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, ... See full summary »
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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>
"A Double Life" is about an actor playing Othello. In December of 1947, the year that "A Double Life' was released, Arturo Toscanini, at that time considered the greatest conductor in the world, led a two-part radio broadcast performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "Otello", an operatic version of the play, with Ramón Vinay singing the title role. See more »
From all appearances during the opening sequence, Anthony John's new comedy is just opening on Broadway - deliverymen carry a fresh sign into the lobby covered with blurbs from rave reviews, leading lady is asked to look at new publicity photos and theater is packed during scene from play. But suddenly, it's revealed that this play has been running a year and is actually about to close. In reality, virtually all plays close due to dwindling attendance (and don't have SRO audiences in last days, as does this one) nor do producers waste money on advertising and publicity on productions that have already posted closing notices, as appears to be the case here since actors are already discussing their next jobs. 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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