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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 Hollywood Reporter, 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 Los Angeles Examiner news item on September 10, 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 December 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 November 11, 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 February 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 Daily Variety article on February 17, 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 Renoise 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.