“I've gotten so I'm afraid to turn around for fear of what will happen next.”
Dead Ringer was the first time I have seen Bette Davis in a film outside the Golden Age of Hollywood. This is also the first time I have ever seen her in one of her later creepy roles. Here role here is made even creepier because she plays twins with totally different personalities. The plot is unbelievable and crazy but I had a good time sitting through it.
Edith Phillips (Davis) attends the funeral of her brother-in-law Frank DeLorca. She has not seen her twin sister Margaret in years. Margaret sees Edith and invites her sister back to her house. Once the sisters get to talking we find out that Margaret stole Frank away from Edith by claiming she was pregnant. Edith never forgave her sister and was even more upset over the fact that there never was any baby her sister just flat out stole the man she truly loved from her.
Edith goes back to her place above a bar that she owns. The owner of the building says she has until the following week to move out because she is very late on the rent. Her friend Jim Hobbson, a local cop, stops by for a few minutes. He really likes Edith it is noticeable on his face and the way he is made comfortable in the home. Jim sees that Edith is a little shaken up when she asks him to take her out anywhere that night just to get out.
When Jim leaves Edith calls Margaret to come over, she wants to talk to her. Edith plans to kill her ungrateful sister and take her place in her big house and have all her money. She carefully arranges her apartment and fixes her hair to look like Margaret’s. She even hides a gun in a drawer besides a chair. When Margaret comes over Edith has her sit in the chair by the drawer where the gun is. Edith pulls the gun out and kills her sister.
Things go pretty well for Edith as Margaret for a while. But after a while Jim starts pocking around investigating “Edith’s” death and Margaret’s lover Tony Collins (Peter Lawford) comes into the picture. Tony knows something is off about his lover when he notices her smoking which Margaret had quit and the dog all the sudden liking her. He tells her he knows her secret and begins to blackmail her. Jim has Tony looked into and they find that he had purchased arsenic. He concludes that arsenic has the same symptoms of a heart attack and has Frank’s body dug up.
In the end Edith gets a kind of payback from her Margaret for killing her.
I am not a huge fan of Bette Davis, I like her but I am not like a huge fan I can usually take or leave her films. I have to say though after sitting through this film I think I like Davis better in her later films! I have read that Davis was a bit of a bitch and it seems that with her later roles that side of her was able to come out! She definitely played the bitchiness very well here. Davis did a good job of playing the twins with the different personalities at the beginning.
Now the whole reason I even wanted to sit through this film was because Jean Hagen is in it. Anyone who does not recognize her name ought to be ashamed of themselves because Hagen played the absolutely fabulous and completely hysterical Lena Lamont in Singin in the Rain. She was only in like two or three scenes but I love seeing her in anything no matter how long her screen time is. Her character Dede Marshall is shallow and a very fast talker. If you have never seen Jean Hagen outside of Lena Lamont you may not even recognize her at all because the woman did not have blonde hair nor did she have a squeaky high pitched voice.
Peter Lawford in his short scenes was a creep. The guy fit the part perfectly because he did look like a slimeball who just looked out for themselves.
Paul Henreid, who I have only ever seen act in Casablanca and Devotion, directed the film. He did a fantastic job in creating a suspenseful atmosphere and got some great shots. Henreid gave the film a Noir look and feel which added greatly to the unbelievable plot.
Dead Ringer has an unbelievable plot but a critic at the time perfectly said that the film is farfetched but fun. I liked how if Margaret had lived her whole plan most likely would have worked her husband’s death would have just stayed at natural causes but because Edith was upset and killed her and Jim got involved everything fell apart. It was interesting to see how Edith’s/Margaret’s life unraveled the way it did.