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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

In Pittsburgh, Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 remake of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was advertised as “The Picture That Makes Frankenstein a Bedtime Story!” Such ballyhoo must have been music to the ears of Paramount studio head Adolph Zukor, who had put the production into motion in hopes of repeating the success of Universal’s Frankenstein and Dracula (both 1931). Putting acclaimed stage director Mamoulian at the helm ensured the film wouldn’t be just some cheap knock-off. The director was known for his innovative work, and he continued that tradition with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He achieved an almost seamless transition from man to monster with colored filters that gradually made visible the horror makeup (indelibly designed by skilled artist Wally Westmore) and he upped the suspense by recording his own heartbeat to underscore the scene.

Mamoulian also made some shocking casting choices. Fredric March was considered a lightweight at the time, but Mamoulian insisted he was perfect for the dual role. The actor committed fully to the part, playing the film so that the Neanderthal Hyde gradually destroys Jekyll’s health along with his mind. March shot to stardom, won his first Oscar, and ended up in the hospital with a case of nervous exhaustion. Mamoulian also cast pert leading lady Miriam Hopkins against type (and against her wishes) as the seductive barmaid Ivy, who becomes Hyde’s mistress. Her sexually charged performance was one of the raciest of the pre-Code era. Much of it was cut for the film’s 1938 re-issue under stricter Production Code enforcement, not to be restored until the late 1990s.

d. Rouben Mamoulian, 96 minutes, DCP

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Classics