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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 »
Just the mention of playing role of Othello makes Ronald Coleman's Anthony John start hallucinating. Triggered by this project suggestion, Anthony finds himself murmuring lines from Shakespeare's tragedy while walking down the street alone and sitting by himself in restaurants.
Anthony's total commitment to his craft of fantasy, unfortunately, takes a deadly toll on his private life. Signe Hasso's Brita understands this, and instantly fears for her ex-husband's--now co-star's--happiness.
Here's a modern tragedy, scripted by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, of an actor who just couldn't leave his role at the stage door.
"When the actor starts believing he's the character he's playing, that's the time to fire him," remains a wise theatre management adage.
It's a darned good principle, too.
When the actor fails to maintain an "invisible wall" between himself and his co-actors, that's the time for some concern. Although practioners of the Stanislavsky tradition may achieve great "truth" in their work, they may not realize that this achievement is more "relative" than "absolute" and can become a "double edged-sword."
Anthony John's "character-absorption" tendency, while earning him a "great performance," conversely yields a decidedly unconstructive home life. Unless the actor finds some kernels of project idealism to enhance his personal development, the entire enterprise may be negligible.
Milton Krasner's dark cinematography and Miklos Rozsa's dissonant score supports George Cukor's pessimistic direction. Likewise, Walter Hampden's advisement for the "Othello" sequences adds authenticity to the Shakespearian flavor.
In the end, we have a shattering drama, holding within its fold a grave thespian caution: "it's only a character being played, not real life."
For his fine work as Anthony John, Coleman received an Academy Award.
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