Millicent. Carew is suspicious: “No man could beas good as he looks.” He badgers Jekyll once he does arrive:”The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” He sneers at Jekyll’s self-denial, insisting he “shouldlive!” He takes Jekyll to a seedy nightclub where the “h’Italiandancer, Miss Gina” entertains and comes on to Jekyll.

Jekyll had “awakened” to his “basernature,” apparently, and begins wondering about the two impulsesbeing housed separately, but a friend says, “that’s sacrilege. Man would be both God and Devil!”

But he proceeds, drinks, is transformed. Helooks demented and his hands are elongated. He restores himselfquickly. But with a mirror brought to the lab, “Hyde setforth on a sea of license.” Hyde visits Miss Gina and learnsof a ring she owns which was once used to store poison. Meanwhile,Millicent is turning down the proposal from a suitor.

Jekyll makes Hyde his beneficiary in his will. Hyde leaves a trail “strewn with the victims of his depravity.” He throws Gina out. Jekyll is bored with Millicent’s piano noodlings,but resolves to be true, and Hyde disappears for a while. Hyde”long caged burst forth” though, visiting a seedy barand finding a new girl. Gina appears haggard. While the Carewsare concerned about “Jekyll’s disappearance,” Hyde tramplesa boy, is pursued, flithers through papers in Jekyll’s lab, andbrings a check to the victim’s family.” Jekyll realizesthat his “evil nature . . . threatened to dominate his wholelife.”

Carew questions Jekyll about the Hyde connectionand objects to his intended marriage with Millicent. Jekyll blamesCarew, whose cynicism “made me ashamed of my goodness.” He transforms involuntarily, beats Carew to death, and flees. Police search Soho, while another draught brings back Jekyll. But “outraged Nature took her hideous revenge”: whileasleep, an illusory giant tarantula creeps onto Jekyll, and hetransforms into Hyde involuntarily again. He soon has run outof the drug to restore Jekyll, so as Jekyll, he locks himselfin the lab and sends his servant Poole to chemists. He praysviolently.

Millicent comes to the door. He turns intoHyde and attacks her, but has some kind of seizure as she escapes. Hyde turns into Jekyll in death–he had taken poison from Gina’sring in suicidal desperation. Millicent is told that “Hydehas killed Jekyll.”

Commentary: Initially, Barrymore contorts his face for the transformation,but eventually more make-up and physical deformities are added. This Hyde is made to look like a tarantula, or as James Twitchellsays in Dreadful Pleasures, “rather like an albinococonut with dark bangs” (246). Twitchell also notes thatthe “splitting of the female role at last allows us to seewhat was lurking in Stevenson’s text; Hyde’s aggression is sexualand its object is displaced from Jekyll’s porcelain madonna tothe fleshy tramp” (247), but he finds the spider image inappropriateto what should be Hyde’s virility.

Jekyll and Hyde Films