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4.3 out of 5 stars
Double Life, A [VHS]
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
For this 1948 film Ronald Colman, one of the finest actors ever to grace the silver screen, finally got the recognition he long deserved in the form of his first Oscar. In this absorbing, psychological thriller, Colman gave the performance that won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Playing the role of revered stage actor, Anthony John, Colman gives an intense and riveting performance. When the obsessive Anthony John is called to play the role of Othello, he agrees to do so, and his ex wife and love of his life, Brita Kaurin (Signe Hasse) agrees to play the role of Desdemona. All goes well, and the play is a smashing, long running Broadway success.
Playing the role of Othello for such a protracted period of time, however, begins to wreak havoc with John's sanity, as reality and fantasy collide. Brita is seeing someone else in real life, and John, still in love with her, begins to confuse reality with his role. This spills over into his acting, and his acting spills over into his real life. This double life leads to catastrophic consequences from which there is no turning back. Those cognoscenti viewers familiar with the role of Othello can well imagine where this may lead, given the personal dynamics outlined.
All in all, terrific performances are given by the entire cast. Ronald Colman is magnificent in the part of the conflicted Anthony John, and Signe Hasso does herself proud in the role of John's ex-wife. Look for a young and buxom Shelley Winters in a small, but pivotal, role. The incisive screenplay, written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, makes for a drama that is redolent of the New York theatre. Well directed by George Cukor, this is a film that fans of the velvet voiced Ronald Colman will love, as will all those who enjoy a well acted drama.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2004
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I first saw Ronald Colman in the 1937 film "Lost Horizon" and I was immediately impressed with his acting ability, primarily his use of subtlety and gesture. His type of acting is extremely rare by todays standards, where the stories are more likely to contain rapid, complex camera shots and special effects to propel the plot. But back in the Silver Screen era it was all about a tight script and excellent acting. That is what we have here, with a particularly potent performance given by the star Ronald Colman. His performance garnered the 1947 Oscar for Best Actor, and many said it was a long time coming. The story is about a stage actor content to play comic leads when he is offered the lead role in Shakespear's "Othello." He is reluctant to play the part due to a subconcious realization that his roles eventually seep into his real life, becoming an actual part of his character. When considering the lead in "Othello" this cannot be a good thing. Tragedy is an eventuality. The highlights in the film, for me, were the scenes from the play on stage. Ronald Colman loses hiself in the character completely both on and off the stage and is ultimately very believable and creepy. There are the occasional conventional plot devices common to the era used to wrap things up neatly, but overall this is a forgotten gem of a film from acclaimed director George Cukor. Once the begining credits unfolded and that director's name was shown I knew this was going to be at the very least, acceptable; at best, exceptional. This film falls nicely between those two possibilities, with a terrific lead performance from Ronald Colman. Thank you.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2005
Format: DVD
When we first see actor Anthony John (Ronald Coleman), he is standing in the lobby of a Broadway theater, buried in a trenchcoat with his face shadowed and hidden by a fedora, studying a painting of himself. John turns around and we're given the opportunity to compare the live face to the portrait hanging over his head. The artist got it all right save for the haunted, and immeasurably sad, eyes. John spends a lot of time studying himself in paintings, busts and mirrors - not because he's narcissistic, but rather because he has lost, or perhaps never knew in the first place, who he really is..
Anthony John is a great actor, a toast of Broadway, and a great guy. At least he is now, starring in a wildly popular light comedy. When playing in darker and moodier plays something comes over him. A young woman (who must have met him during an Ibsen play) bumps into him on the street and calls him a `stinker.'
A DOUBLE LIFE is a gutsy and brilliant movie about a man in search of himself and an actor who never learned to "leave it at midnight." To you a 40's expression, and this is very much a 40's movie, John is light and [...]when his character is so. Dark and brooding when cast as a tragic character. Theater friends pressure John to play Shakespeare's Othello. He demurs: "Some plays give me the willys, on stage and off." But the friends are persistent and John is intrigued, and soon enough he is up to his soul in that tragic tale of bloody jealousy.
Laurence Olivier was originally offered the part of the obsessed actor, but he was unavailable. The part, written by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon in their Oscar-nominated screenplay, calls for a good chunk of the final act of Othello to be played out on-screen. With his reputation and stage background, Olivier would have been ideal. The casting of Coleman, who was hesitant about acting that much Shakespeare on-screen, took a fair bit of courage (stage veteran Walter Hampden was hired on as a Shakespeare coach.) Possessed of a fine voice and a decent profile, Coleman was a movie, not a stage, star. Coleman not only has to convince us that he's a stage actor, but that he's one of the leading stage actors of his time. I can imagine him getting the willys. That he won an Oscar for this movie indicates that I'm not the only one who found his performance spot on.

Composer Miklós Rózsa also won an Oscar for his score. Director George Cukor was nominated, as well, losing out to Elia Kazan's A GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT.

A DOUBLE LIFE is a fine drama that excels on just about every level. Very strongly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2012
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
Ronald Colman had one of the most beautiful speaking voices in films. I would have love to have seen him on stage. His was the type of voice that you instantly recognize when you hear it. He wasn't the only one. George Sanders, James Mason, Alec Guiness, Herbert Marshall and Anthony Hopkins are just a few of the others. He brought his remarkable gifted voice and put it to great use in "A Double Life" and combined with his superb performance in the title role, won his only Best Actor Oscar. The story is a simple one, illusion vs reality but if it's not handled the right way it has the potential of not succeeding. But Colman and company pull it off under the direction of George Cukor, unfairly labeled a "woman's director" his whole career(Clark Gable had David Selznick fire him from directing "Gone With The Wind" because he thought he was favoring Vivian Leigh more than him. But that's another story). "A Double Life" was an unusual picture for Cukor in that it seems almost a "Film Noir" type film. Olive films has just released it on Blu ray and the results are mostly satisfying. The film was restored years ago by the UCLA Film Department and this is the print Olive used in this blu ray upgrade. Some of the exterior shots in the beginning on the New York streets leave much to be desired for blu ray. This is true for some on the dark interior shots too. But that may be due to the age of the film(65 years) and the film elements than the restoration itself. The close ups are stunning on blu ray. You can clearly see some of Colman's pimples(sorry fans) on his face under the make-up. Both Edmund O'Brien and Shelley Winters(future Oscar winners) are superb in their roles as well. Milton Krasner's black & white photography looks equally stunning on Blu-ray(Bitrate: 20.00). Like I said, it's filmed in a film noir style that was popular at the time but not the style that Cukor was known for in his films. If you like seeing and hearing Shakesphere on film then I would recommend the film. If you already own the Republic DVD and are on the fence about upgrading then I'll leave that up to you. You probably don't have to but the blu ray is a lot clearer in certain scenes when compared to the DVD version. I have both versions and there is a difference, however slight, on this Olive blu ray release. If you own Olive's recent Blu rays of "High Noon" and "Force of Evil" then this release is certainly on par with those. It's not a perfect blu ray but impressive none the less.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
As a director who understood actors and the problems stars often have managing their own screen personae, George Cukor was the perfect choice to direct this dark thriller about a Shakespearean actor playing Othello both on and off-stage. The film's unique achievement, in turn, is to make us feel apprehension and suspense whether the actor is on or off stage. As the paranoid Moor, Ronald Coleman plays the role with his familiar stylized cadence, a highly artificial elocution in contrast with his inner turmoil and potential violence. The score by Miklos Roza, with it employment of the "theremin," adds another artificial dimension--the operatic and melodramatic. Consequently, the illusion vs. reality theme that we feel at the level of the film's story is doubled by the graphic black and white images vs. formal orchestra score at the structural level. But rather than confuse, the pairings create engaging tensions that sustain the film's impact on the spectator's memory long after the viewing of the film. Like Shakespeare's iambic pentameter, 5-act plays, the formal elements of this film work not to suppress dramatic emotion but to suggest its explosive power through the very elements that contain it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Universal Pictures presents "A DOUBLE LIFE" (1948) (104 min/B&W) -- Starring: Ronald Colman, Signe Hasso, Edmond O'Brien & Shelley Winters

Directed by George Cukor

Anthony John (Ronald Colman) is an actor whose life is strongly influenced by the characters he plays. When he's playing comedy, he's the most enjoyable person in the world, but when he's playing drama, it's terrible to be around him. That's the reason why his wife Brita (Signe Hasso) divorced him; although she still loves him and works with him, she couldn't stand living with him anymore. So when Anthony accepts to play Othello, he devotes himself entirely to the part, but it soon overwhelms him and with each day his mind gets filled more and more with Othello's murderous jealousy.

Won Oscars for Best Actor (Ronald Colman) and for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Miklós Rózsa)

Nominated Oscar for Best Director (George Cukor) and Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin)

Not to be overlooked is Milton Krasner's atmospheric cinematography.

Special footnotes: -- In the film, Ronald Colman plays a fictional actor who stars in the longest-running "Othello" in history. In real life, actor Paul Robeson, who had just become the first black actor to star in an otherwise white production of "Othello" on Broadway, had just completed the longest run of the play.

The role of Anthony John was originally written for Laurence Olivier. Olivier was unavailable when the film finally went into production.

