Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932): Rouben Mamoulian Version Starring Fredric March

Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, from a screenplay by Samuel Hoffenstein and Percy heath, is based on the poplar Robert Louis Stevenson novella, which had inspired many different Hollywood versions.

It was Mamoulan’s third successful film, following the critically acclaimed “Applause” and “City Streets.” “Dr. Jekyll” is his only foray into the horror genre.

The source material has been used before in the silent 1920 feature, with John Barrymore. The great French actor and mime Jean-Louis Barault played the famous part in Renoir’s “Testament of Docteur Cordelier.”

Frederic March, then at the height of his career, plays the titular role, and under Mamoulian’s direction, his transformation, from the handsome Jekyll into the deformed and diabolical Hyde is mesmerizing.

Less effective in the romantic scenes, March is utterly compelling as the tortured Hyde. Even so, March won his first Best Actor Oscar in a tie with Wallace Berry, recognized for “The Champ.” (It is the only Best Actor tie in Oscar history).

This version is known for the spectacular, haunting imagery, courtesy of cinematographer Karl Struss, who deservedly received an Oscar nod; the winner however was Les Garmes for “Shanghai Express.”

The acting of the two women, Miriam Hopkins as Ivy and especially Rose Hobart as Muriel, is uneven.

Overall, this adaptation is superior to the one made a decade later at MGM, with Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Lana Turner

Mamoulian’s movie was rereleased several times, often in a drastically censored cut.

In 1941, MGM saw to it that the 1932 movie be withdrawn from circulation so as not to compete with their picture.