review for A Double Life on AllMovie

A Double Life (1947)
by Craig Butler review

Originally written for Laurence Olivier, A Double Life ultimately served as the vehicle which brought Ronald Colman his only Oscar. It's certainly a worthy performance, although some might carp that Colman goes for "showy" effects when subtler choices might prove more effective. Nonetheless, he does take hold of the screen and never let it go, delivering an energetic and enthralling performance that is essential to making the film work. The encroaching madness, the frenzy, the fight for sanity are all portrayed in an electrifying manner; Colman makes this man both monstrous and appealing. Of course, he's working from a well-structured script by Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon that is filled with the kind of scenes and dialogue that an actor kills for. And director George Cukor provides invaluable support, showcasing his star in the most favorable manner. Cukor also makes extensive use of mirrors throughout, an appropriate metaphor, and his visual flair really comes into play as Colman sinks further into madness. His evocative use of sound and music throughout also helps to intensify the race away from sanity. In addition, the director pulls an affecting and vulnerable performance from Shelley Winters, who plays very well off of Colman. If A Double Life's melodramatic heights are a little artificial for modern audiences, it still packs a sizable wallop.