1 October 1999 | BobLib
Not the March version, but pretty good, anyway!
Unlike Universal, MGM was never a studio associated much with out-and-out horror films (A notable exception: 1932's great "The Mask of Fu Manchu," with Boris Karloff, Myrna Loy, and Jean Hersholt). But, when they did make them, they made them with the legendary MGM class and gloss. And such a one was the 1941 version of Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Unlike the March version, this wasn't a particularly scary film, but more of a suspenseful one. As befits the director who made "Wizard of Oz," "Red Dust," and "Gone with the Wind," Victor Fleming turns the story into a thinking man's horror film, and succeeds brilliantly.
As to the cast, Spencer Tracy, like Frederick March, was effectively cast against type for the part, and delivers a good, understated performance. His Hyde is very much the Hyde of the book, an evil, decayed version of Jekyll himself, rather than a monster. This last was accomplished by Jack Dawn's equally understated makeup. Lana Turner, and Jekyll's fiance, Beatrix, is little more than pretty set decoration. Let's face it, she wouldn't really prove she could act until "Peyton Place" and "Imitation of Life" in the late '50's. But Ingrid Bergman, now, that's another story! In one of her first U.S. films, she delivers a brilliant performance as Ivy Peterson, the Cockney barmaid unwillingly cought up in Hyde's insane reign of terror. Her scenes with Tracy, both as Jekyll and as Hyde, fairly crackle with energy. These are two comsummate pros working together, and they don't disappoint. In the only other supporting roles of any importance, Donald Crisp, Ian Hunter, Barton McLane, and Sara Allgood all aquit themselves beautifully.