Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde


1h 7m 1920
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Brief Synopsis

In this silent film, a doctor's research into the roots of evil turns him into a hideous monster.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Silent
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Apr 1920
Premiere Information
New York opening: 28 Mar 1920
Production Company
Famous Players-Lasky Corp.
Distribution Company
Famous Players-Lasky Corp.; Paramount-Artcraft Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (London, 1886).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 7m
Sound
Silent
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.33 : 1
Film Length
6,355ft (6-7 reels)

Synopsis

Dr. Jekyll, a London physician and philanthropist, becomes fascinated with the dual nature of man after the profligate Sir George Carew exposes him to temptation. When he discovers a drug that separates the good from the evil, he decides to live both roles and names the evil persona Mr. Hyde. Jekyll is in love with Millicent, the daughter of Sir George; Hyde debases and discards Theresa, a dance hall performer. Jekyll's control over Hyde weakens gradually to the point where his alter ego murders Sir George. After this deed, Jekyll can no longer countenance Hyde's destructive behavior, and so locks himself in the laboratory where he becomes Hyde again. When Millicent comes to visit, Jekyll swallows a lethal dose of poison and when, as Hyde, he attempts to attack her, dies in the act.

Film Details

Genre
Horror
Silent
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Apr 1920
Premiere Information
New York opening: 28 Mar 1920
Production Company
Famous Players-Lasky Corp.
Distribution Company
Famous Players-Lasky Corp.; Paramount-Artcraft Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (London, 1886).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 7m
Sound
Silent
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.33 : 1
Film Length
6,355ft (6-7 reels)

Articles

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)


John Barrymore's performance in the silent classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) is described by Barrymore biographer Margot Peters as "a revelation" -- the first real evidence that "a great stage actor could transfer that talent to the screen and be appreciated by a public who had never entered a theater in its life." As it happened, Barrymore's version was one of two silent film treatments of the often-filmed Robert Louis Stevenson story released in 1920. The other was a poorly received vehicle for over-the-top silent actor Sheldon Lewis, set in contemporary New York rather than 19th-century London.

But it was Barrymore's performance that created a sensation. One of the more amazing things about his portrayal is that he accomplishes the intial transition from the refined, handsome Jekyll to the evil, hideous Hyde with no special makeup, camery trickery or cutting. In a continuous sequence that takes up one thousand feet of film, Barrymore simply turns away from the camera with his hands hiding his face, then turns back to reveal grotesquely distorted features. In later sequences, makeup aids his transformation into a horror with pointed head and fangs. Barrymore puts his hands, which he had always considered ugly and "blunt," to effective use as Hyde, wearing sleeves that rise above his wrists as he twists them into claws.

The horrific effects seemed all the more startling to audiences of the day who thought of Barrymore as a handsome, romantic figure. "Underlying the horror of Hyde," Peters writes, "is the astonishing beauty of Dr. Jekyll: the contrast shocks, like a maggot at the heart of a rose." The New York Times was equally impressed by Barrymore's double-edged performance, calling it "one of pure motion-picture pantomime on as high a level as has ever been attained by anyone."

This adaptation, written by Clara Beranger, was the one to establish the convention, followed in most versions since, of having Hyde interact with a "good" and "bad" leading lady. Martha Mansfield (who would die after her costume caught on fire during the filming of The Warrens of Virginia four years later) is the virtuous heroine, while Nita Naldi (wearing costumes that were were considered scandalous even for the flapper age) is the naughty cabaret performer who catches Hyde's lustful eye.

Barrymore was performing Shakespeare's "Richard III" onstage at night while filming Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at New York's Famous Players studio during the daytime. In addition, he was pressing himself to learn his next role as Hamlet and was involved in a tempestuous romance with poetess Michael Strange (Blanche Oelrichs), whom he married in 1920. The result of all the strain was a physical and nervous collapse.

Tallulah Bankhead would recall in her autobiography that she had been approached as a virginal young actress by Barrymore at the time Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was being cast. When it became clear that a session on Barrymore's "casting couch" was part of the process of becoming his leading lady, Bankhead beat a hasty retreat. The two later became friends, though Barrymore admitted that "our relationship was loathsomely platonic."

