Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Based on the story by Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Henry Jekyll believes that there are two distinct sides to men - a good and an evil side. He believes that by separating the two man can become liberated. He succeeds in his experiments with chemicals to accomplish this and transforms into Hyde to commit horrendous crimes. When he discontinues use of the drug it is already too late...

  • Henry "Harry" Jekyll is a well respected member of London society. In his personal life, he is pre-engaged to Muriel Carew, the daughter of a brigadier general. In his professional life, he is a medical doctor, scientist and academician. He theorizes that in each man is a good side and an evil side which can be separated into two. In doing so, the evil side can be controlled and the good side can live without worry, in combination leading to the betterment of society. In his experiments, he uses himself as the subject to test his hypothesis. His evil side, who he coins Mr. Hyde, escapes into London, and terrorizes party-girl Ivy Pierson. Jekyll, aware of Hyde's goings-on, decides to stop his experiments because of the suffering he has caused Ivy. What Jekyll is unaware of is how ingrained Hyde is in Jekyll's life.

  • Dr. Jekyll faces horrible consequences when he lets his dark side run wild with a potion that transforms him into the animalistic Mr. Hyde.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Dr. Henry Jekyll (pronounced "jeekle") (Fredric March), a kind English doctor in Victorian London, is playing the organ when his butler, Poole (Edgar Norton), reminds him that he has a 3 p.m. appointment to deliver an address to his colleagues and students. Jekyll calls Poole a necessary nuisance, then puts on his cape and top hat, and grabs his cane before stepping into a horse drawn carriage.

    Jekyll is led into a large room, with tiered seating, and a lectern at the front. Every seat is filled with men anxious to hear what he has to say. Jekyll begins by offering his view that the fog of London has clouded the minds of it's people, in that they cannot see the potential of science to free men's souls. It is the soul of men, the human psyche, that he has been obsessed with studying. He has concluded that man does not possess a single soul, but two. One is good, the other is bad, or evil, and we are all involved in an eternal struggle over which of the two will prevail. Jekyll believes that if we could eliminate the evil soul, then there would be unlimited potential for good in the world. He said he has been experimenting with how to do that, and he claims to be very close.

    As the lecture ends and the audience leaves, most of them are very skeptical and dismissive of Jekyll's claims. As for Jekyll, he goes from the lecture hall to a hospital where he checks on his indigent patients in the "Free Ward." He encourages one young girl on crutches to throw down the crutches and walk. She doesn't believe she can, but when she tries, she is successful. Jekyll believes that demonstrates the power of the mind. Another patient, Mrs. Lucas, is in need of an operation, which Jekyll patiently, and with empathy, convinces her to have. He does the operation himself, resulting in his missing a previously scheduled dinner with his fiance, her father, and many invited guests.

    After completing the operation on Mrs. Lucas, Jekyll hurries over to the home of Brigadier General Sir Danvers Carew (Halliwell Hobbes), and his daughter Muriel Carew (Rose Hobart). Muriel is Jekyll's fiancé. General Carew tells Jekyll that in 40 years, he'd never been late for a dinner, and he didn't understand why Jekyll was. Jekyll just compliments the general on his reliability.

    Jekyll and Muriel escape the after dinner dancing to go outside on the patio and discuss their marriage plans. Jekyll tells her that he doesn't want to wait, that he wants to get married immediately. Muriel empathizes and tells him she'd like to get married soon too, but she can't go against her father's wishes. Jekyll tries to convince her of the depth of his love, telling her that his scientific work used to be the force that drew him to delve into the unknown in life, but now it's her eyes, and her face. They embrace and kiss until Carew's butler, Hobson (G.L. McDonnell) comes and tells Muriel that people are asking for her.

    Jekyll basically pleads with the general to approve an earlier marriage for him and Muriel, that he doesn't want to have to wait for eight months. The general tells Jekyll that he set that date because it's the same date that he married his wife, and he had to wait five years to marry her. He won't change his mind. Jekyll leaves the house with his friend, Dr. Lanyon (Holmes Herbert), furious at General Carew and referring to him as "the old walrus." He then speaks to Lanyon about how there should be no boundaries to science or life.

    There's a disturbance nearby as a man is attacking a woman outside a boarding house, knocking her to the ground. Jekyll hurries over and pushes the man away, then bends over to assist the woman. She seems to be hurt, so he picks her up and asks a bystander where her room is. He then carries her up to her room and puts her on her bed. The woman, Ivy Pearson (Miriam Hopkins), works at a nearby musical hall, singing and otherwise providing entertainment to the male patrons. She is astonished that this handsome stranger should be so concerned and attentive towards her. Jekyll is obviously aware of her charms, as well, and he rests his hand on her leg (which was bruised), while suggesting that she should not wear her garters so tight.

