Posts Tagged ‘dr jekyll and mr hyde’

Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

*This is a passage that never made it into my upcoming biography, Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel, to be published on January 5, 2018 by the University Press of Kentucky. Copies can be preordered at AMAZON.

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

Stage and film actress, Miriam Hopkins, enjoyed being remembered by the public and her fans, even as she aged. In the early 1950s, a New York cab driver somehow recognized her from her role as Champagne Ivy, the dance hall prostitute in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which was released twenty years earlier. She was flattered that the cabbie remembered her, but it also depressed her. “You see, what they recall so vividly is that scene in which my legs hang over the side of the bed,” she sighed. “An actress spends a lifetime perfecting the art of acting and what do people remember? Dangling legs!”*

 

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde…

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

 

 

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR

ROUBEN MAMOULIAN

by David Del Valle

 

This edited interview was conducted in 1983, when Rouben Mamoulian and writer David Del Valle met as a result of their appearance on the PBS special The Horror of it All.

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DDV: Mr. Mamoulian, could you tell us how your version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde came together back in 1931?

 

RM: Part of the question you ask is relevant to the year you just mentioned, 1931. Universal had galvanized show business with their adaptations of Dracula and Frankenstein. Mr. Adolph Zukor, being a very astute businessman, decided to make his own horror thriller for Paramount. Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde had not been filmed since the John Barrymore version, and there was much about the Stevenson novel that could really be enhanced by talking pictures. You have to realize Frankenstein changed forever the notion that no matter how unfilmable a novel may be, if the subject matter is profound or powerful enough, it’s going to get to the screen.

 

Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins and Rouben Mamoulian (Allan R. Ellenberger Collection)

 

DDV: Why was this your only horror film?

 

RM: You may consider this a horror film, and perhaps Stevenson’s novel was a horror story. I don’t know if you’ve read the novel, but Dr. Jekyll was a rather fat fellow of 55 who was trying to see how far he could go within the restrictions of morality. He would like to indulge in every kind of debauchery, but he could not do this as Dr. Jekyll. And for Mr. Hyde, I did not want to make him a monster or a caricature of the John Barrymore performance. Referring to the performance which won Fredric March an Academy Award, the studio originally wanted a character named Irving Pichel. I’m sure this actor is unknown to a young man like you…

 

DDV: On the contrary, I’m quite aware that Mr. Pichel played a leading role in Dracula’s Daughter (1936) and directed Destination Moon (1950).

 

RM: Well, you are a film buff, so I suppose these facts are important to you. In any case, Irving Pichel might have been suited to the doctor as he was written in the novel, but I knew he was completely inappropriate for the film. The studio definitely wanted him to play the part; they kept telling me what a wonderful Mr. Hyde he would make. But my concept all along for the character of Hyde was that of a Neanderthal man, not a monster, because it is the animal side of human nature that attracted me to the piece. At the time I was offered Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I had seen Freddie March in some comedy, and I knew he would be perfect. Now I had never met this actor before in my life, but I took a risk and told Paramount that I would not make the film without Fredric March. And he gave an inspired and dazzling performance!

 

Fredric March as Dr. Jekyll (Allan R. Ellenberger Collection)

 

DDV: Let’s discuss the sound techniques you used in both the transformation sequences. The two instances I remember best are the heartbeat used during the first transformation scene, and another sequence in which Jekyll listens to a nightingale in a park, and turns into Hyde when a cat pounces on the bird.

 

RM: It’s no longer the mystery it was a few years ago. Regarding the nightingale sequence, it was impossible to find a real nightingale, so I thought we might have to import one from England or something. As the search continued, this enormous Englishwoman came into my office and explained to me that she could imitate the sound of any bird. So I asked her to do a nightingale for me, to which she asked, “Do you want a Welsh nightingale or a Northern nightingale?” I said, “Whichever one you wish.” And she was perfect; it was her voice that you hear in the film.

 

The heartbeat used in the transformation sequence was my own heartbeat. I ran up and down a flight of stairs and had a sound man record my own heartbeat. We had tried drums of all kind and nothing worked. The playwright Edward Albee wrote me a fan letter informing me that the heartbeat sequence in my film stayed in his imagination as a kid and he used the same effect in his play, Tiny Alice.

 

Miriam Hopkins as Ivy (Allan R. Ellenberger Collection)

 

DDV: Fredric March notwithstanding, Miriam Hopkins is the scene-stealer of the film. Was there any truth to her notoriety?

 

RM: All of the stories I hear about Miriam Hopkins, her temper tantrums, and her demonic ego were not in play at the time we were filming Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. For me, as a director, Miriam was a very gifted and talented actress who could play comedy (as she did for Lubitsch) or a tragic figure such as Ivy. Originally, Miriam wanted to play Muriel, the Rose Hobart role, and I told her that it would be very dull for her, and that I knew she could play this Ivy character like no one else. Her scenes were considered very erotic for 1931. In fact, we filmed her bed sequence when she first encounters Dr. Jekyll with her removing her clothes under the sheets. Not much of this remained, I am told. Miriam wanted to work with me and I think she sensed how disappointed I would have been, had she played the other role. Directing her performance is one of my fondest memories of the picture. And if anything, she was Bette Davis’ equal!

 

DDV: Considering that you don’t see yourself as a specialist in the horror genre, do you feel out of place in this documentary?

 

RM: I am very proud of my work on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I agreed to appear in the documentary because it was being addressed in a respectful way. Even though I never mad another picture in that genre, I certainly do not mind being spoken of in such glowing terms! Who wouldn’t? My opinion of the finished product is quite enthusiastic.

 

Watch a clip from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)

 

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