GEORGE CUKOR FOR A DOUBLE LIFE (1947)
The competition (Cliff: 5 for 5!)
Elia Kazan for Gentleman’s Agreement
Edward Dmytryk for Crossfire
Henry Koster for The Bishop’s Wife
David Lean for Great Expectations
NOTE: dark blue text denotes individuals who won Oscars for the film being discussed, while light blue indicates those who were nominated.
We’re back on the Shakespearean stage again with George Cukor’s A Double Life, where an actor once more wrestles with the willpower of the character he has summoned. While Peter Yates’ The Dresser places us outside the head of the thespian who may or may not have disappeared into the madness of King Lear, Cukor burrows straight into the fevered mind of a man haunted by Othello’s jealous spirit. Curiously, both films make use of the Moor’s final scene, though in The Dresser it serves mostly as a vehicle to establish Sir’s domineering ego. A Double Life, meanwhile, structures the film around the interior paranoia of the tragedy’s second half, as the aging thespian Anthony John performs the scene on the stage as he draws inexorably toward enacting it in his own life. The film, only three years after Cukor’s taut thriller Gaslight, is a strange mixture of jagged noir aesthetics and Hitchcockian psychodrama in equal measures. The film’s uneven success is the result of the clash between of these respectively expressionist and explicit strands of 1940s Hollywood filmmaking.