top of page
  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

Gaslight (1944) ft. Andrew Corns

Updated: 2 days ago


Guest: Andrew Corns (Host, The Revisionist Almanac - @revalmanac)


Cast:

  • George Cukor, Director

  • John Van Druten, Walter Reisch, John L. Balderston, Writers

  • Bronislaw Kaper, Music

  • Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton/Sergis Bauer

  • Ingrid Bergman as Paula Alquist Anton

  • Terry Moore as 14-year-old Paula (uncredited)

  • Joseph Cotten as Brian Cameron

  • May Whitty as Miss Bessie Thwaites

  • Angela Lansbury as Nancy Oliver, in her first film role

  • Barbara Everest as Elizabeth Tompkins

  • Emil Rameau as Maestro Guardi

  • Heather Thatcher as Lady Mildred Dalroy


*Recognition:

  • Gaslight was originally released on May 4, 1944; meaning it celebrated its 80th anniversary last week.

  • A remake of the British film from 1940 and the stage play, Gaslight, on a budget of roughly $2 million would gross over $4.5 million during its run which would have put it behind only Going My Way and Meet Me in St. Louis for that year.

  • Generally well received by critics of the time, Gaslight would be nominated for 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Actor (Charles Boyer), Supporting Actress (Lansbury), Screenplay, and Cinematography, Black and White, and winning for Actress (Bergman) and Art Direction, Black and White.

  • The film has since been recognized as a classic earning it's place at #78 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills.

  • Gaslighting, a colloquialism, loosely defined as manipulating someone into questioning their own perception of reality, has become a recognized form of controlling and manipulative behavior. It involves an exploitative person manipulating people who suspect him or her into doubting themselves and questioning their own perceptions so that they distrust their own suspicions of the manipulator. By the 2020s, this behavior would be classified as a form of psychological abuse.

  • Gaslight currently holds an 89% among critics on RT, a 78 score on Metacritic, and a 4/5 on Letterboxd.


What is this movie about?/Elevator Pitch: A psychological thriller whereby you come to question your own reality.


Plot Summary: "Gaslight" is a gripping psychological thriller that delves into the dark depths of manipulation and deception. Set in Victorian London, the film follows the newlywed Paula as she moves into her ancestral home. However, as strange occurrences begin to unfold and Paula's sanity is called into question, the true horror emerges: her husband's insidious gaslighting tactics to convince her she's losing her mind. In a spellbinding performance, Ingrid Bergman captures Paula's descent into fear and doubt, while Charles Boyer masterfully portrays the sinister husband. With its haunting atmosphere and expertly crafted suspense, "Gaslight" remains a timeless classic that leaves audiences on the edge of their seats.


Did You Know:

  • When this movie was produced, MGM attempted to have all prints of the previous version, Gaslight (1940), destroyed. These efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, though the movie was rarely seen for the next few decades. Most of the prints of Gaslight (1940) which survived MGM's attempted eradication did so because they had been mistakenly labelled "Angel Street", the title of the movie's 1938 stage production.

  • Director George Cukor suggested that Ingrid Bergman study the patients at a mental hospital to learn about nervous breakdowns. She did, focusing on one woman in particular, whose habits and physical quirks became part of the character.

  • The scene in which Dame Angela Lansbury lights a cigarette in contradiction to Ingrid Bergman's wishes had to be postponed until toward the end of production. Lansbury was only seventeen when filming began, and because she was a minor, she had to be monitored by a social worker who refused to allow Lansbury to smoke, and the scene had to be postponed until her eighteenth birthday. When Lansbury walked on set on her birthday, Bergman and the crew had organized a party for her, and the cigarette scene was shot immediately after they celebrated her birthday.

  • Director George Cukor asked producers to hire Paul Huldschinsky to help design the intricate Victorian sets. Huldschinsky was a German refugee who had fled his native country because of the war. He had been well-acquainted with upper-class European decor, because his family had accumulated wealth through their newspaper business and his wife was the heiress of a German railroad fortune. Huldschinsky had lost much of his material wealth when he fled to the United States. However, he had retained his eye for period decoration. He was working on rather routine, uncredited set dressings when Cukor tagged him for work on this movie. The producers pushed for a more well-known and established set designer, but Cukor stuck with Huldschinsky. The gamble paid off, as Huldschinsky's set designs won an Academy Award.

