A Double Life (1947) film review

Awhile back, I’ve had the immense pleasure of posting my Cinema’s Forgotten Legends Series in regards to the debonair English actor Ronald Colman (February 9th, 1891-May 19th, 1958); I’ve always wanted to see his Oscar winning role as Anthony John in A Double Life (1947) and now I’m very happy to say that I’ve had the enormous opportunity of viewing it for myself. This classic film is genuinely phenomenal, outstanding, spellbinding with all of its twists and turns, honest and profoundly riveting; from the beginning to its climatic ending, I was on the edge of my seat because of its cinematic unpredictability (you never know what’s going to happen next). The cast of characters is extraordinary and stellar all their own: Swedish actress Signe Hasso (August 15th, 1910-June 7th, 2002) plays John’s ex-wife Brita whom even though she’s divorced from John still feels a deeper emotional romantic connection for him because deep down she knows that he’s still troubled & that he needs all of the support, comfort, love and solace that only Brita could genuinely provide, starring with him as Desmonda in Othello, American actor Edmond O’Brien (September 10th. 1915-May 9th, 1985) who’s become one of my favorite character actors plays Bill Friend, an individual belonging to the theatre but who possesses a strong attraction/love interest to Brita. Bill knows that there may be something wrong with Tony but he has to put the pieces to the puzzle together; honestly, I feel that his demeanor doesn’t suggest wanting any bodily harm towards John but instead compassion and understanding that he feels for him because he only wants to offer him guidance and help for what he’s going through. Also joining in the cast is another future Oscar winner, 15 year old Shelley Winters (August 18th, 1920-January 14th, 2006) an uncompromising and awe-inspiring actress portraying the doomed waitress/mistress to Tony Pat Kroll11

who only has a seemingly lustful interest in Tony but who feels that he could provide her with love, respect and appreciation. Tony knows that she’s only an instant gratification through his loss of Brita’s love but knows that he needs love and affection as any ordinary man; unfortunately in his case, love can come with unforeseen consequences and tragic circumstances in which case it’s resulted in Tony taking Pat’s life with any known realization of the harrowing event. There’s also the enigmatic character actor Whit Bissell as Dr. Stauffer & Millard Mitchell as Al Cooley, but the star of A Double Life that has illuminated the limelight from a much deeper level is none other than Colman portraying stage actor Anthony John, an individual whose very existence is profoundly influenced by the characters he depicts on stage; when he stars in comedies, Tony is quite an enjoyable person to be around with especially Brita but when it comes to stark dramas (like Othello for instance), there’s a much darker side to his persona that doesn’t sit well with those that are close to him and know him best. When the opportunity arises for John to play Othello, at first we notice that he’s become almost reluctant in his decision making but soon temptation lures him in and the malevolent jealous side is revealed.


Soon, Tony becomes consumed with the Othello character-gradually at first and then more prominent towards the death of Pat by his hands; it’s scary and thrilling at the same time because he devotes so much of his time for the part in order to make sure that it reaches sheer “perfection” & soon his mind becomes overwhelmed with Othello’s murderous thoughts of rage and jealousy….one which threatens to tear the already delicate existence between Brita and his friends. Even though he wants to make up with Brita by proposing marriage to her for the 2nd time deep down she knows that it could never work out but she remains diligently by his side, working/starring with him in Othello with an undying love for John still resonating deep down inside & yet she’s unable to stand living with him due to his nature and complexity. In the end, I’ve realized that we’re not perfect and that at some point all of us has led a “double life” (whether literally or figuratively) and that making mistakes are an invaluable point of being human; life can be a bumpy road and in Tony’s case it can also have major setbacks, trials and tribulations…every now and then, I sometimes feel that some films can have a philosophical view on life because they have a much deeper meaning in regards to my own experience and for me I feel that same way in this film. Written by actress Ruth Gordon (October 30th, 1896-August 28th, 1985) along with her husband Garson Kanin (November 24th, 1912-March 13th, 1999) A Double Life was directed by the American film director George Cukor (July 7th, 1899-January 24th, 1983) & distributed by Universal International Pictures on December 25th, 1947 with a musical score by Miklos Rozsa (April 18th, 1907-July 27th, 1997) and B&W cinematography by Milton R. Krasner (February 17th, 1901-July 17th, 1988); American playwright, screenwriter and novelist Paddy Chayefsky (January 23rd, 1923-August 1st, 1981) as well as American actor, director and photographer John Derek (August 12th, 1926-May 22nd, 1998) had minuscule but invaluable parts in the classic film. Colman won a Golden Globe Award as Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama for his performance during the 5th Annual Golden Globe Awards held on March 10th, 1948.

A Double Life was nominated for the Oscar 4 times though it was deeply sad to see that it wasn’t a Best Picture nominee. The 4 nods included Best Writing, Original Screenplay for Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin (the winner was Sidney Sheldon for The Bachelor and The Bobby Soxer), Best Director for George Cukor (the winner was Elia Kazan for Gentleman’s Agreement), Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture for Miklos Rozsa (winner) and the coveted golden statuette for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Ronald Colman during the 20th Annual Academy Awards held on March 20th, 1948; Colman beat out fellow contemporaries John Garfield (Body and Soul), Gregory Peck (Gentleman’s Agreement), William Powell (Life with Father) and Michael Redgrave (Mourning Becomes Electra)…in all a truly wondrous classic to view, whether for the first or second time around!13


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