Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931 film)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931 film)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Theatrical Poster
Directed by Rouben Mamoulian
Produced by Rouben Mamoulian
Written by Samuel Hoffenstein
Percy Heath
Robert Louis Stevenson (Novel)
Starring Fredric March
Miriam Hopkins
Rose Hobart
Music by Herman Hand
Cinematography Karl Struss
Editing by William Shea
Distributed by Paramount Pictures (Original)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Later)
Turner Entertainment
Warner Bros. Pictures (Current)
Release date(s) December 31, 1932 (1932-12-31)
Running time 98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.14 million

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a 1932 American Pre-Code horror film directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fredric March. The film is an adaptation of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), the Robert Louis Stevenson tale of a man who takes a potion which turns him from a mild-mannered man of science into a crude homicidal maniac. March's startling performance has been much lauded, and earned him his first Oscar--the only genuine Horror performance to receive cinema's top award.



The film tells the story of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Fredric March), a kind English doctor in Victorian London who is certain that within each man lurks impulses for both good and evil. One evening Jekyll attends a party at the home of his fiance Muriel Carew (Rose Hobart), the daughter of Brigadier General Sir Danvers Carew (Halliwell Hobbes). After the other guests have left, Jekyll informs Sir Danvers that, after speaking to Muriel, he wants Carew's permission to push up their wedding date. Sir Danvers sternly refuses Jekyll's request. Later, while walking home with his colleague, Dr. Lanyon (Holmes Herbert), Jekyll spots a prostitute, Ivy Pearson, (Miriam Hopkins) being attacked by a man outsiding her boarding house. Jekyll drives the man away and carries Ivy up to her room to attend to her. Ivy begins flirting with Jekyll and feigning injury, but Jekyll fights temptation and leaves with Lanyon.

Muriel and Sir Danvers leave London for a few months. In the meantime, Jekyll develops a drug to release the evil side in himself, thus becoming the violent Mr. Hyde. Hyde returns to the music hall where Ivy works and offers to tend to her financial needs in return for her company. She reluctantly agrees and the two move in together. Hyde terrorizes Ivy, being both abusive and controlling. However, when Hyde finds that Muriel and her father are returning to London, he leaves her for a while.

On advice from her landlady Mrs. Hawkins (Tempe Pigott), Ivy goes to see Dr. Jekyll, hoping that he can free her of the abusive Hyde. When she arrives, Ivy sees that the celebrated Dr. Jekyll was the same man who saved her from abuse just months before. She breaks down in tears over her situation with Hyde and Jekyll promises Ivy that she will never have to worry about Hyde again.

While on his way to a party at the Carews' home to celebrate their return and the announcement of a new wedding date to Muriel, Jekyll, without the use of his drugs, suddenly changes into Hyde. Ivy, who thought she was free of Hyde forever, is terrified when Hyde appears before her. Hyde angrily confronts her about seeing Jekyll and, just before murdering her, reveals that he and Jekyll are one and the same.

Hyde escapes and heads back to Jekyll's house but his servant Poole refuses to open the door. Desperate, Hyde writes a letter to Lanyon from Jekyll instructing Lanyon to get certain chemicals and have them waiting for him at Lanyon's home. When Hyde arrives, Lanyon pulls a gun on him and demands that Hyde take him to Jekyll. Hyde tells Lanyon that Jekyll is safe, but Lanyon doesn't believe him and refuses to let him leave. Realizing there is not much time, Hyde drinks the formula in front of Lanyon. Lanyon is shocked to witness the transformation and tells his friend that he has practically damned his soul for tampering with the laws of God.

With Ivy's murder, Sir Danvers' anger towards him for missing the party, and Hyde's persona beginning to dominate his own, Henry Jekyll's life continues to spiral out of control. He later goes to the Carews' where Sir Danvers coldly rejects his visit. Jekyll tells Muriel that he must break up with her and begins to leave, but changes into Hyde again on his way out. He reenters the Carew house through the patio door as Hyde and assaults Muriel. Her screams bring her father and their butler, Hobson. Hyde murders her father on the patio by striking him repeatedly with Jekyll's cane, then runs off into the night towards Jekyll's home and the lab to mix a new formula to change himself back.

At the Carew home, the police and Lanyon are standing over Carew's body in the garden. Recognizing the broken cane found next to the body, Lanyon tells them that he knows whose cane that is and agrees to take them to its owner. The police later arrive at Jekyll's lab looking for Hyde and find only Jekyll, who lies that Hyde has escaped. They begin to leave when Lanyon arrives and tells the police that Jekyll is the man they're looking for (because the man they are looking for is hiding inside him). Just then Jekyll begins changing into Hyde before their shocked eyes. Outraged at Lanyon for betraying him, Hyde leaps from behind the table and attacks him. The police shoot Hyde before he can hurt Lanyon, and Hyde transforms one last time into Henry Jekyll.



The film started production in 1931, and was released on December 31 1932. Made prior to the full enforcement of the Production Code, the film is remembered today for its strong sexual content, embodied mostly in the character of the prostitute, Ivy Pearson, played by Miriam Hopkins. When it was re-released in 1936, the Code required 8 minutes to be removed before the film could be distributed to theaters. This footage was restored for the VHS and DVD releases.[1]

The secret of the transformation scenes was not revealed for decades (Mamoulian himself revealed it in a volume of interviews with Hollywood directors published under the title The Celluloid Muse). Make-up was applied in contrasting colors. A series of colored filters that matched the make-up was then used which enabled the make-up to be gradually exposed or made invisible. The change in color was not visible on the black-and-white film.

Wally Westmore's make-up for Hyde, simian and hairy with large canine teeth influenced greatly the popular image of Hyde in media and comic books; in part this reflected the novella's implication of Hyde as embodying repressed evil and hence being semi-evolved or simian in appearance. The characters of Muriel Carew and Ivy Pearson do not appear in Stevenson's original story but do appear in the 1887 stage version by playwright Thomas Russell Sullivan.

John Barrymore was originally asked by Paramount to play the lead role, in an attempt to recreate his role from the 1920 version of Jekyll and Hyde, but he was already under a new contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Paramount then gave the part to March, who was under contract and who strongly resembled Barrymore. March had played a John Barrymore-like character in the Paramount film The Royal Family of Broadway (1930), a story about an acting family like the Barrymores. March would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance of the role.

History and ownership

When Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer remade the film 10 years later with Spencer Tracy in the lead, the studio bought the rights to the 1931 Mamoulian version. They then recalled every print of the that they could locate and for decades most of the film was believed lost. Ironically, the Tracy version was much less well received and March jokingly sent Tracy a telegram thanking him for the greatest boost to his reputation of his entire career.

As a result of MGM's purchase of this film, it is not owned by Universal Studios, which owns most pre-1950 Paramount sound features (and who has produced a popular line of horror films). Instead, MGM held on to the film for 45 years. The film passed on to Turner Entertainment after Ted Turner's short-lived acquisition of MGM, and then to Warner Bros. when Time Warner bought out Turner. Since then, Warner Home Video has released this film on DVD along with the 1941 version. Technically, Turner still owns the copyright, but Warner Brothers handles sales and distribution for all Turner-owned titles.


  • Academy Awards: Oscar; Best Cinematography, Karl Struss; Best Adaptation Writing, Percy Heath and Samuel Hoffenstein; 1932.


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