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Dead Ringer (1964, Bette Davis, Karl Malden)



Flush from her success in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Bette Davis plays identical twins caught up in a deadly drama of jealousy and greed. After 18 years of separation, poor, sweat-natured Edith and rich bitch sister Margaret meet up at the funeral of the latter’s wealthy husband, Frank de Lorca. Both women had loved Frank, and when Edie discovers that Maggie lied about being pregnant in order to get him up the aisle, she’s enraged. She shoots Margaret, dresses the body up as herself, scribbles a suicide note and assumes her twin’s identity.

Edith’s barely had time to enjoy the sumptuous trappings of her new life when her murderous scam goes severely pear-shaped with the arrival of Margaret’s toy-boy, Tony (Peter Lawford). It turns out that Tony and Margaret killed Frank themselves, and now Edith finds herself under suspicion of his murder. Worse still, the detective in charge of the investigation is her old boyfriend, Jim (Karl Malden).

‘Dead Ringer is an absurd film that is compulsively viewable,’ wrote Alexander Walker in the Evening Standard. ‘Not just because it offers two Bettes for the price of one…(but also) because it puts its foot hard down on the pedal marked ‘melodrama’, damns the improbabilities and roars through to a head-on finish that has you whooping at the splendid nonsense of it all.’

Extravagantly directed by her leading man from Now Voyager , Paul Henreid, and accompanied by Andre Previn’s creepy score, Miss Davis hams it up a bug-eyed storm as only she could.

production details
USA | 115 minutes | 1964

Director: Paul Henreid
Writers: Albert Beich/ Oscar Millard (from story by Rian James)

Bette Davis as Margaret DeLorca / Edith Phillips
Karl Malden as Sergeant Jim Hobbson
Peter Lawford as Tony Collins
Philip Carey as Sergeant Hoag
Jean Hagen as Dede Marshall
George Macready as Paul Harrison
Estelle Winwood as Dona Anna
George Chandler as George, Chauffeur
Mario Alcalde as Garcia
Cyril Delevanti as Henry, the Butler
Monika Henreid as Janet
Bert Remsen as Daniel ‘Dan’ Lister, Bartender
Charles Watts as Apartment Manager
Ken Lynch as Captain Johnson
Jon Lormer as Alonzo
Perry Blackwell as Organist at Edie’s Bar
Charles Meredith as Defense Attorney
Bryan O’Byrne as Beemis
Leoda Richards as Party Guest