    He is about to leave, when she complains about her ribs hurting. He checks her side and tells her she'd be fine, advising her to get into her bed. So, after telling him to turn away, she strips all of her clothes off, teasing him by flinging her garters at him, then gets into her bed. As Jekyll approaches to say goodnight, she grabs him, drawing him towards her and kissing him. He doesn't try to pull away. At that moment, Dr. Lanyon walks into the room and is shocked at what he sees. Jekyll stands up and tells Ivy that her kiss will serve to pay his fee. She implores him to come back soon.

    As they walk away, Lanyon chastises Jekyll, telling him he's disgusted by Jekyll's behavior. Jekyll doesn't seem ashamed, nor does he apologize. He simply takes advantage of the moment as another opportunity to emphasize the two competing natures of man, good and evil. Jekyll does admit to Lanyon that he longs to be "clean" in his life, both inside and out.

    Back home in his basement laboratory, Jekyll is smoking a pipe and sorting through various vials of chemicals on a table. Poole comes in and expresses his concern that Jekyll has not been eating or sleeping for several days. Jekyll waves off the concern and continues working. After Poole leaves, Jekyll mixes several of the chemicals together in a glass beaker, until he's satisfied that it's the right combination. He then rushes up the stairs and locks the door to the lab before returning to his task. He writes an "if I die" note to Muriel, explaining that he's doing what he's about to do in the name of science.

    Jekyll then drinks the concoction he'd prepared, and it almost immediately affects him. He grabs at his throat and becomes dizzy. He experiences flashbacks to recent events and conversations pertaining to his work, and his engagement to Muriel. Jekyll's physical features change dramatically, as his hair becomes bristly, his eyebrows thicken, his nostrils flare, and his teeth enlarge and protrude. He utters a maniacal laugh, as he suddenly feels powerful and free of inhibitions.

    Jekyll starts to put on a coat and hat so he can go outside, but right then Poole pounds on the lab door, wanting to know if everything is all right. He heard noises. It's Hyde who answers in a gruff voice, further worrying Poole that something may be wrong. Hyde hurriedly prepares another concoction and drinks it, reversing the effects of the first drink and returning him to his Jekyll form. He then opens the lab door and explains to Poole that what he'd heard was a friend of his, and that the man had left through the back door.

    Muriel tells Jekyll that she and her father are taking a trip to Bath for a week or so. Jekyll is upset, as he doesn't want to be away from her for any length of time. He again attempts to persuade her to marry him now, with or without her father's permission. She wants to, but she won't risk alienating her father's affections.

    Jekyll later receives a letter from Muriel advising him that she and her father will remain in Bath for an entire month. Jekyll is not happy. His man Poole suggests he go to London to take advantage of the many entertainment opportunities there for a man of his youth and desires. Jekyll refuses, believing that he must behave himself, to prove himself worthy of Muriel and her father. However, that doesn't necessarily pertain to Hyde, so Jekyll decides to partake of his concoction again. He goes about mixing it up, taking a few drops of this and a dash of that (it's not at all precise), then he drinks it. He grunts, groans, chokes, and grimaces as his body and mind undergo the tortuous transformation.

    This time, Hyde does make it outside, where it's raining and the streets are abandoned. Hyde pauses to remove his hat and turns his face up, into the falling rain, relishing the feel of it. He puts his hat back on and heads straight to Diadem Court in Soho, where Ivy lives. Ivy's landlord, Mrs. Hawkins (Tempe Pigott), does not like Hyde being there and wants him to leave. She informs Hyde that Ivy is working at the music hall, so Hyde hurries over there.

    Hyde bumps into a man at the entrance to the music hall and glares at him, daring him to take issue with the encounter. The man shies away. Hyde then makes his way inside and takes an empty table located in a little alcove above the main floor. He orders a bottle of champagne and scans the floor for Ivy. The waiter pours some champagne, and sets the bottle down, then waits, expecting a tip. Hyde tells him to get lost, and when the waiter mumbles something as he leaves, Hyde reaches out with his cane and trips him.

    Hyde spots Ivy, just as she's breaking into the song, "Champagne Ivy Is My Name." Hyde sends the waiter to go invite Ivy to come over and have some wine with him. The waiter implores Ivy to go over to Hyde's table, concerned about what might happen if she refuses. So, she goes, and she's shocked by Hyde's appearance. Hyde wants her to join him in a toast to her body and beauty, so she allows him that much, but then she tries to leave. He blocks her path and tells her that a woman like her deserves nothing but the best and infers that he's in a position to give it to her. When she asks how she would get all the things he mentioned, he says, "how do you think?" He then tells her that he has lots of money.

    The male patron who was sitting with Ivy earlier in the evening comes to Hyde's table and demands that she return to sit with him. Hyde breaks the bottle of champagne and thrusts the broken end at the man, causing him to give up his claim on Ivy. Ivy tries to leave again, telling Hyde she is going home. He grabs her and tells her she can't go. He tells her, "I want you and I get what I want. I love you. You come with me."

