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The Man with Two Faces is a 1934 crime film directed by Archie Mayo.

Damon Wells (Edward G. Robinson) and his sister Jessica (Mary Astor), are both stage performers, starring together in a play called The Dark Tower (no, not that one). Damon doesn't particularly like acting even though it's his career, and has come out of retirement only to support Jessica's comeback. It seems that some time ago she entered into a disastrous marriage with a criminal named Stanley Vance (Louis Calhern). After Vance was murdered by fellow hoodlums, Jessica suffered a nervous breakdown, and it has taken three years for her to recuperate well enough to mount a comeback.

Well, guess who isn't really dead.

The return of Stanley Vance immediately causes Jessica to fall into a zombie-like trance in which she robotically obeys Vance's commands but remains catatonic to everyone else. Damon once again faces the loss of his sister, as well as the loss of Jessica's 50% of the play. He takes drastic action.

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Mae Clarke appears as Daphne, another actor in the play and apparently Damon's sex partner.


Tropes:

  • Asshole Victim: Stanley Vance is an evil man. Not only has he hypnotized multiple women into giving him their money (he did it to another woman, and served five years in prison, before victimizing Jessica), it turns out that he murdered his first wife for her money.
  • As You Know: Jessica's mom feels the need to identify Jessica's late husband as "that husband of hers, Stanley Vance" to Jessica's new boyfriend Ben, who knows the whole story.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: While still in disguise as Chautard, Damon sees his picture on Ben's wall and says that Damon Wells is the best actor in the world. When a distracted Ben says only that Damon is "pretty good", a peeved Damon rips off the disguise and reveals himself.
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  • Chekhov's Gun: Damon tells Ben that "Mr. Chautard", or at least the makeup and costume, is based on a character he played in summer stock years ago. It turns out that Landau the detective saw that play, which is how he puts two and two together.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Barry Jones the playwright is embarrassed to reveal that his first name is actually "Horace".
  • Establishing Character Moment: In his first scene Damon is flinging his shoe at Barry the playwright while complaining about how dumb "The Dark Tower" is. Damon may love his sister, but he's definitely a Jerkass.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Newspaper boys hawking papers reporting the murder of Stanley Vance by the mysterious Mr. Chautard.
  • Fighting from the Inside: At one point where a hypno'd Jessica is talking to Ben, she snaps out of the trance, calling him "Ben, darling" as her face comes alive. But somehow Stanley's control reasserts itself as she turns away and says "No, I mustn't" in her former dazed tone.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: Jessica is apparently quite a Large Ham as an actress, considering how she milks the giant cow while delivering the line "I'm going to pull this house down over your head!" from the play.
  • Ominous Fog: It's suddenly foggy outside when Stanley Vance makes his unexpected return to the Wells mansion.
  • Plot Hole: Damon, and Landau the detective, both act at the end like Landau's got him dead to rights and the only thing that will save him is making a good impression on the jury. But all Landau has as evidence is 1) the knowledge that years ago Damon once played a character who looked just like "Chautard", and 2) the stage mustache found in Vance's room. He has no actual evidence linking Damon to the crime: no witnesses, no fingerprints, no way to tie the mustache to Damon, nothing. But instead of throwing a Proof Dare in Landau's face, Damon acts like the game is up.
  • Psychic Link: Apparently one exists between Jessica and Stanley. Jessica, riding in a cab, snaps out of her fugue state at the moment of Stanley's death back in the hotel.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Stanley smirks at those news stories about him getting shot to death in San Francisco, saying "Maybe the wish was father to the thought."
  • The Show Must Go On: Landau, having revealed to Damon that the jig is up, agrees to wait to make the arrest until Damon gets someone else ready to play the part.
  • The Svengali: It's not clear just what Stanley has done to Jessica to put her under his control. Hypnosis is mentioned and Stanley is said to have hypnotized and controlled another rich lady. But there also seems to be some sort of Psychic Link between them beyond hypnosis, as shown by how Jessica snaps out of her trance state at the moment that Stanley dies, even though she is somewhere else and doesn't know he's dead.
  • Unusual Pets for Unusual People: Just to make him a little more creepy, Stanley keeps pet mice in a cage. The maid gleefully feeds them poison after Stanley is murdered.
  • Video Credits: Of all the main players at the start of the film, as was Warner Brothers house style of the era.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Vitriolic sex partners, apparently. Damon and Daphne are boyfriend and girlfriend but he insults her constantly, and she usually addresses him with scorn and derision.
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