  • Ingrid Bergman found the beginning love scene with Charles Boyer so uncomfortable, because the two had just met prior to filming the scene, that she refused to do any other such love scene with someone she had just met for the rest of her career. When a similar situation arose with Anthony Perkins while she was filming Goodbye Again (1961), she asked Perkins to kiss her privately in her dressing room to prepare for the scene, so she would not be embarrassed and flustered while kissing him on screen.

  • Director George Cukor employed a storytelling method in order to get Ingrid Bergman in the right mindset as filming progressed. Each day, Cukor would recount the entire plot of the movie to Bergman up to the point of the scenes they were set to film that day. Cukor felt the method was necessary, because the movie was not shot sequentially, and Bergman's character was supposed to change over time. Bergman quickly grew frustrated with the technique, and told Cukor "I'm not a dumb Swede, you've told me that before." Cukor ceased the storytelling for a few days until a producer notified Cukor of a sharp decline in acting quality in the daily rushes. The producer told Cukor that the actors and actresses appeared to be "acting as though they're under water." So, Cukor resumed his storytelling method, a practice Bergman soon grew to appreciate.


Best Performance: Ingrid Bergman (Paula)/George Cukor (director)

Best Secondary Performance: Ingrid Bergman (Paula)/Charles Boyer (Gregory)

Most Charismatic Award: Joseph Cotten (Cameron)/Ingrid Bergman (Paula)

Best Scene:

  • Hazy Open

  • Back at #9

  • At the Tower

  • The Painting is Missing

  • At the Dalroys

  • Cameron visits Paula

  • Final Confrontation

Favorite Scene: Cameron visits Paula/The Painting is Missing/At the Tower

Most Indelible Moment: Cameron visits Paula/Final Confrontation


In Memorium:

  • Ian Gelder, 74, British actor (Game of Thrones, His Dark Materials, Doctor Who)

  • Susan Buckner, 72, American actress (Grease, Deadly Blessing, Police Academy 6: City Under Siege)

  • Jeannie Epper, 83, American stuntwoman (Romancing the Stone, Kill Bill: Volume 2, Minority Report, Wonder Woman (TV)) - over 150 film credits

  • Duane Eddy, 86, American Hall of Fame guitarist ("Rebel-'Rouser", "Because They're Young", "Peter Gunn")

  • Brian McCardie, 59, Scottish actor (Rob Roy, The Ghost and the Darkness, Speed 2: Cruise Control)

  • Jan Haag, 90, American filmmaker, artist and writer - founder of the AFI's Directing Workshop for Woman

  • Bernard Hill, 79, English actor (The Lord of the Rings, Titanic, Boys from the Blackstuff)


Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Paula: It isn't here, you must have dreamed you put it there. Are you suggesting that this is a knife I hold in my hand? Have you gone mad, my husband? Or is it I who am mad?


Paula: If I were not mad, I could have helped you. Whatever you had done, I could have pitied and protected you. But because I am mad, I hate you. Because I am mad, I have betrayed you. And because I'm mad, I'm rejoicing in my heart, without a shred of pity, without a shred of regret, watching you go with glory in my heart!


Miss Thwaites: Have a biscuit, dear.

Paula: Thank you.

Miss Thwaites: Digestive biscuits. Unpleasant name, isn't it? I always call them "diggy biscuits."


Gregory: I knew from the first moment I saw you that you were dangerous to me.

Cameron: I knew from the first moment I saw you that you were dangerous to her.


Miss Thwaites: Odd. Definitely odd. It's an odd household, too. That maidservant, most impertinent. I can't get a thing out of her. She won't talk to me; though, she would quick enough if I wore trousers. The way she carries on with that policeman on the beat. It's scandalous!


Paula: This night will be a long night.

Cameron: But it will end. It's starting to clear. In the morning, when the sun rises sometimes it's hard to believe there ever was a night. You'll find that, too.


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 6

Impact/Significance: 8.33

Novelty: 7.17

Classic-ness: 8.17

Rewatchability: 6.67

Audience Score: 8.7 (84% Google, 90% RT)

Total: 45.04


Remaining Questions:

  • Could this be remade in a modern setting? How?

  • Did Elizabeth and Nancy really not notice the strange things going on about the house, or were they ordered to remain silent?

  • What was Gregory's final punishment?

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page