Dead Ringer, is a 1964 thriller film made by Warner Bros. It was directed by Paul Henreid from a screenplay by Oscar Millard and Albert Beich and stars Bette Davis as twin sisters, Margaret de Lorca and Edith Philips.
After a separation of 18 years, Edith Philips meets her twin, Margaret de Lorca, at the funeral of the Margaret’s husband, whom Edith also loved. When Edith learns that Margaret had tricked the man into marriage by saying she was pregnant, she becomes so filled with hatred that she lures Margaret to her apartment, signs her own name to a suicide note, and then shoots her sister.
After changing clothes with the corpse, she moves into the de Lorca mansion and begins living her sister’s life. The masquerade works until she meets Tony Collins, Margaret’s secret lover, played by Peter Lawford. When he learns of the deception and threatens to blackmail her, Edith realizes that he and Margaret conspired to murder de Lorca. A fight ensues, and Tony is killed by the family’s Great Dane.
The police become suspicious and exhume the body of the dead husband. Arsenic is found, and Edith is arrested for murder. Although she tries to convince her former suitor, Sgt. Jim Hobbson, played by Karl Malden, that she is really Edith, he refuses to believe her story, and she is sentenced to the gas chamber.
Henreid said of his experience as his former co-star’s director, “I understood her temperament and her peculiar gifts…I knew what she thought was effective for her.” He continued: “Bette had to go through extensive makeup. There was a lot of face lifting and that sort of thing. But she was a pro. She was always ready. Of all the actors I’ve ever worked with, Bette was the most professional. I’m talking about acting ability, being on time, cooperating, her attitude, the whole nine yards. Totally professional” (Spada, 1993: 524).
If you love Bette Davis, you need to see this movie.
Spada, James (1993). BETTE DAVIS: More Than a Woman. New York: Time Warner.