Friday, November 13, 2020

Olivia de Havilland stars as identical twins in “The Dark Mirror”

The Dark Mirror (1946) is an American film noir directed by Robert Siodmak, and starring Olivia de Havilland, Lew Ayres, and Thomas Mitchell. The film was written and produced by Nunnally Johnson. Milton Krasner worked as the cinematographer and Dimitri Tiomkin wrote the film’s score.

Identical twin sisters Ruth and Terry Collins (de Havilland in a dual role) are almost impossible to tell apart. After Terry visits the apartment of Dr. Frank Peralta, he is found stabbed to death. Detective Lt. Stevenson (Mitchell) suspects Terry, but she has witnesses that can vouch for her whereabouts the evening of the murder. When Stevenson discovers that Terry has an identical twin sister Ruth, identifying the murderous sister becomes more complicated.

Robert Siodmak (1900 – 1973) had a very successful career in Hollywood and is best known for his thrillers and films noir. He signed a seven-year contract with Universal and directed The Killers (1946), the film that made Ava Gardner a star. He worked with some of the top movie stars during Hollywood’s Golden Age, including Deanna Durbin, Gene Kelly, Burt Lancaster, Dorothy McGuire, Yvonne de Carlo, Olivia de Havilland, and Barbara Stanwyck. Often compared to Hitchcock in his prime, he never got the recognition that the Master of Suspense did, but most of his films hold up remarkably well and are worth watching.

Nunnally Johnson (1897 – 1977) was a journalist, screenwriter, producer, and director. He worked for many years as a writer at 20th Century-Fox before he co-founded International Pictures in 1943 with William Goetz. Johnson was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath. Johnson wrote, produced, and directed The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956) and The Three Faces of Eve (1957). As a writer-producer, he is responsible for The Gunfighter (1950), My Cousin Rachel (1952), and How to Marry a Millionaire (1953). Johnson’s last credited screenplay was for The Dirty Dozen (1967).

Milton R. Krasner (1904 – 1988) was an American cinematographer. He is best known for his work at 20th Century-Fox where he filmed such classics as All About Eve (1950) and The Seven Year Itch (1955). Other notable films he photographed include Scarlett Street (1945), The Dark Mirror (1946), The Egg and I (1947), The Farmer’s Daughter (1947), Bus Stop (1956), An Affair to Remember (1957), Bells Are Ringing (1960), Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), How the West Was Won (1962), Love with the Proper Stranger (1963), and The Singing Nun (1966). Krasner won an Academy Award for his work on Three Coins in the Fountain (1954).

Dimitri Tiomkin (1894 – 1979) was a Russian-born American film composer. He received 22 Academy Award nominations and won four Oscars. Tiomkin got his big break working with director Frank Capra on the classic Lost Horizon (1937). He also collaborated with Capra on You Can’t Take it With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Meet John Doe (1941) and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Tiomkin was famous for scoring western films including Duel in the Sun (1946), High Noon (1952), Giant (1956), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), and Rio Bravo (1959). Tiomkin also wrote the scores for three other Hitchcock films: Shadow of  Doubt (1943), I Confess (1953), and Dial M for Murder (1954).

Olivia de Havilland as identical twin sisters Terry and Ruth

Olivia de Havilland (1916 – 2020) was a British-American actress and two-time Best Actress Academy Award winner. De Havilland’s career spanned more than five decades. She was one of the leading actresses of the 1940s and was the last major surviving star from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Some of de Havilland’s classic films include The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Gone with the Wind (1939), Hold Back the Dawn (1941), To Each His Own (1946), The Snake Pit (1948), and The Heiress (1949).

Olivia de Havilland, Robert Siodmak, and Lew Ayres

Lew Ayres (1908 – 1996) was an American actor who had a long career in film and television. He is perhaps best known for portraying a German soldier in the film All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and for portraying Dr. Kildare in nine movies. Ayres was a conscientious objector during World War II. This almost destroyed his career and reputation until it was revealed that he served as a non-combatant medic from 1942 to 1946. The Dark Mirror (1946) was Ayres’ first movie role after the war. In 1948 he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in the film Johnny Belinda (1948). Ayres was married to Ginger Rogers from 1934 until 1940.

Thomas Mitchell (1892 –1962) was an American character actor who had a long career in film and the theater. Mitchell was one of the most recognizable character actors in movies during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1939, Mitchell had important roles in five classic films: Stagecoach, Only Angles have Wings, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gone with the Wind, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Mitchell won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his role as Doc Josiah Boone in Stagecoach.

The Dark Mirror trivia:

  • The character of Terry is left-handed (Ruth is right-handed) and the only one of the two that smokes.
  • The film is an example of Hollywood’s 1940s obsession with Abnormal psychology and Psychoanalysis.
  • It was one of the top-grossing films of 1946.

To watch the film on YouTube, click the link below.

After you watch the film, join us for a discussion on Zoom, November 17, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Click here for information on Zoom links and invitation.

Questions for discussion:

  1. Noir or not?
  2. Did you think de Havilland was successful in creating two distinct characters?
  3. What did you think of the technical aspects of the film (Ruth and Terry on screen together)?
  4. Did you consider the choice of music for the music box (“Frankie and Johnny”) and its significance?

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