    Dr. Lanyon arrives at Jekyll's house to deliver a message from General Carew. The general is concerned that Jekyll is not answering Muriel's letters. Poole tells Lanyon that Jekyll isn't home and there are times when he doesn't see him for days.

    Mrs. Hawkins goes to see Ivy in room and tries to counsel her to stop seeing Mr. Hyde, that he's mean and no good and she needs him out of her life. Ivy tells Mrs. Hawkins that it's not as simple as that, that Mr. Hyde won't leave her alone. Hyde comes into the apartment at that moment and demands to know what Mrs. Hawkins is doing there. When she says she came for the rent, he tells her she'll get it when it's due. She says, "yes, sir," and quickly leaves.

    Hyde demands to know what Ivy and Mrs. Hawkins were talking about. She says, "nothing." Hyde fondly refers to Ivy as "my little bird" at first, but before long, he's referring to her as a "trull," for preferring Jekyll to him. He says, "tell me you hate me!" She refuses. He says, "do you love me?" Fearing him, she says, "yes sir." Hyde isn't really interested in her answers, because he knows she's terrified of him. He just takes pleasure in badgering her and forcing her to do his will.

    Hyde has learned that Muriel and her father are returning from Bath, so he tells Ivy that he has some bad news, he must go away for a few days. He asks if that pleases her and she says, "no, sir." He knows it does, so he tells her that she belongs to him and she'd better not misbehave while he's gone. He says, "you don't know when I'll be back." He then wants to know if she wants him to leave right away, if she would have him not even stay that one last night. She's shaking as she tells him she would like him to stay the night, just as he wants. He responds, "yes, just as I want," and as he moves towards her and she falls onto the bed and starts crying. As Hyde puts his hand on Ivy's thigh, he observes that she ought not to wear her garters so tight, then he grabs her and kisses her.

    Later, Jekyll is back home, with numerous letters from Muriel sitting on the table in front of him. He realizes he needs to get control of Hyde, so he takes the key to the back door, looks at it disgustedly, and throws it across the room. He tells Poole that from now on, he'll be coming and going only through the front door. He then writes a message to Ivy and sends Poole to deliver it.

    Ivy is telling Mrs. Hawkins that she wishes Hyde would just go ahead and kill her, rather than continuing to torment her. Mrs. Hawkins wants her to go to the police, but Ivy said no one cares about a woman like her, so they wouldn't do anything.

    Ivy opens the note sent to her by Jekyll. Inside is a 50-pound note. Mrs. Hawkins encourages Ivy to go and thank Jekyll in person, and perhaps he'll also offer to help her out with regards to Mr. Hyde.

    Jekyll goes to see Muriel and tells her that he'd been ill, that his soul was sick. He tells her that he'd been playing with dangerous knowledge and he needed her to help him find his way back to his safer self. She is very willing to help him, but isn't sure what he's talking about. Jekyll also apologizes to the general, after which he and Muriel implore the general to consent to an earlier marriage, so they can be together and she can help Jekyll. The general says no. He tells Jekyll that he's too flighty and impatient. Muriel remains persistent, however, and the general finally relents and consents to the marriage to take place the next month.

    Jekyll is delirious with happiness, as he rushes home and sits down at his organ and plays a fast-paced, happy tune. His playing is short-lived, as Poole answers the door and announces that Miss Ivy Pearson was there to see him. When Ivy walks in and sees that Jekyll is the same man who tended to her that night the man was roughing her up, she is very pleasantly surprised. She returns the fifty pounds to Jekyll, telling him she cannot accept it, because it could put her at risk. She then turns away from him and reveals the whip marks across her upper back. She explains the marks were put there by a jealous and violent Mr. Hyde, and that she was so frightened of him, that she'd even tried to drown herself, but couldn't.

    Ivy begs Jekyll to help her deal with Mr. Hyde, and that if he wouldn't, or couldn't, then to at least give her some poison so she could kill herself. Jekyll feels horrible and consoles Ivy. He asked why she hadn't gone to the police. She explained how that could just make things worse. Ivy tells Jekyll that she's a "looker" and would do anything at all Jekyll would ask of her, if he'd just help her. Jekyll almost kisses her, but instead he just tells her that he would see to it that Hyde never bothers her again. She was skeptical and terrified, at first, but ultimately she believed he meant what he said.

    Invitations to a dinner to formally announce Jekyll's and Muriel's upcoming wedding were sent out on behalf of the general. The night of the dinner, Jekyll was on his way to the general's home, walking through a park. He pauses to watch and listen to a bird singing, and he speaks out loud to the bird, "you are not born to die." As he continues to watch, a cat appears, attacking and killing the bird. That upsets Jekyll so much, he begins changing back to Hyde. He's obviously distressed as he says, "oh, no."

