DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (director: John S. Robertson; screenwriters: based on the story by Robert Louis Stevenson/Clara Beranga; cinematographer: Roy F. Overbaugh; cast: John Barrymore (Dr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. Edward Hyde), Martha Mansfield (Millicent Carew), Brandon Hurst (Sir George Carew), Charles Lane (Dr. Richard Lanyon), George Stevens (Poole, Jekyll’s butler), Nita Naldi (Miss Gina, Italian Singer), J. Malcolm Dunn (Utterson), Cecil Clovelly (Edward Enfield), Louis Wolheim (Music Hall Owner); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Adolph Zukor; Kino Video; 1920-silent)
“This was the picture that made Barrymore a household name.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1888) has the good fortune of being the most ever filmed horror story. Of the countless versions made of the tale of split personalities, this faithful to the novel 1920 version, the second filmed in 1920 alone and the third released in 1920, is the most effective. It showcases stage actor John Barrymore in the title role. Barrymore’s performance, at a time of no special effects, is brilliant. He transforms himself from the refined gentleman Dr. Henry Jekyll to the grotesquely evil Mr. Edward Hyde without the use of special makeup or any cinematic tricks by simply acting out the change and changing facial expressions, donning a wild wig and walking with a pronounced stoop. This was the picture that made Barrymore a household name. When the film was shot by Paramount at its Long Island studio, Barrymore filmed during the day and at night appeared on the Broadway stage in the play called “The Jest.”
Director John S. Robertson (“Shanghai Lady”/”Our Little Girl”/”Little Orphan Annie“)sets the Robert Louis Stevenson story in 19th century London. It was adapted to the screen by Clara Beranga.
After the cynical high society hedonist Sir George Carew (Brandon Hurst) exposes the very proper philanthropist and respected London physician Dr. Jekyll (John Barrymore) to temptation with an Italian dancer (Nita Naldi) in a low-class pub, Jekyll becomes ashamed of his goodness and transforms himself with the aid of a drug to his baser nature by separating out the evil part of his soul. He calls this evil part of himself Mr. Hyde. When things become too dark, like ruining the life of the Italian dancer by making her his paramour and crushing a child to death, Jekyll stops seeing the gentle Millicent Carew (Martha Mansfield), the daughter of Sir George. She would have been his perfect marriage partner, but his botched experiment only leads to tragedy as he poisons himself in his lab rather than face Millicent again after his Hyde brutally murdered her father.
REVIEWED ON 3/8/2011 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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