In the spirit of Halloween, I decided to blog about one of my favorites. It’s been a debate for many, many years. Of course, there are various versions that have been released, but when asked if you have seen the movie, the most widely recognized of all are the two mentioned above. However, which one is the better one? It’s too difficult. Yes, the same synopsis and all that… but different effects, different actors… all of these things must be considered when deciding which film is better.
According to IMDB, the heavy makeup that Frederic March wore as Hyde almost damaged his face. If you have seen both. You know which Hyde looks scarier… Frederic March’s Hyde. The pulling down of the eyes, the hair, the teeth… March’s Hyde makeup was in various colors. How his appearance registered on the film depended on the use of different colored filters in front of a camera lens [which color was in front of the lens brought out which color of makeup the most]. I think Frederic March was the perfect person to play this role. It certainly showed that the actor could do ‘heavier roles.’
Now for the 1941 version. I’ve always loved Spencer Tracy. He is one of the greatest actors of all time [and he won two Oscars in a ROW. Like Tom Hanks!]. He turned down James Stewart’s role in The Philadelphia Story (1940) to make this piece. Anyway, the effects of Tracy’s Hyde is VERY different. Not as much hair….he doesn’t have the ridiculously droopy eyes. The teeth aren’t messed up really. I do think that acting might be what makes him Hyde. The scene where Ivy [Ingrid Bergman] brings him a drink, and he asks her to sit down… that’s creepy. His face, the way he watches and stares at her. The way he seems to angry and possessive. That’s Hyde. You don’t need the makeup and effects to tell that he is evil. However… even Tracy himself said this was the least of his favorite films and that his acting was awful. It’s not my favorite of his films by far. If more effects were used, then perhaps it could be more comparable to the 1931 version.
Audiences and critics felt that Spencer Tracy was ‘too American’ and ‘too rough’ to play the role of Hyde in the film. And perhaps they were right. But in a way, off topic but, I couldn’t picture anyone else playing James Stewart’s role in The Philadelphia Story (1940), and that’s just what would have happened.
So, I think 1931’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde takes the cake!
Watch this YouTube video. It’s actually a picture slideshow, but it does come very close to the 1931  part of the movie. Watch as his entire face changes…. the eyes, teeth, cheeks, hair… everything! The movie was well ahead of it’s time. It certainly it remarkable.
*NOTE: Although often said to be 1932, I put 1931... It was released on December 31st, 1931. IMDB placed it at 1931, as well.