Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

A Double Life (1947)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

A Double Life (1947)

In George Cukor's noirish, spell-binding melodrama about an unpredictable stage actor overly-involved and influenced by his character roles (and leading a double life):

  • the amazing soliloquy (partly in voice-over) delivered by popular Broadway matinee actor Anthony John (Oscar-winning Ronald Colman) to his ex-wife Brita (Signe Hasso), first off-stage, and then on-stage, about his insecurities and anxieties about performing on stage as Othello: ("The tricks your mind can play. You know, somewhere in the future, I can see it all finished. I can see the whole magical production. Opened, praised. It feels fine to have done something worthy, and then I think of all the things that have to be done between now and then. The terrifying thought of that first rehearsal. The actors nervous and frightened. Your inner self telling you every instant you're making a big mistake to try this, knowing all the time you're caught, and it's too late to change your mind. Trying to make someone else's words your own, thoughts your own. Over and over and over. You whip your imagination into a frenzy. The key to the character? Jealousy, and you dig for it within yourself. What does it feel like - real jealousy. Try to remember jealous moments in your own past. Jealousy. Jealousy. Find it, hold it, live it! Jealousy! And the hours when you worry about nothing but shoes and props and make-up and the costume fittings. And then the dress rehearsals. The heartening moments when it seems to be going right. The inevitable things that go wrong... Nerves, arguments, changes... Far, far into the night. Pills to help you stay awake. And pills to help you sleep. The part begins to seep into your life, and the battle begins. Imagination against reality. Keep each in its place. That's the job if you can do it. And all at once, it's opening night. And you look out at the audience, a terrifying monster with a thousand heads. You're in a kind of trance, only vaguely aware that the curtain is about to go up. Then, somehow, the next thing you know, the play is almost over. The last scene is about to begin. But you remember that you're on the stage in a theater, an audience in front of you, And suddenly, suddenly you're startled by the sound of your own voice. You try to hang on desperately. You're two men now, grappling for control, you - and Othello")
  • Anthony's disorienting and crazed experience of delirium at Othello's opening night party, and his request that Brita take him home
  • the scene during the 300th performance of Shakespeare's play Othello - the near-death, on-stage strangulation of Anthony's co-star Brita (as Desdemona) - she begged: ("Tony, please, you're hurting me! Be careful, please!")
  • the scene shortly later when Tony was miffed when he asked Brita to remarry him and she rejected him: (Brita: "Because if at first you don't succeed, don't try again - isn't that how it goes?...Let's not try marrying again"); he was angered and jealous that Brita was in love with press agent Bill Friend (Edmond O'Brien), and chastised her with multiple questions about him: ("Is he smooth? Is he charming? Does he speak gently? Does he write lovely stories about you? Does he dance well? I don't. Remember? Do you? Does he listen? Does he sympathize? And what else does he do? Does he?"); she told him to "Stop it!" and demanded that he leave
  • Anthony John's angry, deliriously confused and jealous strangulation of his own naive mistress Pat (Shelley Winters), a waitress named Pat at the Venezia Cafe, in the middle of the night in her bedroom; he kissed and then choked her to death behind a curtain, in retaliation for being slighted by Brita moments earlier - and then he suffered amnesia (with no memory of the crime)
Strangulation of Mistress Pat
  • the curtain-falling conclusion of Othello which further blurred the boundary between art and life, when guilt-ridden and troubled Anthony John (who was tricked into believing that the murdered Pat was still alive and serving him at the restaurant) stabbed himself in the abdomen on-stage
Self-Stabbing on Stage and Deathbed Speech
  • Anthony's last deathbed words, in which he recognized the fact of his murder of Pat, as he spoke to Brita: ("The things that go through one's head. Suddenly I thought, I hope no one shouts, 'Die again' 'cause I couldn't have....The things that go through one's head....It doesn't feel bad now. Peaceful, really. It's in my mind I feel bad. Pat. That unfortunate Pat. I'll apologize to her up there. Or down there. Yeah, down there. You bet. Bill?...Look out for the papers. Don't let 'em say I was a bad actor, huh? Brita...Brita, Brita, you...")

Anthony John's Soliloquy

Crazed Delirium

300th Performance of Othello

Near-Death On-Stage Strangulation of Brita

Anthony John Miffed by Brita


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