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Joseph H. Lewis
Dame May Whitty,
Anthony John is an actor whose life is strongly influenced by the characters he plays. When he's playing comedy, he's the most enjoyable person in the world, but when he's playing drama, it's terrible to be around him. That's the reason why his wife Brita divorced him; although she still loves him and works with him, she couldn't stand living with him anymore. So when Anthony accepts to play Othello, he devotes himself entirely to the part, but it soon overwhelms him and with each day his mind gets filled more and more with Othello's murderous jealousy. Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
In the film, Ronald Colman plays a fictional actor who stars in the longest-running "Othello" in history. In real life, actor Paul Robeson, who had just become the first black actor to star in an otherwise white production of "Othello" on Broadway, had just completed the longest run of the play. See more »
At the end of the last "Othello", Tony appears to be distracted by someone just off-stage. We know that Bill, the policeman, and the restaurant owner are standing where he is looking, but the only one he knows is Bill. He had seen the restaurant owner only once, and surely couldn't have recognized him in the dark; and he had never met the policeman. His final act implies that he knows he has been found out, but what gave him that idea? See more »
I like my Ronald Colman dashing and debonair, the fellow you see in such films as If I Were King and Kismet. I like him as the epitome of civilization as in The Lost Horrizon and Random Harvest. A brooding Colman isn't a favorite of mine.
But in A Double Life precisely because his part as actor Anthony John is so offbeat for him, Colman was recognized with a Best Actor Oscar for 1947. It became his best known part.
Colman is an actor who really does take the Method quite seriously. He's just finished a successful run in a comedy of manners and he's quite the jovial fellow. For a change of pace now that that play has concluded its Broadway run, Colman is bringing a revival of Othello to New York. About as opposite a part as you can get.
His leading lady in both is his former wife Signe Hasso who loves him dearly, but can't take his change of moods when he's at work. Colman loves her dearly as well and wants her back. But he's heading for a mental breakdown when he starts confusing himself with the jealous Moor Othello and Hasso with her role as Desdemona.
Unfortunately Shelley Winters as a poor waitress who a depressed Colman picks up gets in the way of his madness and she winds up like poor Desdemona in the play. Killed in the same manner and now it's a matter for homicide cop Joe Sawyer.
Colman's performance is so good that one does kind of wonder is this an occupational hazard with actors? I'd shudder to think so, were there any unsolved homicides in or around Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles then they essayed Othello.
I could never quite buy the story for that reason, but I certainly do applaud Ronald Colman and what he did with the part. I'm sure there was a tinge of regret in him winning the Oscar though because one of the other nominees was his good friend William Powell for Life With Father. Others in the running that year were Gregory Peck for Gentlemen's Agreement, John Garfield for Body and Soul, and Michael Redgrave for Mourning Becomes Electra.
Colman gets able support from the rest of the cast including Edmond O'Brien who finds himself in the unwanted part of Cassio in Colman's jealous fantasy. Still you will find no Iago equivalent in A Double Life, no one prodding the jealousy, it's all in his own mind.
And that from one of the most cultivated and civilized minds of the last century.
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