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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Wiring In To Jekyll and Hyde

Lie Detector Reveals Allure of Brute Man Hyde

A class horror picture where Loew's East Coast sales stripped class aside and sold it like hoariest stuff off Poverty Row, proof again that any film's best friend was whoever took charge of exploitation. Jekyll-Hyde reeked of possibilities, being of man's fall from civility into pits of lust and violence. MGM could take more than usual liberties thanks to literary antecedent that was Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel. They taught that in schools after all, so where did censors come off suppressing content every student, plus parents, knew? Goods were there to trumpet --- Spencer Tracy juggling good girl, but kittenish, Lana Turner (one end of then-recent TNT combination w/ Gable in Honky Tonk), plus Ingrid Bergman, robust enough to overpower Spence if she took mind to, both GF's terrorized by Hyde/Tracy who is less ape-like as in F. March, but unforgivably rude at his worst. Loew's at first figured Jekyll-Hyde on two-a-day terms and at advanced prices for pre-release open at Broadway's Astor Theatre, but wisely went with grind policy and tix starting at thirty-five cents for early matinees. That turned out to be the click, for Jekyll-Hyde, which followed Sergeant York into the Astor on August 12, 1941, set a new record for the house (Film Daily: "More than 10,000 persons, representing absolute capacity plus numerous standees at every performance, attended the first day's showings"). How the show was sold was genius itself, lurid getting new definition from marketers who'd chuck dignity ordinarily accorded to MGM specials.

Idea was to target women, wire them in, as it were, to lover-brute that was Jekyll-Hyde. Call for volunteers went out through personal columns, and 100 plus subjects between age sixteen and twenty-five lent selves to Astor-experiment conducted by William Moulton Marston, inventor of the prototype for lie detectors who would now apply his science to sacred and profane love's effect upon the fair sex. Toward this research came blondes, brunettes, redheads, to be strapped into theatre seating and hooked onto "Hyde Detectors," object to "measure reaction to emotional stimulus" aroused by twenty or so minutes of the film's most intense passion. Process involved "blood pressure cuffs" and "pneumographs" tied to ankles and chests, respectively, after which "female emotions" would be allowed to "take their course." A trail of red ink on a long stretch of graph paper measured results. A bit of mad science this, and not unlike notions tried by the film's Jekyll, then Hyde. Outcome, "all in fun" said Loew's, told how women of each stripe (or hair color) might respond to male impulse turned loose. Was there at least scintilla of truth to such screwball data?

"Blondes are most submissive to male aggressiveness," they concluded, "and redheads the least so." Brunettes, it seemed, had the most resistance to a caveman (or Hyde) approach, the redheads most likely to be combative where male hands got heavy. "Girls who are athletically inclined blunt their sensitivity --- not that they are less attractive themselves, but become less attractive to men." Participants were asked "what percentage of Hyde was contained in every man," theory being that "every man was a potential Hyde." The women agreed, indeed it was only a matter of degree so far as they figured it, range of percentages between low of 15% to high of 95%. Average came to 34%, which made Hydes of over a third of male population, so step gingerly, gentlemen, said researchers, even as the term "gentleman" seemed itself a misnomer in view of results here. "Dr. Marston, via MGM, lists a couple of rules for the weaker sex," each figured to protect them should their dates regress to Hyde-like misbehavior: "If a man gets out of control, laugh at him. Tell him it bores you, leaves you cold --- that's he's making a fool of himself." Then was this pearl: "Never let yourself be caught in an unprotected situation with a man you know to be strongly attracted to you." Stating the obvious perhaps, but Metro was pleased, "The experiment was a grand success. Science was promoted and so was "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."


Blogger Filmfanman said...

Thought I'd leave a comment puzzling over the lack of comments lately - your blog's great!
Thanks for your work. I give your blog a daily look-in, and look up titles I've viewed to see if you've previously posted any comments about them - your insights and info always enhance my appreciation of those antiques.
After going through the Blogger process for submitting a comment, I now understand why comments have been fewer of late - it seems that the internet cos. running blogger, disqus, etc. are feeling a little exposed by the violations of privacy they've been getting away with - and so they've made it harder to simply "post and run", so to speak - and thus, I lost my first comment during the posting sign-in process.
Anyhow, keep up the good work, we still enjoy your stuff very much, although usually we have nothing to say or add to the discussion.
Thanks again.

6:58 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Thanks Filmfanman --- I spent some of yesterday retrieving comments that had been submitted over the last couple of weeks, but were mislaid due to Blogger's various policy changes. I'm at least able to moderate incoming comments again, so things are hopefully back to some kind of normal. I would refer readers back to RIO BRAVO, SHE HAD TO SAY YES, and A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG for reader comments that were added since reader Jerry Kovar alerted me to the problem (many thanks for that, Jerry).

7:10 AM  
Blogger Bill O said...

Worth noting that Wm Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman, published in Dec '41.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Jerry Kovar said...

You are most welcome, John. Like filmfanman I search each morning for new posts. Glad to help out a man who has consistently presented tremendous entertainment and learning. This J&H post is a prime example.

The glich brought a disturbance to my universe and it confirmed what I already knew - just how important Greenbriar was to me. Many thanks.

I would be curious to read where the inspiration for an article, such as J&H comes from. And how long does your research usually take?

Jerry K

7:43 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

The Jekyll/Hyde post, and there is a follow-up coming on Friday that deals with further-flung exploitation for the film, was inspired by MGM coverage in "The Lion's Roar," a lavish publication supplied to exhibitors that has been highly collectible since. As to the research, times can vary. This one was fairly easy as most of the info and images were concentrated in one place (though upcoming Friday's column involved wider search, plus resort to ads and stills out of storage). Bigger projects like FREUD, THE JAZZ SINGER, or RIO BRAVO can run into days of on-and-off work., but then I don't regard them as "work" of any sort. They are all my idea of fun, souvenirs for movies I admire. What I've always tried to do with Greenbriar is make each entry look like the exterior of a theatre, with enough visual interest to lure onlookers "inside" for the text.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Wait! The giraffes made it into the print ads??? Terrific!

Once again, wonderful stuff on the crazy-ass end of the exploitation efforts by studios and exhibitors. The amount of research you pour into these posts (not to mention, love) is astounding. And, yes, I missed the comments too. Always a little highlight to my day!

As to the movie in question, can I be the first to quote W. Somerset Maugham's famous on-set observation of Mr. Tracy's performance: "Which one is he now?"

10:10 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

This is the kind of thing that drives my feminist college-grad daughter absolutely bonkers. I'll have to show it to her. Her reaction will be even more entertaining than the movie.

10:24 AM  
Blogger DBenson said...

A footnote: As I recall, the original story didn't go into Jeckyll's sex life. The respectable fiancee and the low-class mistress were created for a stage version, and eventually became standard (did all the scripts go back to the Barrymore version?). There was even a musical version made for television, with Kirk Douglas in the title roles.

The Hammer version was very uneven, but it did play up the theme of Jeckyll VERSUS Hyde. Hyde framed Jeckyll for murder, making it dangerous for the good doctor to emerge from the subconscious.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That Kirk Douglas TV version was amazing ... ly bad.

11:23 AM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

John and Filmfanman: ah ha -- that explains a lot. Wondered if I offended someone and my post was yanked!

2:52 PM  

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