Starring John Barrymore and Martha Mansfield
June, 1920

I have a friend, a wise little friend, who insists that John Barrymore's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" will be numbered with the classic productions of the screen and, years and years from now, be regularly taken from its tin boxes to be run before the astonished eyes of students of the pictured drama as a perfect sample, not only of what once was accomplished by a great actor before the camera, but of what all actors of even that advanced time should strive to achieve. That is one popular opinion.

I have another friend, not so little and it may be not so wise, who insists as strenuously that "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" gave her a most terrific attack of the movie blues, from which she has not yet recovered, nor expects ever fully to recover. Its very excellences as an acted horror, says she, have set her advising all the mothers she knows to keep their children away from it and to guard themselves accordingly as their condition and belief in pre-natal influences may suggest.

My own reaction to this cinematographic tour de force strikes somewhere between these two. I left the picture cold, not to say clammy, but eager to sing the praises of J. Barrymore and his sincere and quite amazing performance in this famous dual role, by which he reaches the peak of his screen achievements. Eager also to declare it to be the finest bit of directing John Stewart Robertson has ever done, and a job that places him with the first half dozen intelligent directors in the field.

But I felt a lot like the friend who would keep her children away from it and suffer nary a pang of disappointment if I were told I should never look upon its like again. Frankly I do not care for horrors, either on screen or stage. If they possess a soul-purging virtue that does us good it must work subconsciously in my case, for never a satisfying thrill do I get from them, nor more than a fleeting suggestion of entertainment. Invariably I am so very conscious of the actor's acting that I become much more interested in the facility with which he achieves effects than in the effects themselves. Or in the spiritual significance involved.

A physician once told me that medical men never see a person as ordinary people see him; as a good looking, or homely, or thin, or fat, or short, or tall human being, but always as a physical specimen; as one whose features are perfectly assembled or slightly scattered; whose shoulders are evenly squared or curiously twisted; whose legs are sympathetically aligned or humorously mismated.

In somewhat the same way I see actors playing abnormal humans. Sometimes they succeed in stirring my imagination, often they hold my interest, but usually to analyze these emotions is to discover that they are inspired by something commonplace, something plausible, something suggestive of a reasonable human action in the story they are illustrating rather than in the perfect pictures of abnormality they are creating.

So much for "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." It will easily become the most talked of picture of the time. A door and two windows were broken by the crowds that tried to see it on its first showing in New York. It may tour the country to the tune of similar crashes. Unquestionably it has lifted young Mr. Barrymore to the leadership of his contemporaries of the screen, as his "Richard III" had put him in the forefront of the advancing actors. The curiosity to see it will be great. But as to its continuing popularity, I have my doubts.

The story of the good Dr. Jekyll, who believing that the way to be rid of a temptation was to yield to it, and who succeeded in concocting a drug by means of which he could transform himself in to the brutal and loathsome Mr. Hyde in which state he is free to revel in all manner of bestial excesses, is too well known to bear repetition. The screen version takes a few more liberties with the Stevenson original than did the Mansfield acting version, but does not overstep cinema license. Hyde is a little more brutal than he was on the stage, Jeckyll far more handsome and soulful (pictorially) than any other actor of our time could make him. The cast is chosen with rare good judgment and includes Martha Mansfield.

Starring John Barrymore and Martha Mansfield
August, 1920

John Barrymore has created a Jekyll and Hyde in this picture which will live for us always. He is the master of the most trying situations and his transformation from the suave gentleman of culture, and restraint to the fiendish creature -- a human derelict run amuck -- will probably stand as on of the masterpieces of cinema characterizations.

John Robertson and the producers have respected the intelligence of their public and given Stevenson's story to the silversheet as truly as it proved possible to do so. For this we thank them. The entire cast could be termed adequate, altho, looking back upon it, they seem quiet figures in a tapestry woven about John Barrymore. Nita Naldi, who plays the cabaret dancer, however, has won mention thru her vividness. Everywhere this picture is drawing huge crowds -- crowds which are pleased when they leave the theater, and this alone should be a strong argument in favor of the higher art of the silent drama.

There is another screen version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde being shown, with Sheldon Lewis in the title role, and, while we haven't viewed this personally, we feel at liberty to criticize it because of the fact that the conventional ending has been injected.

The interest with which this work of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has always been held would seem to speak for itself. Therefore, we find it in our heart to marvel at those who would improve upon him who is one of our greatest writers.

And again, we are grateful to the director and producers of the John Barrymore production for their belief in Stevenson.

For more information, see "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" as our "Feature of the Month"

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