Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story: Doctor Henry Jekyll's enthusiasm for science and his selfless acts of service have made him a much-admired man. But as he visits Sir George Carew one evening, his host criticizes him for his reluctance to experience the more sensual side of life. Sir George goads Jekyll into visiting a music hall, where he watches the alluring dancer Gina. Jekyll becomes fascinated with the two contrasting sides of human nature, and he becomes obsessed with the idea of separating them. After extensive work in his laboratory, he devises a formula that does indeed allow him to alternate between two completely different personalities, his own and that of a brutish, lascivious person whom he names Hyde. It is not long before the personality of Hyde begins to dominate Jekyll's affairs. Written by
In the short Renaissance flashback memory sequence, where Hyde is explaining to Gina about the poisonous mysteries of his secret ring, set pieces and costumes were brought from "The Jest". That was a hit play in which John Barrymore had starred with brother Lionel Barrymore on Broadway in 1919 before shooting this picture. See more »
The glass from which Dr Jekyll drinks the potion during the first transformation changes in size from tall to short between shots. See more »
Sir George Carew:
A man cannot destroy the savage in him by denying its impulses. They only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
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Except for John Barrymore whose name appears above the title, actors were not originally credited in this movie at the start or at the end. Instead, four additional actors and their character names are credited in the inter-titles right before they appear on-screen. See more »
Through countless adaptations, including movies, the gist of Robert Lewis Stevenson's "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is familiar to those who have never even touched the novella. The doppelgänger, or doubles, theme of its battle between the good and evil within oneself are shared heritage, even though the Victorian age it was set in, the suspicions of invention and science and some of the psychological notions have since passed. This 1920 filmed version, the first highly regarded one, presents the story as it has been most commonly handed down: the narrative is simplified, removing the original mystery, and it takes the perspective of Dr. Jekyll, reducing the role of Mr. Utterson.
There are some interesting parts to this adaptation, especially when comparing it to the later 1931 and 1941 versions. The competing beliefs between Jekyll and Dr. Lanyon are well rendered, as are those between Jekyll and Sir George, who is, apparently, based in Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Additionally, the rationale behind Jekyll's experiment is altered more illogical by concerning it with one's soul, instead of the hypocrisy of the two-faced upper classmen who present themselves respectably for the public but also want to visit the prostitutes at night.
Anyhow, for better or worse, John Barrymore is restrained (considering the role and the film era). There's an odd giant spider nightmare in this one, too. The best aspect of this version, I think, is its horror atmosphere, with the studio sets of the fogy, lamp-lit London slums and even the detailed interior designs add something--production values that make this early entry stand out. Barrymore contributes to this, especially with the makeup to create his deformed Hyde that could rival Lon Chaney's creations.
To see a major point of difference between the three major Hollywood adaptations, as well as an indication of Hollywood's evolution and how this 1920 version stands out, compare Barrymore's horrific and grotesque Hyde with that of Fredric March and Spencer Tracy: notice how Hyde becomes easier on the eyes with each subsequent decade.
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