“I think the man had been shocked from normal good into complete evil.”
This is not the first time I have watched the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Some time ago I watched the silent version with John Barrymore which was alright. It is weird because I have seen the story as film form a few times and I never really realized how deep it is. Maybe that is because I never really paid fully attention to it before. This time I did since the cast and the direction were worth paying attention to.
Dr. Henry Jekyll (Spencer Tracy) was sitting in church one Sunday when a man suddenly burst out laughing and yelling uncontrollably. Jekyll takes the poor man to the hospital he works at. He has been studying how people can go from being good normal people to something evil. Henry wants to try his new formula he has been working on, on the patient but the head doctor will not let him. He has only tested it on animals. Henry goes home to his lab and works on perfecting his formula.
In the meantime, Henry is late for a party at the home of his fiancée Beatrix (Lana Turner). When he arrives everyone wants to know what he has been working on. He tells the party that what he hopes his formula will be able to not only do something for the mind but for the soul. Henry’s talk does not please Beatrix’s father Sir Charles. Charles later tells Henry he hopes he can stop his “flights of fancy” with his experiments and focus on being a social success with his daughter and on his own practice as well.
After the party Henry and his friend John (Ian Hunter) decide to go out for a drink. While walking they year a woman in an alley scream for help. Henry and John manage to chase the attacker away. The woman of the night Henry and John saved is named Ivy Peterson (Ingrid Bergman). Ivy can see that Henry is rich. She fakes being really hurt in order for the men to take her home. Henry brings Ivy up to her room and tells her to take off her top so he can examine her. Ivy thinks he is just being quick with getting what he wants. He lets her know that he is a doctor. Despite Henry’s confession Ivy still hopes to make him stay. As a form of “payment” Ivy gives Henry her garter and lustily kisses him. Henry enjoys what is happening. John walks in the room which breaks up their kiss and embrace.
Eventually Henry gets his formula to work on animals. One batch of formula makes the animals aggressive and another returns them to their normal selves. Henry decides to try the experiment on himself the following night. As he is transforming he pictures Ivy and Beatrix together as if they were his horses or his slaves and he whips them to keep going. They are innocence and temptation put together in Henry’s mind. Henry is transformed into a crude and ugly looking man named Mr. Hyde. As his evil alter ego, Hyde goes to a dancehall. He sees Ivy is the barmaid there. He requests she bring him champagne and have a seat with him. Ivy obviously does not recognize the doctor in the horrid looking man. She is frightened of him. Hyde creates some trouble that makes the entire dancehall break out into a brawl. The owner thinks Ivy is behind the chaos and fires her. Hyde is outside in a cab waiting.
Hyde gives Ivy a place of her own. He never lets her go out and has a frightening amount of control over her. Her friend comes by asking her to go out one night. Ivy is scared to but eventually agrees. As she goes to change her friend can see a scar on her back given to her from Hyde. Hyde comes back. He rushes the friend out the door. He tortures and taunts Ivy with things they can do and then finding something wrong with the choices.
Beatrix has been away from London with her father. She has not heard from Henry in quite some time. John wrote a letter to her that he has been searching for Henry but has not heard from him either. Henry finally goes back to being himself. As a kindness for all he put her through as Hyde he sends Ivy fifty pounds.
Ivy comes to see Henry for help. She breaks down right in his office begging for his help to keep Hyde away from her. Henry reassures Ivy that Hyde will no longer be in her life he will see to that. Ivy believes him. Unfortunately while Henry is walking home alone one night he suddenly turns into Hyde without the aid of the formula. He goes right for Ivy. He kills her in her apartment. The whole building heard her scream. Hyde manages to escape the building into the night. He gets to the lab but he realizes he does not have a key. He writes a letter to John to come open the door and that a friend of Henry’s will come for it. John does not simply hand over the formula since he does not know Hyde who is claiming to be an old friend of Henry’s. Henry does not want to change in front of John but does so.
Henry goes to Beatrix to tell her they can no longer be together. Beatrix is upset she cannot understand why he is leaving her when they were so in love. Henry returns as Hyde. Beatrix screams and her father runs out. Hyde attacks her father and beats him with his cane. Before he can run away with his cane John and the police come to the house. They chase Hyde to Henry’s lab. He turned back into his normal self but John and the police come. John tells the police that Henry is one they are looking for. As Henry repeatedly says that he is Dr. Henry Jekyll he turns into Hyde. Hyde lashes out at the men. He corners John who has a gun. Hyde is shot. When he falls dead to the ground he turns back into Henry Jekyll.
So I mentioned how I realized just how deep the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is. Took me long enough I know. I think this version being a talking one made it easier for me to focus (damn my ADHD!). I always like a story about good versus evil. It intrigues me how there is a good and evil side to the human race. I always wonder with the people who are evil what it is in their brain that makes them so. There is an interesting point that this story brings up: even good people have bad thoughts once in a while. That to me is the whole idea of the story. Jekyll knew everyone has those evil thoughts or lustful temptation. He had his lustful moment with Ivy and when he was turned into Hyde by his formula that was the “evil” he went for. The story also has a sad side because Henry was a very good man but he died as a bad man.
The cast was fantastic. Spencer Tracy I am not too crazy about. He does nothing for me in the films I have seen him in. Same with this film but in an odd way he was a good Jekyll and Hyde. Tracy was oddly paired with Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner. Speaking of Ingrid Bergman… I want to know how she perfects. Seriously the woman could do nothing wrong. Ivy is not one of her best roles but she was very good. The reason Bergman worked in the role for me is because Lana Turner was originally cast as Ivy. If you have ever seen Turner in a film from the 1930s she was never the tart character or the scandalous character. She was the sweet girl all the good boys wanted. She had a sweet face. Bergman did too but there was also that glint in her eyes and that wickedness to her face she could do. Turner never would have worked as Ivy. She also never would have worked as Ivy because she was not even in the same league of acting as Bergman. Bergman could have acted out the damn phone book and won an Oscar. She had the range while Turner did not. I like Turner as an actress I have seen quite a few of her films but she would have been terrible as Ivy.
This version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde I had seen a few years ago when I was first becoming a fan of Old Hollywood. I knew who Ingrid Bergman was but I did not really know who Spencer Tracy or Lana Turner were. I cannot remember if I liked it then or not. I just remember cringing whenever Bergman had to say things in Cockney slang with her Swedish accent. Still did a little bit just not as bad as before. The 1941 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is definitely worth seeing especially for the cast and Victor Fleming’s direction.