With the passing of Olivia de Havilland, perhaps the last remaining Big Star of the Golden Age of Hollywood bar the always-younger-than-I-remember Sidney Poitier, I felt obligated to check out one of her most well-known films as a toast to an era that has all but moved on now. But not Gone with the Wind, because fuck that.
Instead, I chose one that encapsulated the 1940s in many ways – The Dark Mirror, Hollywood’s attempt at cashing in on the in-vogue obsession with psychiatry, tying it in to a noir murder mystery with unbearably stuffy Britishness shadowing it. It also features an early attempt at figuring out what gaslighting is! The Dark Mirror stars Ms. de Havilland in a dual role as Ruth and Terry – undoubtedly sexy names at the time – where the chief mystery is ‘which sister is unbalanced, and which sister is sweet and virginal? Also, who was the murderer?’ You’ll be utterly shocked which sister is the villain in this one, entirely unpredictable, totally beyond perception.
While its overwhelmingly ‘40s cultural trappings make it a bit of a laugh these days, I was genuinely impressed by the cinematography required in making the viewer believe that These Twins Were Really There, No Kidding! If it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the movie, no no, that’s not it. It was fun! It was also just a reminder of how things have changed since de Havilland’s prime.