Fredric March won his first Oscar from his second nomination for portraying the two sides of man in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Fredric March portrays both roles of course, one of the civilized doctor, and the other of the evil animalistic Hyde. March first portrays the doctor, in what is mostly a normal sort of leading man role. He shows that Jekyll is most upstanding fellow, as well as intelligent and very proper.
The doctor is perhaps even a little on the dull side, March is not at all dull in terms of his portrayal, but March just shows as part of his performance that the doctor is a little simple in his simple desires and wants in life. After he basically wants to marry the woman of his dreams Muriel and have his scientific ideas about the two natures of man be recognized. In that was March is properly simple in being just a honest man.
Due to the fact that his ideas are questioned, his relationship with Muriel is troubled by her reluctant father, and Jekyll is tempted by a lower class woman Ivy he encounters. Dr. Jekyll refuses to jump at such temptations himself, but instead decides to use his formula to bring out his primitive side. He does this to both prove his point, but also to allow him to pursue Ivy. It is interesting because here March shows that when everything is no longer perfect for Jekyll, he himself stops being perfect, slowly bringing out more complexity to his the character of Jekyll.
March then becomes Hyde in quite an impressive transformation scene by both the special effects, and March sells it as well even if overall he is not required to do that much. He then becomes Hyde who resembles as Neanderthal. His make up is possibly a bit much, particularly his teeth that are large, and March clearly has to speak over them in his performance. The make up though certianly works, as does the way March begins to move more like an animal, and changes his voice to show a complete transformation.
March is good as Hyde, particularly at first where he is constantly moving his arms all around, like Hyde was always there but has finally broken out. March though perhaps over does it just a little in his I am evil ha ha ha ha ha, sort of way he starts out as Hyde, but I still enjoyed what he did, becuase March infuses a lot of energy and terrible joy into Hyde, showing that Hyde loves to be Hyde.
March is best as Hyde though in his scenes with Miriam Hopkins as Ivy, because he shows the true primitive nature of Hyde. March is rather chilling in how he mixes Hyde's constant lusting after Ivy, along with his constant jealousy and cruelty toward her. It really is notable because March portrays the brutality of Hyde as non stop, as it is completely his nature to be that way. March also is quite good in his physical presentation of Hyde, as a true primitive, but also how Hyde has even more ability in his ape like abilities.
The best moments of March's performance though I think when Jekyll has realized what he has done as Hyde. March's is terrific in showing the guilt that he feels so strongly from what he has, a guilt that truly effects him deeply making Jekyll lose his uprightness at the beginning of the film. It is quite disheartening to see this other transformation of Jekyll where he loses everything he had, and breaks down as a man because of his mistake in ever wishing to become Hyde.
This is not a perfect performance, and certianly is from its time, but where it succeeds it really succeeds. I think a lot of actors would play each side of man on a one note, but Fredric March plays them both in a far more complex fashion particularly Doctor Jekyll who he develops through the film marvelously from a simple man who seems to find the complexities within himself, and as well as Hyde who he really conveys a wide range of primitive feelings coming from that character as well. This a performance that does not take the safe route with either character, and succeeds with both very well.