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This article is about the 1944 film Gaslight. For the 1940 release, see Gaslight.
Gaslight
Directed by George Cukor
Produced by Arthur Hornblow Jr.
Written by Patrick Hamilton (play)
John Van Druten
Walter Reisch
John L. Balderston
Starring Charles Boyer
Ingrid Bergman
Joseph Cotten
Dame May Whitty
Angela Lansbury
Music by Bronislau Kaper
Cinematography Joseph Ruttenberg
Editing by Ralph E. Winters
Distributed by MGM
Release date(s) May 4, 1944 (U.S. release)
Running time 114 min.
Language English

Gaslight is a 1944 mystery-thriller film adapted from Patrick Hamilton's play performed as Angel Street on Broadway in 1941. It was the second version to be filmed; the first, released in Great Britain, had been made a mere four years earlier. This 1944 version of the story was directed by George Cukor and starred Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, and eighteen-year-old Angela Lansbury in her screen debut. This remake had a larger scale and budget and lends a different feel to the material.

Contents

Plot

The film opens just after world-famous opera singer Alice Alquist has been murdered. The perpetrator bolted, without the jewels he sought, after being interrupted by Paula (Bergman), Alice's niece, who was raised by her aunt following her mother's death.

Paula is sent to Italy so that she can train to be an opera star, with the same teacher who once trained Alice. She studies with him for years, all the while trying to forget that terrible night at Number 9 on Thornton Square in London.

Paula meets Gregory Anton (Boyer) and soon falls in love with him. She eventually ends her long tutelage to marry him. He persuades her they should live in the long-vacant London townhouse her aunt bequeathed her and, to help calm her anxieties, suggests they store all of Alice's furnishings away in the attic. Before they do, Paula discovers a letter addressed to her aunt by a man named Sergius Bauer, dated only two days before the murder, tucked away in a music book. Gregory's reaction is swift and violent, but he quickly composes himself, explaining his outburst as one of frustration at the bad memories his bride is experiencing.

After Alice's things are packed away in the attic and the door blocked, things take a turn for the bizarre. At the Tower of London, Paula loses a brooch that Gregory had given her, despite its having been stored safely in her handbag. Pictures disappear from the walls of the house, footsteps are heard in the sealed attic, and the gaslights dim and brighten for no apparent reason. Gregory insinuates that Paula is responsible, but she professes no recollection of doing such things.

Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight. She has discovered a letter.

Gregory does everything in his power to isolate his wife from other people, allowing her neither to go out nor have visitors. On the one occasion when he does take her out to a musical gathering at a friend's house, he shows Paula his watch chain, from which his watch has mysteriously disappeared. When he finds it in her handbag, she becomes hysterical, and Gregory takes her home.

The young maid, Nancy (Angela Lansbury) does little to improve the situation. Whenever she shows up, her face betrays a feeling of disdain; Paula becomes convinced that Nancy loathes her. Unknown to Paula, Gregory is in fact Sergius Bauer, her aunt's murderer. He sought out Paula in Italy, managed to win her heart, married her, and suggested they live in London, all so he could get back into the house to continue searching for Alice's jewels. He has been secretly rummaging through Alice's belongings in the attic to find the jewels he is certain are there, but so well hidden he has been unable to find them. He does everything in his power to convince his wife she is going mad, so he can have her certified insane and institutionalized, after which he can search without impediment.

The plan almost works. Paula is saved by a chance encounter with a stranger at the Tower of London. He turns out to be Inspector Brian Cameron of Scotland Yard (Cotten), an admirer of Alice Alquist since his childhood. By enlisting the support of the housekeeper Elizabeth (Barbara Everest) (who suspects her master is at the root of all the odd events) and a neighborhood busybody (Dame May Whitty), Cameron is able to delve into the long-cold case. The dramatic conclusion comes as he moves in to arrest Gregory on the evening that the latter at last discovers the jewels that he has sought for so long.

The dénouement partly involves Paula indulging herself in a bit of revenge, psychologically torturing Gregory after he's been bound to a chair, tantalizing him with the suggestion that she might free him so he can escape arrest, trial, and execution.

Cast

Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in the final confrontation.

Gaslight as expression

From the film's title, "gaslighting" acquired the meaning of ruthlessly manipulating an individual, for nefarious reasons, into believing something other than the truth.

Awards and nominations

At the 1944 Academy Awards, the film was nominated for seven Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actress for Ingrid Bergman, Best Actor for Charles Boyer, Best Supporting Actress for Angela Lansbury, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction (black and white) (Cedric Gibbons, William Ferrari, Edwin B. Willis, Paul Huldschinsky), and Best Cinematography (black and white), winning for actress and art direction.[1]

Adaptations to Other Media

Gaslight was dramatized as a half-hour radio play on the February 3, 1947 broadcast of The Screen Guild Theater, starring Charles Boyer and Susan Hayward.

References

External links

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