Sunday, January 24, 2021

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912)

Hello again, kitty cats! I thought it would be a good idea to give you all an idea of what kind of content I will be offering on my new Patreon page. One of the extras will be "Silver Sheet Stories" and the other will be film reviews. I will be viewing available silent films, giving my two cents, as well as including contemporary reviews from those who had the pleasure of seeing them on the big screen. Those lucky so-and-sos!

And, of course, I am working on figuring out merch!

So, that being said, please check out the Patreon page to see if anything there strikes your fancy. I wish I had the time to do all of this extra content for free, but with a full-time job from home that now includes added responsibilities, it takes a lot more to churn out extra content. Every little bit helps, and I cannot thank you enough for the support.


My first choice for a film review may seem like an interesting choice, so let me explain a little bit as to why I chose it. Florence La Badie was the first actress I wrote about when I started this blog in 2010. She really was my muse in the creation of this blog. Reading her story and seeing her pictures made me sad that she was barely remembered today, and there are so many others like her. Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss one of her films on my first film review entry. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912) is the one I have seen the most and tend to always associate with her. I wish it was a full length film and not just a little over 11 minutes, but, it's what we have to work with!

This film was the second American screen adaptation of the classic novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. The first was made in 1908 and starred Hobart Bosworth as the titular character(s). The 1912 version was made for Thanhouser Studio and starred James Cruze as Jekyll/Hyde and Florence La Badie as his sweetheart (referred to in the film as "the minister's daughter). It also features silent film child actress, Marie Eline, who basically is just in the film for Cruze to bump into on the street, as well as Jane Gail, Harry Benham, and Marguerite Snow as extras.

Florence La Badie and unidentified actor

In a 1963 magazine article, Harry Benham stated that he also appeared as Mr. Hyde in some scenes of this film. However, upon watching, it appears as if it is just Cruze throughout the whole thing. It could be that the makeup was just that good and the low quality of the print that we aren't able to distinguish the two actors. OR, perhaps, there are reels of film that no longer exist that contain extended footage that include Benham's portrayal. 

The film is pretty straightforward, and it kinda has to be to cover the crux of the novel in just 11 minutes. A Cliff's Notes version, if you will. Jekyll takes "drugs" to test their effects, Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde, Hyde terrorizes town, Hyde poisons himself to end the terrifying ordeal, ending both sides of the man. Novel in a nutshell!

James Cruze as Dr. Jekyll and possibly Harry Benham as Mr. Hyde

In the January 1912 issue of Moving Picture News, reporter Margaret I. MacDonald had this to say about the film: "One of the finest releases which the Thanhouser company has ever put out is the release of...Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nothing that has been recently released has impressed me any more strongly than this wonderful picture...To the intelligent person this picture is a wonderful lesson. Those familiar with the story from which the picture was made will be thrice impressed by its reproduction on the screen, where a startling moral stares at one with such vivid intensity that you can almost hear a still, small voice asking, 'Is this you?'"

The film was well received by critics and audiences alike. But, just to show you how filmmaking worked during these early days, another adaptation came out the following year. This adaptation starred King Baggot. The next American adaptation would be in 1920, with John Barrymore as the titular character.

James Cruze and Florence La Badie

Comparing this to the feature length Barrymore version in 1920, this version is going to leave you wanting. But, I think it is important to view this version for a number of reasons. First, you get to see Florence La Badie looking beautiful on screen. Florence appeared in almost 200 films before she died in a tragic car accident in 1917. Any chance to view 'Fearless Flo' on screen is a treat. Second, even if it is brief, we are able to see a pretty good performance from James Cruze. Considering this film was made in 1912, in the early years of filmmaking, it is impressive to see how emotive these actors could be, in and out of grotesque makeup. 

James Cruze as Mr. Hyde

Here's the thing about James Cruze, however. Him portraying Jekyll and Hyde is pretty symbolic for the man he was on and off camera. On camera, or even behind while directing, Cruze was very talented. He had over 100 film credits under his belt as an actor, directed over 70 films, and produced thirty. Needless to say, he was quite busy in the 1910s. Away from filmmaking, Cruze was a whole other story.

James Cruze

James Cruze was married three times, two of which were to actresses. His first marriage was to actress Marguerite Snow in 1912. The couple had one child together, a daughter, Julie, born in 1913. Marguerite filed for divorce in 1923, citing cruelty, telling the courts that Cruze repeatedly beat her. She also accused him of being "continually drunk." One incident of abuse she highlighted occurred in 1921 while the couple was attending a party. After most of the guests departed, Cruze reportedly beat Marguerite so badly that he knocked out one of her teeth. What caused him to snap? According to Marguerite, all she did was ask if he could take one of her friends home. The couple separated after this incident, and Marguerite filed for divorce two years later. She won custody of their daughter in the suit as well as alimony and child support. 

Marguerite Snow

Cruze's second marriage was no better. In 1924, he married actress Betty Compson. She filed for divorce from him in 1930, claiming, like the previous Mrs. Cruze, that he was always drunk and throwing "wild and endless parties at their home." She told newspapers that the separation was amicable, however, and that "Jim is the best fellow in the world." What she failed to mention to the public was that her marriage to Cruze left her broke. During their marriage (and probably even before) Cruze just didn't feel the need to pay his income taxes. Because of this, both Cruze and Betty were sued by the government, forcing them to sell their home, cars, and other items of value they had accumulated. I don't think I would leave this situation in a very amicable mood. 

Betty Compson

Around the time of his second divorce, Cruze sued an artist he had commissioned to paint his portrait. Cruze was not pleased with how the artist, John Decker, painted him, saying he made him look like "a frog and a gargoyle." Because of his disgust with the work, he refused to pay for it. In response, Decker painted prison bars over the portrait and displayed it in his shop window with a sign saying, "James Cruze in jail for refusing to pay his debts." Decker was pretty amused by the whole thing, saying that as the artist, he could paint someone however he wanted. "When a man employs an artist to paint a portrait it is up to the artist to do his worst as he sees best. If Cruze wanted some wishy-washy, sloppy sentimental portrait of himelf, he could have had a photograph taken or hire a two-bit painter to do it. I gave him a work of interpretative art." Cruze was pretty pissed at this and sought damages from Decker, but the case appears to have been thrown out.

Another case of Mr. Hyde/Cruze in litigation came when he sued his 24 year old daughter in 1938. He stated in his claim that he had given his daughter some properties because, as he stated, "...I had heart trouble. I thought I might die at any time and I wanted to fix the property so it would go to my daughter." One of the things that seemed to get Cruze's goat was the fact that his daughter gave a piece of property to her mother, Marguerite Snow, who had fallen on hard times. Cruze also claimed that his daughter was unfit to handle the properties due to her problems with drugs (Julie was arrested for possession of morphine earlier that year). He stated that he she obviously needed a guardian, or he wanted the properties back. Julie claimed that the properties were deeded to her and were therefore hers fair and square. She won the suit. Father and daughter may have reconciled by the time of their deaths, however. Cruze died in 1942 and, sadly, Julie died just three years later from pneumonia. Both were cremated and their ashes interred in the same vessel. I hope they reconciled beforehand, otherwise this is kind of a questionable thing to do. 

Julie Cruze


What do you think of 1912's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this film, as well as the stars. 

Check out the film below!



No comments:

Post a Comment