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Dead Ringer (1964)

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In 1942 Bette Davis and Paul Henreid created a stir when Paul lit up a couple of smokes and gave one to Bette. Here we are 22 years later and Bette is still chain smoking on screen but Paul’s career had taken a twist in the intervening years. He moved into directing. Mostly television shows but this time out directs Bette in one of her sixties thrillers.

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The script of this mystery thriller actually plays like an elongated episode of Alfred Hitchcock or the Boris Karloff Thriller series. It’s no surprise that Henried actually directed episodes on both of those popular shows.

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Bette appears here in a dual role of twin sisters who haven’t seen each other in almost twenty years. One is wealthy and newly widowed. The other operates a dive bar and is about to be evicted. Our “poor” Bette suddenly realizes that the “wealthy ” Bette has stolen her life and the man she loved in her youth. With a carefully planned murder that looks like suicide she could make it look like she has killed herself and assume the position of “wealthy” Bette.

Confusing? Not really. Although it might be to Karl Malden’s police officer who has loved “poor” Bette for years and would like nothing better than to retire and marry her.

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With the switch complete and our formerly down and out Bette having moved into the mansion she finds that there are other mysteries awaiting her. It turns out she’ll need to pick up with a lover she had no idea existed. It’s Peter Lawford the golf pro who may not be a total innocent when it comes to the death of “wealthy” Bette’s hubby.

I’ll stop there as all these Bette’s are confusing me as I try to give you the general idea.

You get a trio of good actors here. What’s better than one Bette? Two of course. And no one should ever turn away when Karl Malden shows up. When not playing a villain he always seems to display an honesty that’s hard not to like when he’s on screen. Lawford is Lawford. He’s a cad this time out and brings the right amount of arrogance to his role of an opportunist.

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Bette had of course played twins in the 1946 flick A Stolen Life opposite Glenn Ford. A nice bit of trivia is that the director of photography on that film was Ernest Haller. Here we are years later and he’s doing the same job on this one. Apparently this script had been used in 1946 for a Dolores Del Rio film titled The Other One!

Rounding out our cast is Jean Hagen, Philip Carey as Malden’s partner on the force and long time character actor Bert Remsen shows up as “poor” Bette’s bartender.

Despite it’s television feel here’s another chance to see Bette act the grand dame and deliver her famous cackle all in one film.

4 Comments »

  1. You’ve highlighted all the positives here, and mentioned the negative too – it’s a pretty slight yarn that is strung out too long leaving some sections a bit dull. Taken as a whole though, it’s not bad. The ending is fine and Malden is very impressive.

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