Greetings again from the darkness. Husbands were surely disliked in the 1940’s, at least by writers and filmmakers. There is no shortage of films depicting the villainous husband targeting the unsuspecting and defenseless wife. Too many to list here, but a couple years prior to this one we had Suspicion, and a couple years after, we had Notorious. The latter also features Ingrid Bergman who won her first Oscar for Gaslight, one of the more atmospheric of the psychological noir-thrillers.
Based on the Patrick Hamilton play, this one features terrific lead performances by Ms. Bergman and Charles Boyer, a role quite against type for France’s romantic leading man. Joseph Cotten delivers a solid (and nice) supporting role as the interested and inquisitive Scotland Yard detective, and making her screen debut is an 18 year old Angela Lansbury (yes this movie is now 70 years old).
Mr. Boyer is quite convincing and creepy as the despicable husband out to persuade his bride that she is slipping into insanity. The psychological abuse is painful to watch, and the art/set direction provides such perfect decor that we share the claustrophobia and entrapment with Bergman’s Paula. This audience connection allows for a most effective comeuppance or revenge scene that is simply delicious.
There was actually a mostly unsuccessful UK film version in 1940, but it doesn’t stand up to this expert production from director George Cukor. Mr. Cukor is the legendary director behind such classics as Little Women, The Philadelphia Story, and My Fair Lady. Gaslight received 7 Oscar nominations and in addition to Ms. Bergman’s win, it also took home the statue for Best Art Direction. The film, Cukor and Boyer all lost out to that year’s big winner Going My Way (Bing Crosby, Leo McCarey). Not many films have a psychology term named after them … here’s hoping you are never a victim of “gaslighting”.
**NOTE: the beautifully unique brass bed in the film is also featured as Judy Garland’s bed in the classic Meet Me in St. Louis
watch the trailer: