Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920 Haydon film)

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde window card.jpg
Window card
Directed byJ. Charles Haydon
Written byJ. Charles Haydon
Based onStrange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Produced byLouis Meyer[1]
StarringSheldon Lewis
Release date
  • April 1920 (1920-04)
Running time
40 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguagesSilent film
English intertitles

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a 1920 horror film directed and written by J. Charles Haydon, starring Sheldon Lewis, based on the 1886 novel Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. The Sheldon Lewis version was somewhat overshadowed by the 1920 Paramount Pictures version starring John Barrymore, which had been released just the month before.[2]


The atheistic Dr. Henry Jekyll (Lewis) embarks on a series of experiments determined to segregate the two sides of the human personality, good and evil, in an attempt to disprove the existence of God. His experiments cause his fiancée Bernice to call off their engagement, and in a rage, he manages to unleash the darkest part of his personality as Mr. Hyde. As the first transformation into Hyde begins, Jekyll's butler exclaims that Jekyll is now "the Apostle from Hell!" Hyde, complete with fangs and scraggy hair, skulks through the city committing such heinous acts as stealing a woman's purse and killing people. The police eventually catch up with Hyde, interrogate him, put him in jail and strap him into the electric chair. Sitting in his chair at home, Jekyll awakes violently from his nightmare to declare, "I believe in God! I have a soul..." and decides not to create the chemical potion and to instead embrace religion.



Sheldon Lewis went on to star in only one other horror film, Seven Footprints to Satan (1929), then his career wound down in 1936.[2] Actress Gladys Field died in August 1920 in childbirth, a few weeks after the release of the picture.

There were three different adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde released in 1920.[3] The first being the John Barrymore Paramount version, the second was the Sheldon Lewis film, and the third was Der Januskopf, a German film directed by F. W. Murnau.[2] The film's producer, Louis Meyer (*not to be confused with Louis B. Mayer), was concerned about copyright infringement relating to the other two film versions of the story released that same year so he set the film in New York and altered the plot structure, although he may have also done it also for budgetary reasons. Contemporary newspaper accounts state this film went into production before the John Barrymore Paramount version, but the Paramount film was released first.[2]

Technically, a fourth Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde film was also released in 1920, although most reference sources ignore it. It was a satirical send-up of the John Barrymore film, produced by Hank Mann Comedies and distributed by Arrow just weeks before the company went out of business. Hank Mann played both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the film. It is considered a lost film and there is little information available about it.[4]


Reviewer Troy Howarth commented "The script allows the character (of Dr. Jekyll) more background detail....but Lewis fails to bring him to life.The makeup is low key; some false teeth, matted hair and a cocked hat.....his frantic overacting makes the character unintentionally humorous....it's hard to believe even audiences of the period would've found him credibly sinister. The film was clearly made on the cheap and rushed through production.[2]" The final product was in fact so crude that director J. Charles Haydon had his name removed from the credits.[3]


Sheldon Lewis returned once again in 1929 to play Dr. Jekyll in an early one-reel sound film short.[5]


  1. ^ Louis Meyer(1868-1945), IMDb, not to be confused with Louis B. Mayer who at this time was an independent producer releasing his films through Metro Pictures or First National Retrieved July 3, 2018
  2. ^ a b c d e Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era. Midnight Marquee Press. p. 217. ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.
  3. ^ a b Hardy 1995, p. 27.
  4. ^ Workman, Christopher; Howarth, Troy (2016). "Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the Silent Era". Midnight Marquee Press. p. 218.ISBN 978-1936168-68-2.
  5. ^ Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, 1929 at silentera.com, a one reel sound short starring Sheldon Lewis

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