Producer: Adolph Zukor
Director: John S. Robertson
Screenplay: Clara Beranger, from novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Cinematography: Roy F. Overbaugh
Art Direction: Robert M. Haas
Principal 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).
BW-69m.

by Roger Fristoe
Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1920)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)

John Barrymore's performance in the silent classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) is described by Barrymore biographer Margot Peters as "a revelation" -- the first real evidence that "a great stage actor could transfer that talent to the screen and be appreciated by a public who had never entered a theater in its life." As it happened, Barrymore's version was one of two silent film treatments of the often-filmed Robert Louis Stevenson story released in 1920. The other was a poorly received vehicle for over-the-top silent actor Sheldon Lewis, set in contemporary New York rather than 19th-century London. But it was Barrymore's performance that created a sensation. One of the more amazing things about his portrayal is that he accomplishes the intial transition from the refined, handsome Jekyll to the evil, hideous Hyde with no special makeup, camery trickery or cutting. In a continuous sequence that takes up one thousand feet of film, Barrymore simply turns away from the camera with his hands hiding his face, then turns back to reveal grotesquely distorted features. In later sequences, makeup aids his transformation into a horror with pointed head and fangs. Barrymore puts his hands, which he had always considered ugly and "blunt," to effective use as Hyde, wearing sleeves that rise above his wrists as he twists them into claws. The horrific effects seemed all the more startling to audiences of the day who thought of Barrymore as a handsome, romantic figure. "Underlying the horror of Hyde," Peters writes, "is the astonishing beauty of Dr. Jekyll: the contrast shocks, like a maggot at the heart of a rose." The New York Times was equally impressed by Barrymore's double-edged performance, calling it "one of pure motion-picture pantomime on as high a level as has ever been attained by anyone." This adaptation, written by Clara Beranger, was the one to establish the convention, followed in most versions since, of having Hyde interact with a "good" and "bad" leading lady. Martha Mansfield (who would die after her costume caught on fire during the filming of The Warrens of Virginia four years later) is the virtuous heroine, while Nita Naldi (wearing costumes that were were considered scandalous even for the flapper age) is the naughty cabaret performer who catches Hyde's lustful eye. Barrymore was performing Shakespeare's "Richard III" onstage at night while filming Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at New York's Famous Players studio during the daytime. In addition, he was pressing himself to learn his next role as Hamlet and was involved in a tempestuous romance with poetess Michael Strange (Blanche Oelrichs), whom he married in 1920. The result of all the strain was a physical and nervous collapse. Tallulah Bankhead would recall in her autobiography that she had been approached as a virginal young actress by Barrymore at the time Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was being cast. When it became clear that a session on Barrymore's "casting couch" was part of the process of becoming his leading lady, Bankhead beat a hasty retreat. The two later became friends, though Barrymore admitted that "our relationship was loathsomely platonic." Producer: Adolph Zukor Director: John S. Robertson Screenplay: Clara Beranger, from novel by Robert Louis Stevenson Cinematography: Roy F. Overbaugh Art Direction: Robert M. Haas Principal 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). BW-69m. by Roger Fristoe

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

A number of plays were based on Robert Louis Stevenson's novella, beginning with an adaptation by T. R. Sullivan which starred Richard Mansfield and opened in Boston on May 9, 1887. Contemporary reviews differ from the titles of existing prints of this film in calling the character played by Nita Naldi "Therese" instead of "Gina."
       Among the many other films inspired by (or adaptations of) Stevenson's story are: the 1913 Imp two-reeler, starring King Baggot and directed by Herbert Brenon; the 1920 Pioneer Film Corp. production (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20); the 1920 German film Der Januskopf, starring Conrad Veidt and directed by F. W. Murnau; the 1932 Paramount film, starring Fredric March and directed by Rouben Mamoulian (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40); the 1941 M-G-M film, starring Spencer Tracy and directed by Victor Fleming (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50); the 1959 French film Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier, starring Jean-Louis Barrault and directed by Jean Renoir; the 1960 British film The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, starring Paul Massie and directed by Terence Fisher; the 1963 Paramount release The Nutty Professor, starring and directed by Jerry Lewis (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70); the 1968 ABC television movie The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll, starring Jack Palance and directed by Charles Jarrott; and the 1981 PBS television movie, starring David Hemmings and directed by Alastair Read.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1920

Released in United States March 1977

reels 7

Released in United States 1920

Released in United States March 1977 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Double Vision-Two different classics made from the same story) March 9-27, 1977.)