Dead Ringer (1964 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paul Henreid|
|Produced by||William H. Wright|
|Based on||La Otra aka Dead Pigeon|
|Music by||André Previn|
|Edited by||Folmar Blangsted|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
Dead Ringer, also known as Who is Buried in my Grave? is a 1964 thriller film made by Warner Bros. It was directed by Paul Henreid from a screenplay by Oscar Millard and Albert Beich from the story La Otra by Rian James. The music score was by André Previn and the cinematography by Ernest Haller. The film stars Bette Davis, Karl Malden and Peter Lawford with Philip Carey, Jean Hagen, George Macready, Estelle Winwood, George Chandler and Cyril Delevanti.
At the funeral of her husband Frank, wealthy widow Margaret DeLorca (Bette Davis), meets up with her identical twin sister, dowdy and downbeat Edith Phillips (also played by Davis), from whom she has been estranged for 18 years. The two return to DeLorca's opulent mansion, where they argue about their falling out over Margaret's marriage to DeLorca, who originally courted Edith but had an affair with Margaret. Margaret had forced Frank to marry her by telling him she was pregnant with his child. However, Edith finds out from Margaret's chauffeur (George Chandler) that the couple were childless, and becomes resentful, realising how Margaret had trapped Frank into marriage. While Margaret now enjoys a life of ease and wealth, Edith is struggling financially; her business, a cocktail lounge, is losing money and she is threatened with eviction for not paying her bills.
Later the same day, which is also the sisters' birthday, Edith rings Margaret and orders her to come over. Earlier in the evening, Edith had seen her boyfriend, police sergeant Jim Hobson (Karl Malden), when he gave her an expensive wrist watch as a birthday present, but was hurt and puzzled because she didn't want to spend the evening with him. She had hurried him away in order to make preparations before Margaret's arrival, particularly altering her hairdo to the bob and bangs style Margaret has. When Margaret arrives, she admits there never really was a pregnancy, and Edith shoots her in the head. Jim, feeling uneasy, comes back just after the murder but hears what he assumes is the two sisters singing and joking together, and doesn't go up the stairs to check. What he has actually heard is Edith, aware of Jim's presence, pretending to talk to her sister as she exchanges their clothes and jewellery and sets the corpse up to look like a suicide. She has a pang of regret at having to take off the watch Jim gave her in order to put it on Margaret's wrist - not only is she having to part with his gift, but it signifies that her old life and everything in it, including Jim, is finished. She then returns to the DeLorca mansion and assumes Margaret's identity, but while superficially she appears to look, talk and act like Margaret, the staff notice differences, such as the house's Great Dane hating Margaret but taking to Edith immediately, and the fact that Edith, unlike Margaret, is a smoker. The maid (Paul Henried's daughter Monika in a small role) is puzzled when her mistress chooses not to put her very valuable jewellery in the safe, not realising of course that Edith has no idea what the combination is. Eventually, because of her failure to imitate her sister's signature, required for papers pertaining to Frank's estate, Edith is forced to purposely burn her hand on a poker she has heated in the fire, in order to have a plausible excuse not to sign her name with her right hand.
Meanwhile, Jim visits "Margaret" several times, asking questions about the death of Edith, whom he loved. Edith is troubled about having to lie to Jim, who keeps commenting on the remarkable likeness between the sisters. She tries to offer him the wrist watch as a keepsake, a gesture Jim recoils from; it feels to him that "Margaret" is unaware of the significance of the watch, and it painfully reminds him of the birthday evening which was the last time, as far as he is concerned, that he ever saw Edith alive.
Edith's scheme runs into unforseen trouble when she discovers that Margaret had had a lover, Tony, (Peter Lawford), a louche would-be playboy who unexpectedly turns up and very quickly sees through her charade. Tony blackmails Edith over the killing of Margaret, and receives very expensive jewellery as payment. Edith then learns that Margaret and Tony had conspired to murder Frank by poisoning him with arsenic. Tony and Edith quarrel; when he threatens her, Margaret's Great Dane attacks and kills him.
Jim has become suspicious about DeLorca's death and leads an investigation in which the police eventually exhume Frank's body and find traces of arsenic. When Jim arrives to arrest her, Edith confesses her true identity. Jim is repulsed and does not believe her, telling her "Edith would never hurt a fly." Henry, the faithful butler, is revealed to have known what was happening all along when he quietly asks what Edith would like him to say to the police, and she is touched and grateful that she has had a friend all through the deception, who even now is prepared to stand by her.
Edith, as Margaret, is tried, found guilty of murder, and sentenced to death. Aware that she has indeed committed murder, although not the one she is being accused of, Edith submits to justice. As she is taken away from the courthouse, a troubled Jim approaches her and asks if she really is Edith. Because she loves him and wants to spare him any more doubt, or grief over losing her a second time, she enigmatically reminds him that "Edith would never hurt a fly", and departs.
The film takes place in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. The interior scenes took place inside and outside the grounds of the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. The bar scene took place at the corner of Temple and Figueroa in downtown Los Angeles. The burial scene took place inside the Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.
The jazz combo in Edie's Bar was composed of electronic organist Perry Lee Blackwell and drummer Kenny Dennis, both noted musicians, but uncredited in the film. Blackwell can also be seen as a lounge singer at the piano in the 1959 romantic comedy Pillow Talk, starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. She encourages Miss Day to take over the lead vocal in the comic singalong ditty "Roly Poly" and then mischievously starts to sing "You Lied" in a knowing way to Rock Hudson, whose deception central to the plot she has just overheard.
This was the final film of cinematographer Ernest Haller. The trick process shots in A Stolen Life were created by him, and he would improve upon the process here. Makeup artist Gene Hibbs was also hired due to his unique talent for making older actresses look younger through a "painting" technique.
The film was directed by the actor Paul Henried, Davis' co-star in the 1942 romantic drama Now Voyager.
The plot of Dead Ringer had already been made into a Mexican film in 1946 as La Otra, directed by Roberto Gavaldón and starring Dolores del Río. Dead Ringer itself was remade in 1986 as Killer in the Mirror, a made-for-television movie starring Ann Jillian.
- Mcgue, Kevin (October 14, 2010). "Dead Ringer Movie Review". A Life At The Movies.