BIOS:
1. Frank Lloyd (Director)
Date of Birth: 2 February 1886 - Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Date of Death: 10 August 1960 - Santa Monica, California

2. Ronald Colman [aka: Ronald Charles Colman]
Date of Birth: 9 February 1891 - Richmond, Surrey, England, UK
Date of Death: 19 May 1958 - Santa Barbara, California

3. Signe Hasso [aka: Signe Eleonora Cecilia Larsson]
Date of Birth: 15 August 1910 - Stockholm, Sweden
Date of Death: 7 June 2002 - Los Angeles, California

4. Edmond O'Brien [aka: Redmond O'Brien]
Date of Birth: 10 September 1915 - New York City, New York
Date of Death: 9 May 1985 - Inglewood, California

5. Shelley Winters [aka: Shirley Schrift]
Date of Birth: 18 August 1920 - St. Louis, Missouri
Date of Death: 14 January 2006 - Beverly Hills, California

6. Miklós Rózsa
Date of Birth: 18 April 1907 - Budapest, Austria-Hungary (now Hungary)
Date of Death: 27 July 1995 - Los Angeles, California

Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 5 Stars
Performance: 5 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]

Total Time: 104 min on DVD ~ Universal Pictures ~ (July 22, 2003)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
To act is to take on the personality of your subject. To be a brilliant actor, one must identify with the soul of the subject by finding a commonality within oneself and exploit it to the fullest. Anthony John is a brilliant actor who's been given an opportunity to play Othello, a dark brooding role, but is troubled by the idea. His ex-wife Rita explains: "We were engaged doing Oscar Wilde, broke it off doing O'Neill, married doing Kaufman and Hart, and divorced doing Chekov." For Anthony acting is all consuming. Othello will bring out the best in Anthony the actor, but in order to achieve this level of perfection he must release a demon within himself - jealous rage. Once released, will he be able to put it back? Ronald Colman gives a riviting performance as Anthony John. Ruth Gordon wrote the screenplay.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Ronald Colman won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1948 for his leading role in "A Double Life". Colman plays Anthony John, a talented and popular theater actor who has a reputation for being difficult and moody when he does intense dramatic roles. When his producer proposes that he take the title role in a production of Shakespeare's "Othello", a trepidatious Anthony replies, "I've got a feeling it isn't the sort of thing I ought to do, great or no." But he succumbs to Othello's lure, and plays the Moorish king opposite his ex-wife and frequent co-star Brita (Signe Hasso) as Desdemona. Anthony has a affair with a waitress, Pat Krall (Shelley Winters), who propositioned him as she served him. Gradually, the character of Othello seeps so deeply into Anthony's psyche that he cannot separate Othello's jealousy and rage from his own and he becomes convinced that Pat is having an affair with his press agent Bill Friend (Edmond O'Brien).

"A Double Life" is psychological melodrama. Anthony John's passions are larger than life. His manner is studied and refined. And this all seems appropriate to the milieu: the theater. Anthony John's obsession -or possession- might have been an excuse to make a movie about theater. The film is immersed in the theatrical world. Great attention to detail were paid to the appearance and workings of the theater and its staff. We learn about Anthony's life and character through a monologue. Later, a soliloquy takes us through the actor's preparation for his role. Writers Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin create the drama by giving the process through which an actor transforms himself a sinister twist. Anthony describes his method: "The part begins to seep into your life. The battle begins. Imagination against reality. Each in its place. That's the job, if you can do it." He couldn't this time. "A Double Life" will be too melodramatic for some viewers and too stilted for others. But it's an interesting tribute to theater and a reasonably entertaining crime film. The Republic DVD (2003) has no bonus features, but the print and sound quality are good.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2011
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
I'm not sure this movie could be made today. It has no blood, no guts, no explosions, no fireballs, no steroid driven males and no women with huge chests. Does it need them? Not by a long shot. It is an absolutely marvelous movie with incredible acting, beautiful black and white film work and a really good story. The screenwriting is absolutely first class as is the movie itself. Ronald Coleman's portrayal of a demented actor truly is an Academy award winning performance. The other actors do a wonderful job as well. Once I started watching this movie. I could not interrupt myself to do anything else. It was riveting! I have loaned it to three or four friends, one of whom almost refuses to see any black and white films. All told, it was rated terrific, including by the black-and-white filmophobe. He said is one of best movies he has ever seen. I heartily recommend this film to anyone who enjoys top-of-the-line films from any era. This one is hard to beat. Does the VHS version bother me?Heck no!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon September 9, 2005
Format: DVD
Anthony John (Ronald Colman) is a hard obsessed actor with his stage roles being incapable to leave them in the theater. His wife Brita (Signe Hasso) will play Desdemona. Suddenly appears a pathetically lonely actress Pat (Shelley Winters)who eventually seduces him. By opening night Anthony begins to feel the same jealous madness when he is suspicious about a love affair among Brita and the play' s a gent press Bill Friend (Edmond O'Brien). After a jealous scene, he goes in search of Pat and personifies Othello lines and the madness will occur, struggling in the real life to Pat until die.

These are the dramatic premises in which Double life unfolds. This picture works out as tale of opposing forces, mirror images and deadly doubles.

Illusion versus reality.

This was the only excursion of Georges Cukor in this genre.
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