Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)



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Movie Info

In 1920, filmgoers were treated to no fewer than two different film versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In this one, John Barrymore plays the humanitarian Dr. Henry Jekyll, who becomes obsessed with the notion of separating the good and evil impulses within every man. To this end, he develops a potion which unleashes his own darker side: the demonic Mr. Hyde. This was the adaptation which established the cliché of having both a "good" and "bad" leading lady, to parallel the doppelganger aspects of the Jekyll/Hyde personality. Martha Mansfield is the good girl, while Nita Naldi, wearing costumes that were daring indeed in 1920, is the bad one. The adaptors also borrowed the character of Lord Henry from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray in order to provide Jekyll with an evil mentor/blackmailer. Sadly, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde proved to be one of the last starring films for leading lady Martha Mansfield: she died horribly during filming of The Warrens of Virginia (1924) when her costume touched a discarded match and burst into flame.

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John Barrymore
as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde
Martha Mansfield
as Millicent Carew
Brandon Hurst
as Sir George Carew
Nita Naldi
as Therese
Charles Lane
as Dr. Richard Lanyon
Malcolm J. Dunn
as John Utterson
Cecil Clovelly
as Edward Enfield
Louis Wolheim
as Emcee in Music Hall
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Critic Reviews for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (1)

The Stevenson story serves as the premise for an early (1921) appearance by John Barrymore, who plays the transformation scene -- very effectively -- without the aid of trick photography.

Sep 26, 2007 | Full Review…

One of the first significant American horror movies, and an interesting contrast to the same year's other, more important genre milestone, Germany's 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.'

Jan 31, 2014 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

A wig, hairy prosthetic hands, and a slouched posture were all Barrymore needed to bring Stevenson's defining creation to life, and he did so with gusto.

Jan 23, 2014 | Rating: 7/10 | Full Review…

This was the picture that made Barrymore a household name.

Mar 8, 2011 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

The split persona at the center of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde hews intriguingly close to the personal foibles of star John Barrymore.

Jul 6, 2009 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

One of three 1920 adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic allegorical chiller, the Paramount Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is remembered primarily for John Barrymore's bravura performance as the title duo.

Sep 26, 2007 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

John Barrymore stars as the good scientist who develops a potion that unlocks his wicked side in this silent adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic. As usual, Jekyll is a bore and Hyde is a blast---here, he looks like a hairy skeleton with a pin-head---and the scenes of Victorian depravity, with Hyde visiting prostitutes and opium dens and abusing the lost souls there for his amusement, are solid pre-Code fun. Holds its own against the talkie versions.

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

Not the first version and not the best either, if you know the story it's predictable and boring. The characters aren't very interesting, the main actor, Barrymore, is pretty good, but other than that, I didn't care for this version.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer


silent "dr. jekyll and mr. hyde" is the classic fable upon the irreconcible duality inside humanity, compounded by good and evil, a slight horror showcase for john barrymore to flaunt his daring trial of self-disfiguration, an applaud for the cosmetic department. the only way to cope with our base nature, which is symbolized as left hand, is to yield to it but concession to evil would mar the immortal purity of soul. so how should we balance it on a even scale without damaging the harmonious perfection? thus virtuously saint-alike scientist dr. jekyll chooses to discriminate his darker self into another monstrous being_mr. hyde. this marvellous transformation is made possible thru his invention of magic potion. there're various metaphors behind this legendary fable about the schizopreniac reality of human nature, the greater repression of morality causes greater frightful seed of evil, also a tale with a doctrine to condemn human's god-trespassing pride by re-incarnating oneself thru the scientic human endevor, "a sacrilege to both god and devil".... john barrymore's impersonation upon mr. hyde is ground-smashing, considering the phenomenon of cinematic art then, and barrymore had to compulse himself into a certain type of histrionic dramaticity to impress the audience with fierce exaggerations of movements and facial expressions. the seedy mr. hyde resembles the wretched elder witch in midieval dark age, especially when hyde in spider suit creepily crawls over jekyll on bed. that sort of bizarrely expressive method could only exist in the silent age. as for the cameo of silent vamp actress nita naldi who has the oriental looks of geisha, she emanates enough sensuality with her full-cup bosom, her radiant ebony hair, and also her characteristic gothic features. she's one of the archetyped beauties in the 20s, the vamp type, with all her smoldering exotica and her voluptuous tigress allure, she's almost as oriental as any other authentic oriental beauty, but magnified with her fearless earthy lasciviousness.

Veronique Kwak
Veronique Kwak

Super Reviewer

Firstly this film holds a special place of significance in my movie viewing life as the oldest film I have ever seen, made in 1920, and as the first silent film I ever saw. The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde is one of the greatest and most famous works of gothic horror. So much so that we may use the phrase "a Dr Jekyll, Mr Hyde personality" to describe someone with violently changing moods. The backbone to any adaptation of this horror classic must always centre on the portrayal of Dr Jekyll, and John Barrymore not only is the backbone of the film but the entire skelleton, he virtually holds up the film. Many critics at the time acclaimed him the greatest actor yet, with virtually minimal camera trickery and limited make-up Barrymore relies on his acting skills and in particular, his ability to contort his features (to the extent of dislocating his jaw) in order to make the transformation. But despite all these admirable positives the film needs to be scary, something that silent black and white films people say is very difficult to a modern audience. Well, I disagree the silent black and white horror films tend to have the most frightening effect, I would argue, due to it's percieved deficencies i.e. soundless, colourless, actors with heavy make up and unique faces. The scariest film I have ever seen Jane Erye another literary horror classic proves in my mind this point, supported by this film. It scared the living hell out of me. Any true horror buff would instantly consider this film a classic among the great horrors. As for me a non horror buff, I consider it one of the scariest films I have ever seen.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith

Super Reviewer

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