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
DEAD RINGER stretches credibility, but is an enjoyable little thriller. The story opens in 1964 Los Angeles where financially struggling Edith (DAVIS) goes to the funeral of wealthy twin Margaret's husband, Frank DeLorca. The two sisters have not seen each other for 20 years because Edith had originally been dating Frank, and Margaret stole him away from her claiming pregnancy. Margaret invites Edith back to her home after the funeral and once there, insults her by offering her cast off clothing. A quarrel ensues where Edith accuses Margaret of never having loved Frank and therefore denying both Frank and Edith of true happiness. In a huff Edith leaves in Margaret's chauffer driven Cadillac. While talking to the chauffer during the ride home, Edith learns that the pregnancy ploy that Margaret had used years before was a lie. When Edith arrives at her small bar in a seedy part of town, she is confronted by her rental property agent, who informs her that since she is 3 months behind in rent, he wants her gone. The one bright spot in Edith's life is the friendship that she has with Sergeant Hobbson (KARL MALDEN). In fact he remembers her birthday and gives her a watch, but Edith is so consumed with her problems that she is almost oblivious to his being there. In her apartment above the bar, now angry at her sister and somewhat irrational, Edith devises a plan to have Margaret visit, at which time she will murder her and take on her identity. Edith phones Margaret and orders her to come to her bar with the ruse that she "knows everything". Margaret goes, believing that Edith has some other knowledge. In an interestingly filmed manner, Edith manages to shoot her sister, change clothes, and make it look as though "Edie" has committed suicide. She now leaves in "Margaret's" chauffered car and steps into a grand life. Only now, she'll have to contend with pulling it off. Physical resemblance aside, Edith must now adopt "Margaret's" lifestyle. She must also convince everyone in "Margaret's" orbit from household servants to friends to Tony Collins (PETER LAWFORD), Margaret's lover, that she is Margaret. Worse, Sergeant Hobbson starts snooping around and unearths alot of things. Things that were not intended to come to light...... Former DAVIS co-star PAUL HENRIED stays within the guidelines with his job as the film's director. He should not have used daughter MONIKA HENRIED as Margaret's maid. Her delivery is flat, and apparently in her early twenties looks more like a young woman of means than a personal maid. JEAN HAGEN is light and airy as shallow friend Dede Marshall, ESTELLE WINWOOD is very good as annoying relative Dona Anna. PETER LAWFORD is also very good as the suave and slimy aging stud muffin Tony Collins. KARL MALDEN is tender in his early scenes, then all business in his latter ones. BETTE DAVIS is excellent playing 2 very different sisters. Her mannerisms and delivery are clearly separate depending on which role she is in. She's down to earth and practical as the down on her luck Edith. As the frivilous Margaret, DAVIS is coy and somewhat flighty, dismissing away what displeases her with a wave of her hand. This is a signature performance of DAVIS, and she runs with it, pulling out all the stops along the way !!!
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