The Dark Mirror
1946 Directed by Robert Soidmak
Olivia de Havilland, the first evil twin in The Dark Mirror?
Olivia de Havilland. Forever embedded in our collective mind as the blindingly loyal, doe-eyed Melanie Wilkes– future role model for wronged political wives worldwide–seemed destined to play the dull damsel forever.
Determined to show that she could play an Oscar-worthy bitch, in 1943 Olivia began turning down all the sniveling parts she was offered until she was suspended. She sued and won. (You must read all the details elsewhere, The de Havilland Law is a landmark case).
Free at last from the clutches of the studio, Olivia set out to redeem her spotless image. No more suffering victorian virgins, medieval maidens or western spinsters. Bring on the murderers, kooks and one-eyed pirate wenches!
The Evil Twin Essentials
In 1946 Oliva got her chance. In The Dark Mirror, Oliva got to play EVIL TWINS. Sure there were a few twin flicks before this, but who cares. They don’t count because they didn’t create the FORMULA for the all EVIL TWIN movies made ever since 1946. Kind of an “Evil Twins Essentials”. As with the werewolf“essentials” a Soidmak brother was involved:
1. One twin is good, the other is diabolically smart and Insane. No one will break this film and Television twin convention, other than to mock it intentionally via South Park or unintentionally via Night Rider.
2. The good and evil twins are clearly marked via clothing, jewelry, etc. so the viewer can tell them apart. In The Dark Mirror the good twin wears white and the bad twin wears black. And, if you still don’t get it, each twin wears big Gansta style jewelry (no shit) with 2 inch long letters spelling their names, Ruth and Terry, hanging off their necks. Oddly enough, even with these obvious clues “Twin Expert” Lew Ayres still can’t tell them apart. Maybe a goatee would have helped.
3. Histrionics. Since the evil twin is always motivated by jealousy, greed and dreams of sexual/world domination, overacting is an essential ingredient. Something/someone must always be thrown, shot or hacked. Hence the Oscar nod.
4. Split screen. Prior to The Dark Mirror, the split screen effect was only used a few times. But for the next 60 years it has been a staple in twin movies from both Parent trap flicks all the way up to the Winklevoss Twins in The Social Network.
Back in the olden days it was pretty laborious. In short, it involved shooting the scene twice and splicing the negatives together. Extreme care had to be taken to make sure nothing was altered (timing, lighting, placement of items, movement of the actors, etc.). If anything was slightly off, it looked really crappy. What is so cool is that the effects achieved in the The Dark Mirror are still pretty rocking.
The Spell is Broken
That year Olivia won an Academy Award for To Each his Own. The following year Olivia went on to star as a lunatic in The Snake Pit and received another Academy Award nomination . As a vengefull jilted little rich girl in 1949’s The Heiress she won again. Never again would Olivia play Miss goody-2-shoes. The awards poured in.
In 2008, de Havilland was awarded the United States National Medal of Arts. And last year, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France pinned her with the insignia of the chevalier, or knight, of the Legion of Honor at a ceremony at the presidential palace. She was celebrated for her role as Melanie Wilkes, Fighting Warner Brothers and the serf-like studio contracts, and her Academy Awards.
Very Fine to Near Mint. The Dark Mirror. 1946. Original vintage Half Sheet. Paperbacked. Light restoration. Has been folded at one time. Fold lines are repaired.