    When the transformation is complete, Hyde says, "but it is dead!" and he slithers off to go see Ivy.

    Hyde quietly enters Ivy's apartment as she's having a glass of wine and feeling pretty good about things, since Jekyll was on her side now. She's horrified when she sees Hyde. Hyde tells her he knows all about her and Jekyll and shocks her by repeating things that only she and Jekyll could have known about. Hyde calls her "my little bird" and "my little starling," as he tells her that he's her angel, that he and Jekyll are one and the same. He then puts his hands around her neck and applies pressure. She breaks away and he chases her, eventually catching her over by her bed, where he chokes her to death.

    Other residents of the boarding house hear the commotion in Ivy's room and when Hyde runs out, some men try to stop him, but he escapes. A policeman comes and Mrs. Hawkins tells him about Mr. Hyde. Hyde runs home, but since he no longer has a back door key, he hurries around front and bangs on the door for Poole. Poole opens the door, but then quickly slams it in Hyde's face, telling him that his master is not home.

    General Carew says goodbye to the last guest to leave the wedding announcement dinner, then tells Muriel that he's going to cane Jekyll the next time he sees him. He forbids Muriel to ever see or associate with Jekyll again. Muriel argues with her father, telling him she's sure that Jekyll has a good explanation for why he missed the dinner and that she wants to give him a chance to explain.

    Hyde goes to a bar and writes a note that he then hands to a male waiter, with directions to deliver it to Dr. Lanyon. The waiter delivers the note to Dr. Lanyon at his home. The note requests the doctor to go to Jekyll's laboratory and gather together six labeled vials of specified chemicals and bring them home, then wait for a courier to come get them.

    Hyde goes to Lanyon's house, telling the doctor that he was sent by Jekyll to pick up the vials. Lanyon takes Hyde into his study, where the vials on in a box, but before he turns them over, he demands that Hyde take him to see Jekyll. Hyde refuses and reaches for the box. Lanyon pulls a gun and threatens to shoot unless Hyde takes him to Jekyll. Hyde decides he'll just have to mix the drink and take it there, but he first warns Lanyon that he's about to see something transpire that he can never tell anyone about. Hyde then mixes and drinks the chemicals.

    Dr. Lanyon is aghast at what he witnesses, as Hyde transforms to Jekyll. Jekyll cowers before Lanyon, confessing that he's a murderer and pleading for Lanyon to help him. Lanyon isn't at all sympathetic to Jekyll's plight, telling him there would be no help or mercy coming his way. He tells Jekyll that he's under the power of the monster he created. Jekyll promises to fight that control, to never mix and drink the chemicals again, and finally, to give up Muriel.

    Jekyll is wracked with guilt for what Hyde has done and he prays to God for forgiveness and help. He then goes over to the general's house, where the general refuses to allow him entrance, but Muriel demands they receive Jekyll. Jekyll comes in and the general leaves the room. Jekyll tells Muriel that he's setting her free because he now is among the living damned, beyond help, that he has no soul and is perched in hell. Muriel cradles him in her lap and tries to get him to tell her what's wrong. She tells him she'll help him, no matter what it is. Jekyll kisses her, then pulls himself away and tells her it is his penance, to give her up, and he leaves.

    As he exits the house, Jekyll pauses at the patio door and witnesses Muriel with her head resting against her piano keyboard, sobbing. The scene upsets him so much that he once again transforms into Hyde and he quietly opens the patio door and approaches her. When he puts his hands on her waist and leans forward and kisses her on the back, she turns expectantly, thinking that Jekyll had returned. When she sees Hyde, she screams. Her screams bring Hobson and General Carew running and they engage in a scuffle with Hyde. The fight spills out onto the patio, where Hyde takes his cane to the general, striking him multiple times in the head, killing him. Hyde runs as the police arrive and give chase, blowing their whistles.

    Hyde gets home and into the lab, locking himself in, and quickly preparing the reverse potion so he can change back to Jekyll. Meanwhile, Dr. Lanyon is at the general's home and recognizes Jekyll's broken cane lying next to the general's body. The police head for Jekyll's house, where two of them break down the door to the lab. By then, Hyde has transformed back to Jekyll and he attempts to send them back outside and on the trail of Hyde, but Dr. Lanyon arrives and points at Jekyll and tells the police, "that's your man."

    The police are obviously confused and skeptical, but as they consider what to do next, Jekyll begins transforming back to Hyde. He charges Lanyon, attempting to exact revenge on the doctor for betraying him, but the police turn him back. He then climbs some high shelves in the lab and brandishes a knife. One of the policeman draws a pistol and shoots Hyde before he can do anything with the knife. Hyde transforms back to Jekyll as he dies.

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