Based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story: Doctor Henry Jekyll's enthusiasm for science and his selfless acts of service have made him a much-admired man. But as he visits Sir George Carew one evening, his host criticizes him for his reluctance to experience the more sensual side of life. Sir George goads Jekyll into visiting a music hall, where he watches the alluring dancer Gina. Jekyll becomes fascinated with the two contrasting sides of human nature, and he becomes obsessed with the idea of separating them. After extensive work in his laboratory, he devises a formula that does indeed allow him to alternate between two completely different personalities, his own and that of a brutish, lascivious person whom he names Hyde. It is not long before the personality of Hyde begins to dominate Jekyll's affairs.Written by
After the first transformation scene when Hyde attempts to change back into Jekyll, as he throws himself onto the floor, you can see one of his prosthetic fingers fly off. See more »
Sir George Carew:
A man cannot destroy the savage in him by denying its impulses. They only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.
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Except for John Barrymore whose name appears above the title, actors were not originally credited in this movie at the start or at the end. Instead, four additional actors and their character names are credited in the inter-titles right before they appear on-screen. See more »
In 1971, Killiam Films, Inc. copyrighted a restored and tinted edition with an original theatrical organ score by Lee Erwin and a running time of 67 minutes plus a minute for new additional credits. See more »
I find it interesting that this classic & 'nearly' definitive motion picture of Robert L. Stevenson's short novella, STRANGE CASE OF DR JEKYLL & MR HYDE was made in Long Island New York financed by Paramount/Famous Players-Lasky. Thus it's not 'really' a Hollywood movie in the literal sense. The financial cord of Paramount, as with all of the big studios, was also situated in New York City. However the legend of this film has come down through the decades intact withstanding it's comparison to later versions of which it undoubtedly influences.
How personal this film must have been to John Barrymore. It seems to have been more than an assignment for him. He brought plants from his apartment to use in the film, he transported sets & costumes from one of his hit plays to be filmed in a flashback sequence, he was miming a story that had been done by the great stage actor Richard Mansfield whom was acquainted with his late father Maurice Barrymore. Interesting enough Barrymore would film another great Mansfield stage success four years later, BEAU BRUMMEL, which was Barrymore's first truly Hollywood made film. One wonders whether the choice to cast Martha Mansfield as Jekyll's love interest had anything to do with her name being Mansfield. There has never come up any evidence that she was related to Richard Mansfield but her name on movie theater marquees for the film must have looked familiar to older movie goers at the time who remembered the great theater actor who died in 1907 and never lived to film even a primitive version of DJ&MH himself. It must have been a good selling point. So John Barrymore as well as the Drew-Barrymore theatrical clan must have known Richard Mansfield on an intimate level at one time or another. I've always counted this film & JB's performance as an homage to Richard Mansfield and the acting profession in general. Perhaps, though it is not on record, a young JB might have seen Mansfield on stage doing Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde.
The film's directorial credit is officially given to John S Robertson and writing credits to Clara Beranger(Wm DeMille's wife) but certainly J.Barrymore added touches here and there to spark up the production such as the above mentioned items he brought or transported to the film set. And also JB's winning portrayal at the time on the Broadway stage as Richard the 3rd performed at night while he filmed DJ&MH during the day. The make-ups for Richard the 3rd & Mr Hyde are strikingly similar when viewing photographs of JB as the two characters. Hyde, while favoring Richard, is truly the more severe of the two roles, and needed to be to put the character over on film. Another plus this film has is that it is made closer to the 1886 timeline of Stevenson's Victorian novella than the later feature length productions of 1931, 1941 and on. The sets where Hyde cavorts look nothing but like an inner London Victorian slum. Also some of the sets where Dr Jekyll has dinner with his elitist friends are accurately Victorian.
Director Robertson along with cameraman Roy Overbaugh keep the production flowing along especially when Hyde is on the screen. The first transformation is a classic, and pretty well known by historians & silent movie buffs. For those who haven't seen the movie I wont disclose no spoilers about the first transformation. Later transformations are accomplished by cameraman Overbaugh with stop-motion-photography and some very smooth double exposures such as in the spider-on-bed sequence. And also some good acting from JB.
Lastly if the original music score could be resurrected and performed with the film today, then a close approximation as to what 1920 audiences saw & heard could be experienced by today's audiences. Most home video copies put accompanied music or awfully scored music that is wrong for the film. Some video releases, wisely don't put any music score on the video which oddly forces your attention to the movie.
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