Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941 film)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a 1941 horror film starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Lana Turner. The production also features Donald Crisp, Ian Hunter, Barton MacLane, C. Aubrey Smith, and Sara Allgood. Its storyline is based on the gothic novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde written by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and first published in 1886. There have been many filmed adaptations of the novella. This movie was a remake of the 1931 version, starring Frederick March.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Theatrical release poster
Directed byVictor Fleming
Produced byVictor Saville
Written byJohn Lee Mahin
Percy Heath
Samuel Hoffenstein
Based onStrange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson
StarringSpencer Tracy
Ingrid Bergman
Lana Turner
Music byFranz Waxman
CinematographyJoseph Ruttenberg
Edited byHarold F. Kress
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • August 12, 1941 (1941-08-12)
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,279,000 (Domestic)[1]
$1,072,000 (Foreign)


Dr. Henry Jekyll (Spencer Tracy) believes good and evil exist in everyone. Experiments reveal his evil side, named Mr. Hyde. Experience teaches him how evil and violent Hyde can be: he rapes Ivy Pearson (Ingrid Bergman), who earlier expressed interest in Jekyll. Meanwhile, Jekyll is preparing to marry Beatrix Emery (Lana Turner). Over the course of the film, Hyde abuses Ivy. Feeling remorse over the treatment inflicted on Ivy by his “monstrous” counterpart, Jekyll vows never to take the serum again, destroys the key to his lab, and sends money to Ivy anonymously. Ivy believes the money was sent by Hyde in order to trick her into believing she is now free. On the advice of a friend over her rattled nerves, she goes to Jekyll for comfort. Jekyll promises that Hyde will never hurt her again.

On the way to Emery's house for the announcement of his marriage to Beatrix, Jekyll transforms into Hyde without taking the serum. He goes over to Ivy's house, accuses her of meeting with Jekyll, and strangles her. He escapes back to his locked lab, only to recall that he no longer has the key. He fails to break into the front door of his place, so he hurries to his friend Dr. Lanyon (Ian Hunter) for help. Lanyon is shocked to find out that both Jekyll and Hyde are the same person as Hyde drinks the antidote in his friend's presence. Jekyll decides to break off his engagement to Bea in order to keep his dark secret. She refuses to accept, her reaction triggering Jekyll to become Hyde and frighten Bea. Her father (Donald Crisp) responds to her scream, only to be beaten to death by Hyde.

Lanyon later discovers a piece of Jekyll's cane at the scene, and he realizes his friend is responsible for the murder. He then leads police to search Jekyll's lab, where they find Jekyll, who earlier, as Hyde, had strong-armed past his butler, Poole (Peter Godfrey), to get to the antidote. Soon the cornered doctor starts transforming once again into Hyde as authorities question him in the lab. A struggle ensues and Lanyon shoots Hyde. As the monster dies, he reverts yet again and finally to Jekyll.




Rather than being a new film version of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella, this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a direct remake of the 1931 film of the same title. Both Hollywood productions differ greatly from the original literary work due to their heavy reliance on Thomas Russell Sullivan's 1887 stage adaptation of the story. The director for the 1941 film was Victor Fleming, who had directed Gone with the Wind and codirected The Wizard of Oz, two major releases by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1939. MGM, where Fleming was under contract, acquired full rights to the 1931 film from Paramount Pictures prior to Fleming's production. According to the Robert Louis Stevenson website being archived and preserved by the British Library, subsequent to that acquisition MGM studio executives “hid the [1931] film away to avoid competition with their remake”.[2][3] The 1931 version then, due to ongoing legal restrictions and the lack of readily available copies, was effectively “lost” for over a quarter of a century, not generally available again for rescreenings and study until 1967.[2]

MGM's 1941 remake was produced by Victor Saville and adapted by John Lee Mahin from the screenplay of the earlier film by Percy Heath and Samuel Hoffenstein. The score was composed by Franz Waxman with uncredited contributions by Daniele Amfitheatrof and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. The cinematographer was Joseph Ruttenberg, the art director was Cedric Gibbons, and the costume designers were Adrian and Gile Steele. Jack Dawn created the make-up for the dissolute Mr. Hyde's appearance.


Despite having not yet met his later co-star Katharine Hepburn (they met working on Woman of the Year in 1942), Tracy originally wanted her to play both Bergman's and Turner's roles as the "bad" and "good" woman, who would then turn out to be the same person.[4]

Initial casting had Bergman playing the virtuous fiancée of Jekyll and Turner as "bad girl" Ivy. However, Bergman, tired of playing saintly characters and fearing typecasting, pleaded with Victor Fleming that she and Turner switch roles. After a screen test, Fleming allowed Bergman to play a grittier role for the first time.[4][5]


Box office

According to MGM records the film earned $2,351,000 resulting in a profit of $350,000.[1]

Critical reception

After its preview of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in late July 1941, the trade paper Variety cited some weaknesses in the development of characters and situations in the film's plot; but, overall, the popular New York publication gave the production a very positive assessment. Variety predicted the film would be “one of the big ones for fall release” and focused special attention on Bergman's performance and screen presence.[6] It compared too Hyde's physical appearance with his portrayals in the 1925 and 1931 interpretations of Stevenson's novella:

...Tracy plays the dual roles with conviction. His transformations from the young physician...to the demonic Mr. Hyde are brought about with considerably less alterations in face and stature than audiences might expect, remembering John Barrymore and Frederic March in earlier versions.

