And if that sounds like hyperbole, can I point out that hyperbole is probably one of the few words I have been pronouncing correctly (hi-PERR-bol-ee, bol-eev it or not).
“We are so much more than our names,” purrs Gerard Butler’s lusty count sexily in Dracula 2000. I mention him because, well, I always do if possible, but mainly because it was while recording the next episode of my Gerrystorm podcast on Butler’s 20-year-old Dracula movie that led me to the 1931 film Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, as recommended by my podcast guest, filmmaker and pre-code movie expert Sarah Cook.
I was asking her about her favourite movie / literature horror creation, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, and particularly this movie version, was it.
From Fredric March’s performance as both titular leads (sadly he won only one Best Actor Oscar for both roles), to the innovative special transformation special effects (created using make-up and coloured filters), it’s a classic that has stood the test of time. Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde is, at 90, even older than me (though my transformation from sexy and hot to scary-looking warthog is taking place over decades rather than seconds).
The one thing that ageing has taught me — well the only thing I can remember anyway, since hitting 45 — is that if I don’t do something I’ve promised almost instantly it won’t get done, so after enthusiastically declaring to Other Sarah that I’d watch the film, I made sure to rent it that day. Yes it took an immense sense of will but I also got to luxuriate in the satisfaction of actually doing it; plus it meant I wouldn’t feel I had to hide from her on social media in case she asked me what I thought of it.
So yesterday I sat down to watch the film, pushing aside all the other more important “to do” things on my to-do list, because the one thing ageing has taught me (I can’t remember any others anyway) is that if I’ve forgotten to do something for absolutely ages it might as well wait another few hours so I can squeeze in something new that I promised to do. That way I’m only late once, with something I was already late with anyway.
It’s a pacy, racy shocker of a film and genuinely frightening as Jekyll’s alter ego Mr Hyde terrorises and abuses nightclub singer Ivy Pearson (played by Miriam Hopkins). Mr Hyde’s complete lack of inhibitions, boundaries and moral code are utterly chilling; he looks like a stereotype Neanderthal in immaculate Saville Row tailoring but his blatant transgressions are the real horrors here.
The first shock though was hearing Dr Jekyll’s name. Yes, it turned out I’d been pronouncing it wrong my whole life. It is not in fact Jeh-kul but Jee-kul. Naturally I paused and googled, assuming this was some Hollywood affectation, but no. It’s a Scottish surname, rhyming with treacle; Stevenson was himself Scottish, though he borrowed it from his friend Walter Jekyll, churchman and younger brother of famous horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll (that family too pronounced their surname Jee-kul).
So now I know. Will it affect how I say the name in my head? Undoubtedly no. Though I might throw it into conversation one day so I can correct someone’s inevitable correction.
You can rent or buy Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde (1931) from: