One of the iconic pre-code films, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” made Fredric March an international star. He won an Oscar for his memorable performance and also an award at the Venice Film Festival. The famous story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has been several times made for the big screen – there was an even earlier, German version, “Der Januskopf” (1920), with Conrad Veidt, but it’s sadly lost. Returning to Fredric March, I found his dual role here simply outstanding and very difficult to play. His transition from the handsome doctor to the monstruous Mr. Hyde within less than a minute was unbelievable. The heavy make-up he wore in this film reminded me of Conrad’s make-up in “The Man Who Laughs” (1928). Rouben Mamoulian, the director, did a magnificent job in the climax scenes. I liked particularly the ones that involved Miriam Hopkins as the beautiful girl who falls in love with Dr. Jekyll, only to become Mr. Hyde’s obsession and inocent victim. It was fascinating to see the scene where she comes to the doctor for help, as she was terrorized by Hyde, and he assures her that she will no longer be disturbed. To see March taking that doll-like face into his hands, almost kissing her, and only a few hours later becoming her criminal, it was somehow disturbing to me, but this is what really makes this film a masterpiece. The unique combination of contrastable faces, moods, feelings and attitudes of two different people in just a single body, and a damsel in distress – or, in fact, two damsels in distress, because even Dr. Jekyll’s girlfriend almost becomes Mr. Hyde’s victim. All in all, I highly recommend you to watch this gem of the pre-code productions. It will certainly be a memorable, thrilling experience. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Adaptation (based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson), and Best Cinematography, and it is one of the greatest classical horror films of all time, along with “The Phantom at the Opera”, “Dracula” and “Frankenstein”.
One of the nicest Technicolor achievements of the 1940s, “Blood and Sand” will capture your attention from the very beginning. The film depicts the life of a famous bullfighter, Juan Gallardo, who is doomed to have a tragic destiny as soon as he reaches stardom. Tyrone Power is in the leading role and he plays to perfection a man torn between the love for his wife and the passion for his lover, but also between the quiet family life and the demanding career, that later ruins his existence. Despite his glorious years, Juan knows very well what is the immediate fall after the rise. His tormented destiny is worsened after he meets a femme fatale, the exotic Doña Sol, who is masterfully played by Rita Hayworth (the director Rouben Mamoulian himself said in an interview that Rita was his choice, because she was perfect for the part). On the other side, Juan is still very much in love with his gentle wife, Carmen, played by the beautiful Linda Darnell. Unfortunately, he puts an end to his relationship with Doña Sol much too late, the moment when his life seems to be compromised. His wife’s forgiveness and faith in Saint Mary can’t help him any longer. He dies in apparent glory, at a young age – certainly the price he had to pay for all his sins. “Blood and Sand” was a successful production, that earned an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Color, and a nomination for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Color. It was filmed very nicely and all the stars (including the veteran Nazimova as Juan’s mother) gave a wonderful performance. I highly recommend you to watch this film also because you will get to see a memorable dance number of Rita Hayworth and Anthony Quinn. As a matter of fact, this film is a “must” for all the fans of Rita Hayworth and not only, so whenever you have the chance to find it, don’t hesitate to watch it.
Perhaps the most fascinating role in Greta Garbo’s entire career, “Queen Christina” tells the story of the legendary royal figure in the Swedish history (1626-1689). Garbo, a Swedish herself, was perfect for the part. There are plenty of magnificent shots that emphasize the rare beauty and the strangeness of the soul and mind of this remarkable woman, who became an idol to millions and millions of people around the world. Her co-star was her former lover, John Gilbert, who, obviously, was very much in love with Garbo, even more because they had previously appeared in some iconic silent films. The direction of Rouben Mamoulian is excellent, and the sets and costumes are really outstanding. “Queen Christina” is a perfect historical film, and the script contains some very good lines, such as one of the heroine’s lines, “I have imagined happiness. But happiness you cannot imagine. Happiness you must feel! Joy, you must feel!”. Seeing Garbo portray her own persona (because she was a real-life character), as both a woman and a man, switching from one mood to another, imposing her own will and demonstrating that she could be a monarch, but also a human being, is something really unique. The film should be a special experience to any viewer, and it will always be remembered as an exquisite piece of artistry from the old Hollywood era.