I get it!

I completely understand why they gave Ronald Colman the Oscar in 1948 for his 1947 movie A Double Life

I’ve been holding off watching the movie as I read about it being very depressing and I don’t need depressing when I decompress in the evenings. However, I do still need a Mr. Colman fix and as I have watched pretty much everything else that I really wanted to see, I felt the time had finally come.

In A Double Life Ronald plays a successful actor named Anthony John who becomes obsessed with his roles. When he plays charming roles, he is charming in real life and when he plays tragedies, he is difficult to be around. These ups and downs have cost him his marriage, even though he still is close with his ex wife Brita, whom he sees as his only true friend. He gets offered to play the part of Othello on stage and is at first reluctant, as he knows that he will be consumed by it. He can’t resist, however, and accepts the role. Slowly, as he plays an all-consuming Othello on stage for two years, the lines between Anthony and Othello start to blur and Anthony starts to become more and more like Othello, with tragic consequences.

This film really is as described on the tin: a film noir. As depressing as it is, it certainly is a fascinating watch and the mood does stick with you. It made me dream weird as if I was in a black and white film noir movie myself. In it I saw through my car mirror how Mr. E drove himself to death in his car. It was scary and when I woke up I needed to reassure myself he was breathing safely beside me. There are no car scenes in the film, but the dream really was the very same mood.

Ronald is at the top of his game in A Double Life. Every time he is off the screen, I wish him to come back as soon as possible. He is completely mesmerizing in this role. I took a buttload of screenshots, for instance of him being distracted by the text of Othello, then slowly starting to see himself in the role, then rehearsing the role, dreaming about the role and finally going on stage with it, with his ex-wife Brita in the role of Desdemona…

By the way, Ronald is 56 in this and looking (and sounding – I love his voice!) very handsome. I love him in glasses.

He and Signe Hasso (a Swedish actress I didn’t know who plays Brita) play very nicely off each other…

He gets to be sexy too as he flirts with a waitress (Shelley Winters) and even goes home with her. He pays her another visit much later in the story as well…

And his descent into mad spells and paranoia is unsettling to see, to the point where he can’t distinguish between real life and stage life anymore…

Even though I still think he should have won that Oscar for Random Harvest as well, I am glad that he actually won it for this role. It really is a depressing part but it also is one of his career best performances. It makes me wonder how much Ronald Colman was able to shake off Anthony John after a day of shooting. It also makes me wonder how any good actor doesn’t completely lose himself or herself in a part. How did Richard Armitage shake off John Proctor, for instance, after walking around in his skin for months? Or Doctor Astrov? And does he become as unbearable to be around, hence making private relationships complicated? It would be so interesting to watch this movie with him and then get his take on it. I wonder if they show this at acting schools. Lots to ponder, which is always the sign of a good movie.

So, here I am, 74 years after that Academy Awards ceremony, saying congratulations and well deserved, Ronald Colman! Now I can finally get around to reading those scholarly articles about A Double Life that I dug up the other week.

17 thoughts on “I get it!

  1. Servetus

    There’s that Armitage quote from all those years ago about how when you’re done with an acting job you need to ask yourself again who you are. So I suspect there’s probably at least some difficulty that spreads over to other parts of his life (just speculating).

    This sounds like a fantastic film and right up my alley. I’m sorry you had such a terrible dream, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I shouldn’t watch these movies so close to my bedtime…

      Yes, I remember Richard saying something to that effect once, which is why I also particularly wondered about what he’d think of this movie after I watched it. It really is a fascinating movie, I will for sure go back to it.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. FYI about the scriptwriters: I recognized one of the scriptwriter’s names, Ruth Gordon, and find that she was also an actress, most known nowadays probably for ‘Harold and Maude’. She and her husband Garson Kanin wrote the script. Apparently they were good friends with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn and they also wrote two scripts for them: ‘Adam’s Rib’ and ‘Pat and Mike’.


      1. Servetus

        I ran across Gerson Kanin last week, when I watched “Born Yesterday” (Judy Holliday won the Oscar for Best Actress that year, beating out Bette Davis in “All About Eve”). “Harold and Maude” is not the cult film in the US that it seems to be everywhere else, but I see Ruth Gordon was in “Rosemary’s Baby,” which is very well known here (and won an Oscar).

        I saw an awful movie last night with Spencer Tracy: “Plymouth Adventure.” OMG. So bad it was funny.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Servetus

    Yeah, noir is really something for Saturday afternoon, at least for me. I don’t get a lot out of feeling nervous (especially not now that I live alone again).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Funny Ronnie – The Book of Esther

  4. A Double Life looks great, I don’t remember seeing it and will have to look out for it. RC suits grey hair, he does look debonair. And Richard as Dolarhyde! How soon did he lose that skin? Also taking on roles too would have an effect. I suspect that RA was transforming into that character when he was on the Hobbit tour in China.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s quite a dark film and maybe quite niche with the whole Othello (and blackface!) thing, so maybe that’s why it’s a bit forgotten (and dated) nowadays.
      Yes, Dolarhyde must have been tough to slip into and shake for Richard!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. If there’s ever another Q&A where we can submit questions, I think I’d ask just such a question of RIchard: how does taking on a character seep into his real life and how hard it is to shake off a character?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: More Colman in colour & another treasure – The Book of Esther

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