Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)


Notes: MGM.
Dr. Henry “Harry” Jekyll/Mr. Hyde: Spencer Tracy
Ivy Peterson: Ingrid Bergman
Beatrix Emery: Lana Turner
Sir Charles Emery: Donald Crisp
Dr. John Lanyon: Ian Hunter

Directed: Victor Fleming
Written: John Lee Mahin

Summary: A preacher praises the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887, touting the virtue and moral blessing she brings. One attendee laughs uproariously at the idea of evil being wiped out, and Jekyll is startled. The man has been acting insane “since the explosion.” After church, Sir Charles objects to public displays of affection between his daughter Beatrix and Jekyll. Although he sees hospital cases as opportunities, he receives warnings about his experiments. Frustrated, Jekyll pushes past butler Poole and the tea being offered, only to find that his lab animals have died. He’s late for dinner. When he does arrive, he discusses “separating the facets of the brain,” and deeper: the soul. The “evil” side of the man in church shows how tenuous we are. He “reverted to the animal.” Jekyll sees good and evil chained together in the soul. Others think “balderdash.” Prospective daddy-in-law Emery is hostile. Jekyll dances with Beatrix into the conservatory, but daddy follows and demands Jekyll give up the experiments; “cultivate the circle in which you and Beatrix shall move.”

Jekyll encounters a woman, Ivy, being brutalized by a man. Afterwards, she feigns pains and they go to her apartment. At the end of her pretenses, they kiss. Jekyll’s friend enters and snarks about the triumph of evil. Jekyll devotes himself to his lab experiments, during which animals seem to grow vicious. He takes some chemicals, has the bout of Jekyll agony, and hallucinates flowers and women and muck, whipping horses and Ivy is one of them. Hyde is slightly darker and has more pronounced eyebrows. He laughs in the mirror. Soon he answers to door to Poole and says the man he heard was Hyde who went “out the back door.” Jekyll composes himself in the mirror and goes upstairs to Beatrix. Daddy interrupts again and insists his daughter accompany him on a trip to the continent.

Jekyll suffers rainy-day boredom. A letter from Monte Carlo announces that Beatrix will be away for much longer: Sir Charles has extended their trip. Jekyll takes the formula, this time seeing women in bottles until one pops its cork. Hyde goes to the Palace of Frivolities, a music-hall where Ivy is bartender. He’s a big tipper but trips the waiter, demanding Ivy serve him champagne. Hyde seems to cheery and good-natured to be sleazy at this point. They drink, and she leaves, troubled. Hyde instigates a brawl and pays the owner to fire Ivy. He meets her outside as she says, “I was sacked.” She enters his coach.

Lanyon writes to Beatrix and she pretends to Daddy it’s a letter from Jekyll. Ivy is being kept. Her former friend Marsha visits and tries to get her to come out, but she shows welts on her back that Hyde is responsible for. Hyde arrives and insinuates that Marsha stay: the “three of us?” Hyde drinks out of a fine glass and plays piano, but he does spit grape seeds around. Ivy nervously proposes they go out, but Hyde sneers. Shall they read Paradise Lost? He demands she sing, which she does, in terror.

Poole brings news that Beatrix is home. Jekyll burns the key to the back door of his lab. Marsha visits Ivy and finds that a pile of money was mailed to Ivy, who thinks it’s a cruel trick of Hyde’s. Daddy is compliant with the idea of a wedding soon, but Ivy visits Jekyll and shows her back welts, asking help or poison to kill herself with. Jekyll gives his word she’ll never see Hyde again. Walking to dinner, Jekyll whistles the music-hall song despite his attempts to stick with the concert music. He involuntarily transforms. Ivy is drinking champagne and curses Hyde in her mirror before he enters. He quotes her words given only to Jekyll, sneering at her notions that Jekyll could love her: “you, with your cheap little dreams?” He kills her and beats his way out of the house. But he’s locked out of his lab. Poole turns him away at the front door and Hyde walks the streets as if hunted. Jekyll is a dinner no-show, of course.

Hyde writes to Lanyon asking him to fetch lab chemicals. Since Lanyon holds a gun on Hyde, he transforms back in front of Lanyon. “You’ve committed the supreme blasphemy!” Jekyll goes to Beatrix to break it off. She weeps on the veranda until she thinks Jekyll has come back, but it’s Hyde. She faints, and Hyde throws and canes dad to death. Cops chase Hyde and find the cane at the scene. Jekyll is back at his lab when the cops break in. Jekyll says he was attacked, but Lanyon fingers him. “I’ve done nothing.” He asserts his name, but transforms, then smashes lab windows. When he pulls a knife and goes after Lanyon, Lanyon shoots him three times. Hyde transforms back and Poole prays over the corpse.

Commentary: Ingrid Bergman’s Liza Doolittle impression fails. And the film seems too pretty to be sufficiently disturbing. But Tracy has a great time clearly.

Jekyll and Hyde Films