A Double Life (1948)

Colman won the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance in Double Life, an honor long overdue and most deserved.

Popular stage actor Tony John (Colman) is best-known for his droll and witty performances in drawing-room comedies. He is frequently co-starred with his former wife Brita (Signe Hasso) - the two still care for each other but Tony's complete involvement in his roles had put an end to their marriage. When he is in a light comedic role he is a pleasure to be around, but if he is involved in a drama he is impossible to live with. As Brita tells it, "We were engaged during Oscar Wilde, broke it off during Ronin, we married during Kaufmann and Hart and were divorced during Chekhov." When asked why he and Brita don't marry again, since they have remained so close,Tony replies with a smile, "We love each other too much for that."

 

Tony opts to take on the biggest challenge of his career - Shakespeare's Othello, and Britawith Signe Hasso  agrees to be his Desdemona - against her better judgement. As Tony prepares for the difficult role he meets an admiring waitress (Shelley Winters) and enters into a brief liaison with her. As he becomes further immersed in the Othello character he begins to suspect that Brita is having an affair with their press agent, Bill (Edmund O'Brien).

over the edgeAs Tony becomes increasingly surly and jealous, lashing out at those around him, Bill begins to form his own suspicions; when the waitress is found strangled in her rooms, the press agent starts to believe whatis almost too horrible to contemplate.

Bill tries to convince Brita that Tony is becoming seriously dangerous, but she believes she can help her husband by continuing to appear with him on stage. Her role as Tony's Desdemona could prove to be her last....

 

Colman's performance is riveting - he portrays an essentially good man who is losing touch with reality, desperately aware of what is happening to him but powerless to stop it, and panicked by what it could mean to those he loves.

To see the Colman we are accustomed to - suave, elegant and gentle - succumb to such demons is truly disturbing - it is also viewing cinematic acting at its best.



 

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