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Nobody in film has yet portrayed evil bitch, and sometimes crazy evil
bitch, as well and as often as the late great Bette Davis, as evidenced
by such films as "Of Human Bondage", "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane",
and "The Nanny", just to name a few that come immediately to mind.
Capable of spitting out lines such as "Ah'd luv tuh kiss yuh, but ah
jus' washed mah hair" (from "Cabin In the Cotton", 1932), "Every time
you kissed me, I had to wipe my mouth! Wipe my mouth!" (from "Of Human
Bondage", 1934) to "But Blanche, yuh ahhh in that chair, yuh ahhhhhhh!"
(from "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane", 1962), Bette Davis made a
lucrative living with her hip-swinging sashaying stride and her
mannerisms that still make her a favorite of drag queens everywhere.
In "Dead Ringer", Bette was once again cast in the dual role of good sister/bad sister (Edith Phillips/Margaret DeLorca) similar to her dual roles in "A Stolen Life" (1946, with Glenn Ford). Paul Henreid, her co-star in "Now Voyager" - remember him in the classic scene that involved his lighting two cigarettes and handing Davis's character one of them - directs. "Dead Ringer"'s premise is simple: good sister impulsively tries to step into shoes of deceased bad sister in an ill-conceived move to improve her own quality of life, without thinking of the inherent consequences. In this case, as in the case of "A Stolen Life", Davis inherits the dead bad sister's myriad mix of self-imposed problems, but with worse consequences.
And as veteran filmgoers have realized for many years, the family dog always knows who's who.
Karl Malden, as Davis' earnest boyfriend (and cop) Sgt. Jim Hobbson is basically re-enacting his earnest boyfriend characterization from "A Streetcar Named Desire", and Peter Lawford, who was a real-life playboy and drunk, (in addition to allegedly acting as a bit of a pimp for the Kennedys, circa the Marilyn Monroe/John F. Kennedy/Robert Kennedy liasons era), plays Tony Collins...the drunken playboy boyfriend of the dead bad sister, Margaret DeLorca.
"Dead Ringer" was made in an era of more rudimentary special effects, so Davis's two characters interacting almost face-to-face in some scenes was quite innovative for the time, well-done (better than the obvious stand-in used for some scenes) and still holds up well.
Fun times ensue for all. Classic Bette melodrama.
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 !!!
Some movies are just too enjoyable not to watch, especially if you enjoy thrillers with a unique twist and Bette Davis. I like to think of this as the second half of "A Stolen Life" where Bette replaces her mean sister and takes on her life. The story is essentially the same, but we see more of the dilemma of trying to pass as the other sister. Even though Bette's character is a murderess, we hope she gets away with it. The poker scene always has me squirming in my seat. The supporting cast is good too, Karl Malden was never one of my favorites, but he's not bad in this movie. On a side note, did anyone else notice the bar singer as the same singer in Pillow Talk?
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.
In Los Angeles, after eighteen years without speaking to each other,
Edith Phillips meets her twin sister Margaret de Lorca (Bette Davis) in
the funeral of Maggie's husband and former love of Edith that died of
heart attack. Maggie invites Edith to visit her mansion, and Edith
finds through her sister's driver that Maggie used a fake pregnancy to
trick her and marry her passion. When Edith arrives in her bar, she is
evicted by her landlord. Edith calls Maggie, kills her and assumes her
identity. The police, including her boyfriend Sergeant Jim Hobbson
(Karl Malden), believe that Edith committed suicide in an act of
despair. Edith lures Maggie's servants and friends, but when Maggie's
lover Tony Collins (Peter Lawford) appears, the situation becomes
complicated for her.
"Dead Ringer" is a great film-noir, with thriller and black humor in an ironic story where justice is reached through the wrong and unexpected way. I have never had the chance to see the original Mexican movie "La Otra", but this remake is magnificently supported by the awesome Bette Davis, performing double and ambiguous roles that permit her to be rich, poor, simple, sophisticated, killer and victim. Her final line to Jim Hobbson ("-She wouldn't hurt a fly!") gives a bitter touch of class and irony to the conclusion of this enjoyable film. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Alguém Morreu em Meu Lugar" ("Somebody Died in My Place")
Through out the years many critics have said that the movies that Bette
Davis did during the 60's were bad and campy at best, I tend to disagree.
While some of them were not the best movies, Davis was always her best in
them. Davis couldn't give a bad performance.
DEAD RINGER is a good movie with a good script and veteran actors doing what they do best. Definitely a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Bette Davis is a poor bar owner and the wealthy widow who stole her
sister's boyfriend in "Dead Ringer." Davis played twins before in "A
Stolen Life." This time, she's Edie and her sister, the recently
widowed Margaret DeLorca. The two have been estranged for many years -
Margaret slept with Edie's boyfriend, DeLorca, said she was pregnant,
and married the guy. The baby, a boy, died. On the way home from the
funeral and a visit with her sister, Edie learns from the chauffeur
that Margaret never had a baby. Edie kills her sister and switches
identities with her, leaving Margaret in her place, in her clothes. By
taking Margaret's identity, she also leaves behind her boyfriend, a
police detective played by Karl Malden.
Edie soon learns that Margaret's life was - well, complicated. For one thing, she's involved with Peter Lawford. And there's more! Bette Davis does a great job as both sisters. This is an entertaining film that Davis fans won't want to miss.
Bette Davis plays twin sisters, one glamorous, the other homely, in
this tale of deception, betrayal, and murder. What makes the story so
fascinating is its delicious irony, as the homely sister, Edith,
becomes ever more ensnared in her own tangled web.
The story is marred slightly by some obvious contrivances and plot holes. But it has lots of twists and turns. And Bette Davis, with her memorable voice, her gestures, and those Bette Davis eyes renders the Edith character engaging, as she realizes something important that she had not foreseen, and then makes an effort not to be found out. It's all about the internal tension of faking a false identity.
Much of the plot is consumed in detail, as we watch Edith squirm and fret when confronted with small tasks like switching clothes with a corpse, faking a signature, or determining the combination to a wall safe. These action details are somewhat tedious. But they give Davis lots of opportunity to act.
The film's B&W cinematography is fine. The split screen technology wherein both sisters appear together in the same scene is rather self-conscious, but was quite advanced for its time. Rear screen projection is another technique that is used, but seems primitive by today's technical standards. The film's lighting is quite good.
The film gets off to a really good start with a snazzy, and very Hitchcockian, title sequence accompanied by Andre Previn's excellent original score. The film's supporting cast includes Karl Malden, Estelle Winwood, and Jean Hagen. But, though they are all credible in their roles, this film belongs to Bette Davis. It's her show. And a viewer's response to the film will hinge largely on their impression of Bette Davis and her ability to play two roles. Personally, I think she did a splendid job.
Many of the films of the 60s were boring as hell. It took a star like
Bette Davis to bring the necessary fire to this double role as twins in
"Dead Ringer." In other hands, this might have been unworthy, but with
Davis' magical screen presence, you can't take your eyes off her (both
of her!) Even in small scenes, she's real and radiant (when Jim gives
her the watch for her birthday). Andre Previn's score is superb. I
loved the music after Edith storms out of Margaret's bedroom in the
beginning of the film when she sees the portrait of her sister's dead
husband and HER former lover, followed by that tender moment with the
With the performances that got Oscar nominations during the '60s, some were pretty dull. Compared to them, Bette deserved a nod for best actress. Davis was wonderful in this. Her years of acting experience before the cameras was on full display in every scene...she was the consummate professional.
Did you notice Perry Blackwell at the organ? She also appeared in the Doris Day/Rock Hudson hit,"Pillow Talk" as the nightclub singer a few years prior. The drummer in this was married to Nancy Wilson!
Bette Davis here excels in "Grand Guignol" version of melodrama.
She looks intimidating and beautiful, has several lovers, and a life of deception. This is a must not miss film, which I watched with my mother as a child.
Ms. Davis plays Edie, the understated down at heel bar owner who is in love with modest detective Karl Malden. She is tired of her life, and after owing a great deal of money, attempts to reconcile with her wealthy sister, Mrs. DeLorca.
Mrs. DeLorca (also Davis) is an opportunist. Not happy, but wealthy. Somehow a change of identity occurs, and Edie ends up dead.
Beautiful cinematography as Edie's sister in her Beverly Hills Mansion. Duke, the Great Dane ( great dog) adds a nice nuance to the story. There are also some amusing scenes with Peter Lawford as an ex-lover, now discarded.
All in all this is a superior film which you will want to watch more than twice. Highly recommended. 9/10.
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