In London, in 1887, prominent physician Henry Jekyll (Spencer Tracy) incurs the ire of his older colleagues because of his experiments and views on the possibility of separating the good and evil aspects of man's nature. Harry is deeply in love with Beatrix Emery (Lana Turner), the daughter of Sir Charles Emery (Donald Crisp), who likes Harry, but is concerned over his radical ideas and open display of affection for Bea.

Harry throws himself into his work and has enough success experimenting with rabbits and guinea pigs to make him confident that the serum he has developed will work for humans. Hoping to try the serum out on Sam Higgins, a man who went mad after being in a gas works explosion, Harry rushes to the hospital but discovers that Higgins has just died. Harry then decides to take the serum himself and is briefly transformed, in both thought and countenance, into an evil alter ego.

After taking an antidote to turn himself back to normal, Harry tells his butler, Poole (Peter Godfrey), that the strange voice he heard was a "Mr. Hyde." Just then, Sir Charles, accompanied by Bea, comes for a visit and announces that he will be taking Bea to the Continent to give Harry time to consider his position. Despite his loneliness during Bea's absence, Harry refrains from further experimentation until he gets a letter from Bea explaining that their trip is being extended because of Sir Charles' health.

After taking another dose of the serum, Harry again turns into Hyde and goes to a music hall, where he sees barmaid Ivy Peterson (Ingrid Bergman), an attractive, sensual young woman whom he had rescued from an attacker some weeks before. When summoned to Hyde's table, Ivy does not recognize him as Harry, but becomes frightened and screams, causing a brawl to erupt among the customers. Hyde later secretly asks the proprietor to fire Ivy and, despite her reluctance, insists on taking her home in a carriage, where he forces himself on her.

Some time later, Bea is concerned that Harry has not written to her in weeks, but hides her worries from her father, who decides that she and Harry may marry, after all. Soon Harry learns that Bea has just returned and determines never to take the serum again. That afternoon, Harry meets Bea at a museum and is overjoyed that Sir Charles now agrees to their imminent marriage. When Harry returns home, Ivy is waiting in his patient's room because Marcia and her boyfriend had recommended him.

Ivy recognizes Harry as the man who was once kind to her, but momentarily has an uneasy feeling about him. When she shows him her scars and he realizes what Hyde has done to her, Harry is ashamed and soothingly promises her that she will never see Hyde again. That night, as Harry happily strolls across the park toward Bea's house, he suddenly turns into Hyde, without having taken the serum.

He then goes to Ivy's flat and finds her celebrating her freedom from him. When he repeats words that she had spoken to Harry, she becomes hysterical with fright and screams, but he strangles her to death before the neighbors can summon the police.

After running home, Poole will not admit him through the front door; so, in desperation Hyde goes to his good friend, Dr. John Lanyon (Ian Hunter). After demanding the medications that work as an antidote, Hyde transforms back into Harry, to John's shock and horror. Harry reveals everything to John, and then goes to Bea to break their engagement.

She refuses to accept that they cannot be married, and he leaves, and then returns as Hyde. She faints, but her initial scream has roused Sir Charles, whom Hyde then beats to death with his walking stick.

Now desperate, Hyde pushes past Poole at Harry's front door and goes to the laboratory to take more of the antidote. As the police examine Sir Charles’s body, John sees Harry's cane and realizes what must have happened. He then takes the police to Harry's house where they break down the door of the laboratory just after Hyde has taken the antidote and turned back into Harry. Harry says that Hyde was there but left, but in his anxiety under John's accusations that he, indeed, is Sir Charles' murderer, Harry quickly transforms back into Hyde. While attempting to fight off the police and flee, he is mortally wounded, and as he dies, his demeanor changes back into Harry.

Oscar
3 Nominations
0 Awards

Golden Globes
0 Nominations
0 Awards
A fascinating study of the duplicity of human nature, the story of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” has been forefront in the public consciousness since Robert Louis Stevenson published his novella in 1886. It's a story that has continued to fascinate people for over a century and has been adapted into hundreds of plays, films and television projects over the years.

MGM's only version of the famous story, the studio gave its 1941 glossy production a big budget and a big star in Spencer Tracy. It also featured two major actresses, Lana Turner and Ingrid Bergman, when they were at the beginning of their Hollywood careers. The film was a big boost for both of them as they both went on to become major movie stars.

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is unique in that it features all three of its stars - Tracy, Bergman and Turner - in roles that were markedly against type for them. The usually steadfast and naturalistic acting style of Spencer Tracy gives way to one of his broadest and most physical characterizations as the lecherous Mr. Hyde. Tracy was unfairly maligned just because he can't measure up to Fredric March's earlier Oscar winning portrayal, however his portrayal is still quite good. He has enough power and presence to make the part interesting, even if he can't explore the depths that March was allowed to.

Swedish import Ingrid Bergman is stunning as his barmaid lover. True, her accents comes and goes, but that doesn't keep her from creating a touching, vulnerable creature that captures the viewer's heart. Bergman was new to American films and had so far been typecast in "nice girl" roles. Frustrated with such a limitation, Bergman was desperate to prove that she was capable of more. Her role of "bad girl" Ivy established her as an actress of great range and helped propel her to a long and distinguished career in acting. Initial casting of Bergman and Turner had Ingrid Bergman cast as the demure fiancée of Jekyll and Lana Turner as the "bad girl" Ivy. However Bergman, tired of playing saintly characters and fearing typecasting, requested that she and Turner switch roles, allowing her to play a darker role for the first time.

Lana Turner had the opposite problem. Nicknamed early on "The Sweater Girl," the gorgeous Turner was known mostly for her looks and ability to fill out her costumes. Her role as Dr. Jekylls respectable fiancée Beatrix gave her a chance to play something more than just eye candy.

This 1941 version of the film does not have a very good reputation, and while it certainly is flawed it just as certainly doesn't deserve as bad a rap as it has been given over the years. Yes, it somewhat pales in comparison with the 1932 version, which could take advantage of the leniency of the pre-Code years to emphasize the sexual aspects of the story; something the 1941 version was not at liberty to do. And yes, MGM may not have been the studio to tackle this story, being more interested in gloss and glamour than in the dirty depths that the story needs to examine. But given these drawbacks, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” actually ends up being a pretty engaging variation on the tale.

Despite having not yet met his later co-star Katharine Hepburn (they met when they made “Woman of the Year”), Spencer Tracy originally wanted Hepburn to play both Bergman's and Turner's roles as the "bad" woman and "good" woman, who would then turn out to be the same woman. The same went for Hepburn as she was intending Tracy for the part that James Stewart ultimately played in “The Philadelphia Story”.

Click on the title for my review of the Fredric March 1931 version of "Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde".