The other day, I stumbled upon a morning full of Spencer Tracy movies on TCM. When I saw that he starred in a version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I had to check it out. It may not have been his best film, or best performance, but it sure was fun.
Based off the old screenplay for the 1931 film more than the book by Robert Louis Stevenson, this Dr. Jekyll (Tracy) has a beautiful fiance, Beatrix (Lana Turner). She is a well to do Victorian era daddy’s-girl and daddy (Donald Crisp) isn’t letting her go easily. In fact, he doesn’t care for Jekyll, especially his experiments where he hopes to separate the good and evil in people. As Jekyll continues his experiments, hoping to help a sick, possibly insane, man, he meets a tempting barkeep. Ingrid Bergman plays Ivy, the saucy barkeep that puts Jekyll on the edge of forbidden desire.
When Jekyll has finished his tonic that can separate the good and evil in men, he decides to test it on himself. The result is a version of Spencer Tracy with wild hair, bushy eyebrows, bad teeth, a crazy stare and bad manners. This makes for a few very Wolfman-like transformation sequences. The looks I found more amusing than scary, but Tracy’s performance as Hyde is wonderfully menacing and creepy. Watching him slowly scare Bergman across the room is an amazing scene.
The film was nominated for a few Oscars. They were best film editing, best music and best black and white cinematography. The images of Jekyll/Hyde running in the London fog are beautiful.
This version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is not very scary, but I could not pass up a film with both Tracy and Bergman. Perhaps this can be a fun film to watch with children and introduce them to these classic stars. Maybe they will be more frightened by Tracy’s Mr. Hyde than critics were, who mostly laughed. If you have seen the 1931 film version, let me know how they compare.
“The moment is mine!”