Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)


Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Hyde: Fredric March
Muriel Carew: Rose Hobart
Dr. Lanyon: Holmes Herbert
“Champagne” Ivy Pearson: MiriamHopkins
Poole: Edgar Norton

Directed: Rouben Mamoulian
Produced: Adolph Zukor
Screenplay: Samuel Hoffenstein and Percy Heath

Summary: The famous Bach fugue during the credits leads to Jekyll’s handsplaying organ. Subjective camera work shows servant Poole, awalk through the house to the mirror, outside to the carriage,and to a full hall for Jekyll’s “sensational” speechon “the soul of man.” He insists that the human psycheis “truly two,” one noble, the other with “dimanimal relation to the earth.” He laments the combinationhoused in a single psyche, which yields “repression to theevil, remorse to the good.”

Jekyll visits his clinic, makes a girl walk,and insists on doing an operation in this free ward; General Carewand guests must wait. A hyper Jekyll arrives later, and danceswith his fiancĂ©e, the General’s daughter Muriel. He insists,”Meddy me now,” but her father the General, with “repressive,even capricious, officiousness” (Twitchell 248), insistson them waiting. After the party, Jekyll hears screams and rescuesa girl from a brute. She comes on to him and insists he “comeback soon.”

Jekyll invents the drug, takes it, things spin,and he transforms. Seeing his ape-like appearance in the mirror,he revels, “Free! Free at last!” He transforms backquickly.

The Carews are on vacation and Jekyll is boredon a rainy day. He receives a note saying they’ll be away anothermonth and takes the drug. Hyde visits the music hall and seesthe woman Jekyll saved, Ivy Pearson. She sings, “ChampagneIvy is my name; good for any game at night, my boys. . . .” He sets her up in an apartment and terrorizes her.

The Carews are back. Jekyll throws away thekey to the back door to the lab, and announces he will use “onlythe front door.” Jekyll sends Poole to Ivy with 50 pounds. Another marriage request yields an okay for next month. Ivycalls on Jekyll, shows the evidence of Hyde’s whippings and fearsmore: “Give me poison so I can kill myself.” Jekyllgives his word “you will not see Hyde again.”

Jekyll in the park appreciates a bird singing. A cat attacks it though, and Jekyll involuntarily changes intoHyde. Muriel waits; split screen with Ivy, toasting her “angel”Jekyll. Hyde comes in raging about “the man I hate morethan anyone in the world,” tells her “I am the angel,”kills her, and flees. The lab door is locked, so he tries Pooleat the front and is refused entry. He writes a letter to Lanyonrequesting the drug, calls on Lanyon who pulls a gun, and demonstrateshis chemical breakthrough by transforming back to Jekyll beforeLanyon’s eyes. Lanyon says he’s “damned.” Jekyll vowsto give up Muriel, for he has “trespassed in a domain . .. further than man should go.”

Jekyll displays agonies before Muriel, givingher up: “I’m one of the living dead.” While leaving,he transforms involuntarily again outside the window. He returnsas Hyde, the General defends Muriel, Hyde beats him and runs fromcops to the lab. Lanyon and the police break down the door, andJekyll says Hyde ran out the back. Lanyon says, “Your manhas not escaped” and identifies Jekyll, who transforms again,goes berserk, and is shot. He transforms back in death, Pooleweeps, and we see a kettle boiling over on the fire.

Commentary: This Hyde is simian in appearance and behavior, a “bucktoothedNeanderthal” (Twitchell 237), and so nasty that supposedlythis film helped bring about the Hays Production Code of censorshipin 1934. But the Jekyll is manic! Twitchell, in DreadfulPleasures, calls this film “the first of the self-consciouslyFreudian versions” (247), and explains the dynamics of repressionof this youthful energy and the displaced sexual predation.

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