Spencer Tracy originally wanted a realistic approach, whereby Dr. Jekyll would commit violent deeds in a neighborhood where he was unknown after drinking alcohol or taking drugs. He was disappointed that the producers, having bought the screenplay from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), insisted on virtually remaking the earlier film.
The film was a notorious critical failure when released, although it eventually made a profit of $2 million around the world. Spencer Tracy later said it was by far the least favorite of the films he had starred in, and that his performance was "awful". The New York Times famously described it as "not so much evil incarnate as ham rampant ... more ludicrous than dreadful."
The character of Ivy Peterson was taken not from Robert Louis Stevenson's original novella, but from the 1931 film version. Ivy never appears in the original story, nor, for that matter, does Jekyll's fiancée.
Despite having not yet met his famous co-star, Spencer Tracy wanted the characters of Ivy and Beatrix to be played by the same actress, Katharine Hepburn, to reinforce the theme of the good and bad qualities in every individual.
Spencer Tracy's performance as Hyde was judged by the critics in 1941 to be inadequate, principally because he was not frightening enough. In addition, Tracy was considered "too American" and too "rough" to be believable as an upper-class doctor in Victorian London. He later received an amusing telegram from Fredric March, the star of the 1931 version, who said that his earlier performance as Hyde was always compared favorably with Tracy's. After watching the film, Tracy confided to his friend Ralph Bellamy that he believed his Hollywood career was over.
In the original theatrical version, once Dr. Jekyll is first transformed into Mr. Hyde, he walks up to a mirror in his laboratory. As he stares into it he questions his face saying such things as, "It's my face, yet it isn't" This is followed by him exclaiming, "Can this be evil?" In later TV prints, the earlier lines are missing. They're inexplicably missing to this day. Either the negative was damaged or the cuts were made on purpose.
The concept of the two female loves of Jekyll/Hyde's life, aristocratic Beatrix Emery and barmaid Ivy Petersen, actually originated in the original stage version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", as adapted by T.R. Sullivan for the great 19th century stage actor Richard Mansfield. The Stevenson novella mentions no female love interest of any sort for either Jekyll or Hyde.
The studio had originally cast Ingrid Bergman in the Beatrix Emery role and Lana Turner in the Ivy Peterson role. Bergman felt the role of Ivy was more challenging and persuaded the producers to switch roles with Turner.
This film received its USA television premiere in Los Angeles Friday 9 November 1956 on KTTV (Channel 2), followed by Altoona PA 5 January 1957 on WFBG (Channel 10), by Philadelphia 15 February 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6), by Seattle 1 March 1957 on KING (Channel 5), by Chicago 6 April 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2) and by Minneapolis 12 May 1957 on KMGM (Channel 9); its New York City television premiere took place on 18 January 1958 on WCBS (Channel 2), followed by San Francisco 22 February 1958 on KGO (Channel 7).
There are some key differences between Robert Louis Stevenson's novel and this film. In the novella, the story of "Jekyll" and "Hyde" is revealed indirectly by two characters discussing the unusual details of the will of the late Dr. Jeykll. The novella also reveals that Jekyll had been leading a secret life of vice prior to developing his serum. In addition, the characters of "Ivy Peterson" and "Beatrix Emery" do not exist in the novella. Although not credited onscreen, Samuel Hoffenstein, who wrote the screenplay for the 1932 Paramount adaptation of the Stevenson novella, was credited by the SAB as a contributing writer for the M-G-M production. According to news items in HR , actresses Patricia Morison and Susan Hayward were tested for roles in the film, and Ingrid Bergman was borrowed from David O. Selznick's company for her role. Although Victor Saville is listed in news items and production charts as the film's producer, he was not given screen credit or credited in reviews. As Saville would normally have been credited onscreen, it is possible that his name was not used in connection with the released film because of a controversy surrounding his rumored propagandizing on behalf of Great Britain. According to a LAEx news item on 10 Sep 1941, Senator Gerald P. Nye was urging that Saville be summoned to testify before a Senate committee investigating "British agents operating in the motion picture industry." In the article, Nye was quoted as saying "Persistent is the report within the industry that the British Ministry of Information arranged his visa to the end that he might work in Hollywood and represent the interest of the British ministry." Following America's entry into the war in early Dec 1941, the controversy died down and it has not been determined whether Saville actually testified before the Senate. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, when the first script was submitted to the Hays Office on 11 Nov 1940, M-G-M encountered a few problems with both dialogue and story. The line assigned "Hyde," when speaking to "Ivy," "I'm hurting you because I like to hurt you," was deemed unacceptable because of its "definite suggestion of sadism," and it was indicated to M-G-M that there should be no suggestion of a rape of Ivy by Hyde. The script was approved, following some minor changes, on 5 Feb 1941. After completion of the film, the Hays Office raised strong objections to portions of Peter Ballbusch's two montage sequences, which take place just after Jekyll turns into Hyde. In the first montage, the office requested the removal of several minor shots, plus the shot in which "Tracy is shown lashing the two girls" and a mention of the 23rd Psalm. In the second montage, the studio was told to delete "All scenes having to do with the swan and the girl, and the stallion and the girl." The first montage was edited so that in the released film there are no shots of either "Ivy" or "Bea" receiving lashes, but there are medium close-up shots of "Hyde" using a whip. There were no words from the 23rd Psalm in the montage, but "Poole" recites the first lines, "The Lord is my shepherd..." at the end of the film. In the second montage, all of the required eliminations were made. No serious censorship problems arose after the film's initial release, but according to a DV article on 17 Feb 1955, the picture was banned in Memphis by "film censor czar Lloyd T. Binford" because "Miss Bergman is an immoral woman," a reference to a scandal that surrounded Bergman's relationship with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. (For additional information on their relationship please see the entry below for Stromboli ). Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde earned three Academy Award nominations: Black & White Cinematography (Joseph Ruttenberg); Film Editing (Harold F. Kreiss); and Musical Score (Franz Waxman). There have been many stage and film adaptations of Stevenson's novel. These include a stage play starring Richard Mansfield (Boston, 9 May 1887), which developed Stevenson's story along the lines that have generally been followed in subsequent stage, screen and televised adaptations; a 1920 Paramount film directed by John Stewart Robertson, starring John Barrymore and Miriam Hopkins (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.1063); the 1920 German film Der Januskopf , directed by F. W. Murnau and starring Conrad Veidt; the 1932 Paramount production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde , directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.1076); the 1959 French film Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier , directed by Jean Renoir and starring Jean-Louis Barrault; the 1963 Paramount release The Nutty Professor , directed by and starring Jerry Lewis (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ; F6.3501), the 1980 British-made Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype , directed by Charles B. Griffith and starring Oliver Reed; and the 1996 Paramount film The Nutty Professor , directed by Tom Shadyac and starring Eddie Murphy. In early 1998, a new motion picture adaptation of the novel was announced by New Regency Films, to be written by playwright David Mamet and star Al Pacino, but that film was not made. GENRE (American Film Institute)