What is likely to happen when the new “Jekyll” moves into general distribution after Sept. 1, is more generous recognition of Ingrid Bergman as a screen actress of exceptional ability....In every scene in which the two appear, she is Tracy’s equal as a strong screen personality.[6]

The Film Daily praised the film in its review, heaping most of its accolades on Victor Fleming and his direction.[7] The trade paper, which was widely read by theater owners or “exhibitors”, complimented Fleming's pacing and staging of the story and described his “handling of the players” as “flawless”.[7]

Outside the realm of film-industry trade papers, the general public in 1941 had more mixed reviews about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One example of those reactions can be found in the contemporary fan magazine Hollywood, which was distributed nationally each month by Fawcett Publications in Louisville, Kentucky.[8] Hollywood recommended that its readership “should see the picture”, citing once again Bergman's excellent, “breath-taking” portrayal of Ivy.[9] The monthly did, though, find the film's plot passé and Tracy's Hyde far too understated in appearance to be effective:

In the ten years that have elapsed since Frederic March won his Academy Award for his work in the title roles, movie-goers have become too sophisticated for the sort of medical hocus-pocus on which the Stevenson story is based. Too many Frankensteins and bogey-men have stalked across the screen in the interim for Mr. Hyde to be a convincing monster. While Spencer Tracy does a grand job in his dual role, his Mr. Hyde is inclined to be more humorous than terrifying.[9]

Another fan-based publication, Modern Screen, was less subtle in its November 1941 review of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, calling the film “quite the oddest picture of the year”.[10] The magazine, in part, considered the remake “funniest when apparently it is trying to be most serious and never so routine as when it is trying hardest to be different.”[10]

With regard to more recent critical responses to this version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, American film reviewer and historian Leonard Maltin in 2014 gave the production 3 out of a possible 4 stars, praising in particular Tracy and Bergman's performances.[11] The online film-review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported, as of 2018, an approval rating of 65% among professional critics, a score based on 20 reviews, with a rating average of “6.7/10”.[12] General audience reactions to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were just slightly lower on Rotten Tomatoes in approvals, scoring at 61% and registering a rating average of “3.4/5” based on over 4,700 responses.[12]

Awards and honors

  • For the 14th Academy Awards presentations held in Los Angeles in February 1942, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde had been nominated for three Oscars: “Best Cinematography (Black-and-White)”, “Best Film Editing”, and “Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture”. The MGM production did not, however, win the award in any of those categories.
  • In 2005 the film was nominated by the American Film Institute to “AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores”.[13]

Other references

In the 1946 Warner Bros. cartoon Hare Remover, when Elmer Fudd is experiencing some bizarre side effects after drinking a potion he created, Bugs Bunny turns to the audience, breaking the fourth wall, and remarks, "I think Spencer Tracy did it much better!"

References and notes

  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. “Film Versions of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: 1931 Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Mamoulian)”, The Robert Louis Stevenson Archive (RLS Website) initially developed by Edinburgh Napier University's Centre for Literature & Writing and originally funded by the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  3. "RLS Website" maintained by the British Library Web Archive, London, England, providing access to resources in The Robert Louis Stevenson Archive, including information about the 1941 film and other adaptations of the 1886 novella. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  4. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)”, articles, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Turner Broadcasting System, a subsidiary of Time Warner, Inc., New York, N.Y. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  5. Vieira, Mark A. (2003). Hollywood Horror: From Gothic to Cosmic. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. p. 105. ISBN 0-8109-4535-5.
  6. ”Flin.” (1941). “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, review, Variety, July 23, 1941, p. 8, col. 2. Internet Archive, San Francisco, California. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  7. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, review The Film Daily (New York, N.Y.), July 22, 1941, p.7, col. 2. Internet Archive. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  8. The magazine Hollywood (originally and briefly titled Holly Leaves) dates its history to 1912, ranking it among the earliest fan-based publications in the world. It was sold to Fawcett Publications in August 1930. Profiled from “moviemags.com”, a guide and database to film publications covering the history of cinema. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  9. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde...Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, review, Hollywood, October 1941, p. 67, cols. 1-2. Internet Archive. Retrieved October 28, 2018.]]
  10. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—AB2*”, Modern Screen (New York, N.Y.), November 1941, p. 14, cols. 1-2. Internet Archive. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  11. Maltin, Leonard; Sader, Luke; Carson, Darwyn. Leonard Maltin's 2014 Movie Guide. Penguin Press. p. 390. ISBN 978-0-451-41810-4.
  12. "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  13. "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.
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