Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-White

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Film detective time again!

Arch-Shadowplayer Randy Cook sent me a discovery — what appears to be a nubile Wilfred Hyde-White in Rouben Mamoulian’s 1932 DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE, spotted leaving Fredric March’s opening lecture.

This is Big News in that it;s unlisted on the IMDb and would put WHW in the movies two years earlier than the IMDb would have it — and making his debut in Hollywood rather than Cricklewood.

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Biographical info on the silvery one is somewhat sparse, but we are told he embarked on a tour of South Africa in 1932. Very well — either he decided to keep travelling and took a crack at the movie capital, or else South Africa was a cover story, something young Wilfred (!) thought sounded more respectable than moviedom.

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But hang on — is it him? It looks like him, and who else could? I also applied my forensic identification expertise, which consists of one helpful tip, acquired making NATAN, in which we had to differentiate, to our own satisfaction, between a distinguished French movie producer and a series of porno actors, one with a passing resemblance. The hint is that, socially, we concentrate on the middle of the face, the eyes nose and mouth, and the general shape. But the ears have much to tell us — though they grow throughout a person’s life, they do not naturally acquire or discard lobes, and the crenellations within remain broadly consistent.

This Hyde-White-alike not only has a similar elongated visage, with similar, distinctly shaped features, his ears are a pretty close match too. What are the chances?

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The only snag is the voice, which seems not to have yet acquired the reedy, fluting, querulous, nasal, professorial tone we know from later movies — I should hate to think it was an affectation! In REMBRANDT (1936), the earliest confirmed WHW movie I have to hand, he already has it, in rudimentary form anyway. Playing a medical student, he may have thought it unhelpful and suppressed it. Anyway, your views are welcome — if you have the DVD, the scene in question is right at the start, and it’s always worth revisiting this classic anyway.

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10 Responses to “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-White”

  1. Towards the end of his career Hyde-White appeared on a delightful, but sadly short-lived sit-com called The Associates. It was created by James L. Brooks and his writing partner Stan Daniels and concerned a law firm and several newcomers to it –one of whom was played by Martin Short. Hyde-White played an “Associate Emeritus” and as was his wont stole every scene in which he appeared. You can see the look of wonder on Marty Short’s face as Hyde-White shows everyone how it’s done.

  2. Just Skyped with my source on this one, who speculates that the reason WHW seems less in command in this one is that the inexperienced thesp is concentrating very hard on completing his lines before he collides with the camera.

  3. I remember watching The Associates, and mostly for WH-W. I was surprised how seedy he could be in a film like The Golden Salamander.

  4. He seems to have been able to adapt to most roles, without adapting at all.

  5. mmmmmmm…….not convinced. Jekyll and Hyde was a famous film for decades, so why would WHW, who, let’s face it, was in some right old dross over the years (enlivening most of it ) fail to mention his role in a Hollywood blockbuster, even in a minor role ?? This shot (from No Highway in 1951) seems to show a far less angular chin, and, twenty years later, a less receded hairline at the temple than the gentleman student of 1932……… http://www.wearysloth.com/Gallery/ActorsH/8477-13788.jpg

  6. Jonathan Rigby Says:

    This idea has been around for years. I remember following it up in 2006 and deciding that, if this guy looks like any well-known British character actor, it’s Bernard Archard. His similarity, physically and vocally, to Wilfrid Hyde-White is zero. (Sorry, I just don’t see it!)

  7. Jonathan Rigby Says:

    (Of course, Bernard was only 15 when the film was made, so it ain’t him either.)

  8. I sense the fine Italian hand of Sam Comer in this.

  9. Looking at the ear again. What puts me off the idea a bit more is that WHW has an almost Vulcan point, a sort of kink in the outer ear which sets it off rising at a more extreme angle, which I can’t discern in this chap.

    The less angular chin — well, I hate to break it to you, but that’s what happens to chins. Even Charles McGraw softened a touch. WHW’s seems to vary a lot depending on facial expression, but here’s a good pointy one —

    The Jekyll fellow pats his friend’s shoulder, a juvenile patrician, in a way that’ very reminiscent, but of course not conclusive.

    As to whether he discussed the role, I don’t think that proves anything. Maybe he didn’t care for his performance. Or maybe it’s not him.

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