Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Dead Ringer (1964)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Dead Ringer (1964)

In Paul Henreid's dramatic and suspenseful thriller about identity theft, considered a classic of 'Grand-Dame Guignol':

  • the opening funeral scene at LA's Rosedale Cemetery commemorating the death of wealthy 'Frank' DeLorca (from an alleged heart attack); the ceremony brought together estranged identical twin sisters (both 55 year-old Bette Davis) after 18 years:

    - Margaret (or Maggie) (covered in a thick black veil) - the widowed wife - rich, callous, stylish, selfish, and materialistic
    - Edith Phillips - frumpy, dowdy, and lower-class

  • Edith's visit to the DeLorca mansion after the funeral - and the few amazing split-screen trick scenes of both Maggie and Edith in the frame together (plus some uses of body doubles); and the contrast between the two of them: Maggie's life of shopping, luxury, maids & servants, and Edith's working-class life running a seedy bar in downtown Los Angeles (at Figueroa and Temple), living in a one-room decrepit apartment above the cocktail lounge, and three months behind in rent and facing eviction
  • determined non-smoker Maggie's comment about smoking to Edith: "You shouldn't smoke. It's bad for the skin. I gave it up years ago"
  • the backstory causing conflict between the two sisters: both females loved DeLorca, but Maggie had tricked him into marriage by claiming she was pregnant; the secret fact that there was no child was revealed by the family chauffeur George (George Chandler) (seen in the rear-view mirror) to a shocked and then vengeful Edith during her drive away from the mansion
  • the scene of Maggie being lured to visit Edith's apartment, and Edith's question to Maggie as she looked around: "A dump?" - followed by Edith's cross examination of Maggie about the faked pregnancy, and Maggie's subsequent confession: "There never was a baby. That's what you want to hear, isn't it?..."; Edith was still angry: "You never loved him. You never made him happy. You ruined both our lives" - Edith plotted to steal back the life that had been taken from her
  • the actual murder scene of Maggie in Edith's apartment, an off-screen death made to look like Edith's suicide - Edith pulled the trigger on a gun next to Maggie's right temple (with a brief cutaway to a musician loudly playing drums in the bar), then left a suicide note, modified her hair style to bangs, changed clothes with her sister, and returned to the mansion to impersonate her sister
  • the many complexities and complications of assuming another person's identity and 'playing' the role of "Maggie": she didn't know the combination to the wall safe containing valuables and jewelry, she confused her maid Janet (Monika Henreid), Edith had a chain-smoking habit (but Maggie had given up smoking many years earlier), there was a changed relationship with Maggie's now-friendly Great Dane named Duke, and more; to avoid having to sign Maggie's papers for the family lawyer Paul Harrison (George MacReady), Edith/"Maggie" resorted to burning her hand with a hot fireplace poker
  • in a few instances, "Maggie" realized that her former life as Edith was possibly happier and more worry-free: (1) her off-handed discovery that in Mr. DeLorca's will, he had left her $50,000 - enough to have covered her debts, and (2) her close relationship with cop/friend Sgt. Jim Hobbson (Karl Malden)
  • the confrontative sequence with Maggie's secret lover - playboyish, gold-digging golf pro Tony Collins (Peter Lawford) who easily saw through Edith's charade when he saw clear differences in "Maggie" from the real Maggie; as he tried to force himself on her, the despicable Tony tricked her by claiming they had vacationed together in places they had never been: ("You don't want me to make love to you? I don't understand. After all the fun we had, Honolulu, Nassau, Miami. It was fun, wasn't it?"); when she answered: "Well, of course," he knew she was lying: ("You're not Margaret, you're Edith! Maggie and I never went to any of those places! Never! You killed her. The smoking, the dog"); he slapped her but was restrained by Sgt. Hobbson
  • Collins blackmailed "Maggie" for her jewelry to buy himself a Maserati ("I'm gonna take you for everything you got"); soon after, a search of his high-rise apartment after he failed to pawn off some of the jewels led to the discovery of a sackful of arsenic powder: ("Arsenic poisoning is often mistaken for a heart attack"); he was suspiciously linked with Maggie in plotting the death of her husband
  • the scene of the mauling death of Tony by the attacking Great Dane, when "Maggie" was quarreling with Tony and ordered him out - and the dog thought that he was going to hurt her
  • knowing that she would be tried for her husband Frank's death, "Maggie" - in a long monologue, appealed to suspicious Sgt. Hobbson by claiming to be Edith (and inferring that she didn't commit the crimes that Maggie had): "Did you, did you ever wake up in the dark, feeling, feeling all alone? Oh, I mean terribly alone. No one, no one else on Earth, just the dark all around you. And that, that awful, scary emptiness? Don't you know me? Don't you know me, Jim? I'm not Margaret. I didn't kill Frank DeLorca. I'm Edith, Jim"; but he asserted that he didn't believe her: "Mrs. DeLorca, I don't know where you think this'll get you, but you couldn't be Edie in a thousand years. Why, Edie was the kind of person a guy is lucky to meet once in his lifetime. She was an honest-to-God, good person. Sweet, gentle, kind. And you - you don't know the meaning of those words. Edie would never murder her sister. She wouldn't even hurt a fly"; "Maggie" walked back her attempt for sympathy: "Forget it, Sergeant. It was just a, a lousy joke. Edie and I used to try and fool people all the time when we were kids"
  • the montage of "Maggie's" trial consisted of the super-imposition of her face onto the proceedings with quotes from witnesses and lawyers from both sides of the case: "Silence in the court, silence!...She told me Collins was her lover...Mr. Collins didn't pay the rent, Mrs. DeLorca did...A very cozy set-up, ladies and gentlemen... Look at her, an admitted adulteress... Margaret DeLorca is guilty of loving the wrong man, nothing else...She never waited on Mr. DeLorca personally...Whiskey and milk - Madame gave it to him the night he died...Frank DeLorca had a history of coronary disease, symptoms similar to those of arsenic poisoning...He said he wanted it for his lawn...Heart failure induced by a massive dose of arsenic...Guesses, opinions, but no proof...Facts, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Facts and proof beyond any reasonable doubt"
"Maggie's" Final Conversation with Sgt. Hobbson
  • the final scene - "Maggie" was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to the gas chamber at San Quentin State Penitentiary - she seemed resigned to her fate (she had committed murder, but not of Mr. DeLorca); as she was led to a police car from the courthouse, she had one final discussion with a very troubled Sgt. Hobbson, who was still wondering about her identity: ("The last time I was at your house, you said something I can't get out of my mind. You said, 'I'm Edie, Jim. Don't you know me?' Something like that. Was that the truth?"); to end the unrest in his mind about her, she repeated his words: "I'm Margaret DeLorca, Sergeant. As you said, Edie would never have hurt a fly"; he solemnly watched as she was driven away

Chauffeur George: Revelation of Maggie's Faked Pregnancy in Order to Marry Wealthy Frank DeLorca



Split-Screen: Maggie and Edith (both Bette Davis)

Edith's Murder of Maggie

Edith's Fake Suicide Note

"Maggie" Burning Her Hand With Hot Poker

Tony's Knowledge of the Deception

Sgt. Hobbson with Tony

Mauling Death of Tony by Great Dane

"Maggie's" Trial for the Murder of Frank DeLorca


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