The working class twin sister of a callous wealthy woman impulsively murders her out of revenge and assumes the identity of the dead woman. But impersonating her dead twin is more complicated and risky than she anticipated.
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After the funeral of her brother-in-law, Edith Phillips learns that Margaret de Lorca, her rich twin sister, had tricked her way into marriage with the man she also loved. So she kills Margaret and assumes her identity and life-style. However, her life becomes complicated by her late sister's sleazy boyfriend, Tony Collins and Sgt. Jim Hobbson, a Los Angeles detective who loved the "dead" Edith. Written by
Bette Davis essayed twin sisters twice. The first was A STOLEN LIFE, one of her last good Warner Brother films in the late 1940s, wherein the good sister watches helplessly while her bad sister steals Glenn Ford from her, but she gets a second chance at Glenn when the bad sister is killed in an accident and the good one can take over her life (hence the title).
Then there was this film made nearly two decades later. Despite some far out plot twists, most people think that DEAD RINGER is the better film.
By 1964 Davis had discovered (like her rival Joan Crawford) that their career could survive playing in "grande guinol" films. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? and HUSH, HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE, were followed by DEAD RINGER, THE NANNY, and THE ANNIVERSARY (my personal favorite - and actually the least bloody of these films). DEAD RINGER and THE NANNY tie for being the most sympathetic roles for Bette in these films.
In DEAD RINGER, Edith Philips is the twin sister of wealthy widow Margaret De Lorca. Edith owns a run - down bar, and it is going into bankruptcy, and she is facing eviction. Her closest friend (closer if she would watch his signals) is Police Sgt. Jim Hobbson (Karl Malden). But she is consumed with anger and jealousy at her sister because Margaret married the man who Edith should have married. So Margaret's current security is due to her stealing Edith's boyfriend (similar to the plot in A STOLEN LIFE). So she invites Margaret to her home, and shows Margaret a letter that she has written. It is Edith's suicide note, and as Margaret reads it she realizes that she is about to become Edith permanently.
Edith has planned this a bit, but she does not plan for two problems. Sgt. Hobbson is in a bad state because he loved Edith, and he keeps visiting her identical twin "Margaret". This is upsetting to Edith, who did not plan to hurt her boy-friend. Secondly she discovers Margaret had her secrets too. The late Mr. De Lorca may have died in too timely a fashion (wink, wink), and Margaret had a boy - friend too who helped her, a playboy named Tony Collins. Tony is curious about "Margaret's" lack of interest (or even awareness) of him, until he begins to put two and two together, Then he becomes very demanding to his supposed lover.
The climax of the film is quite twisty, if predictable after awhile. But the final moment between Davis and Malden is sadly touching in it's way. The film may also have the best dramatic performance by Lawford as a villain in his film career (finally he cuts loose and shows what he could do). Not one of Davis's greatest films, but an interesting one, and worth viewing.
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