‘Gaslight’ (1944) (Film)

‘GASLIGHT’ (1944)

Please feel free to comment on my review.

The 1944 Film with Paula and Gregory

This is a film adaptation of ‘Gaslight’ that’s very well-known. 🙂

In 1938, the stage play ‘Gas Light’ by Patrick Hamilton was produced. It follows the story of a young woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she’s descending into insanity. I’ve seen two versions of ‘Gas Light’ – the 1944 ‘Gaslight’ movie and the 2017 theatre production. 🙂

I saw the 2017 theatre production at the New Theatre in Cardiff. Beforehand, my parents and I checked out the 1944 film in order to be familiar with the story. It was interesting to see the differences between the 1944 film and the 2017 theatre production that’s based on the original play.

The 1944 film starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten takes a number of deviations from the original stage play. This shouldn’t be a surprise, considering movies are known for taking artistic licence, but it’s a surprise to discover that when learning more about the 1944 film.

Beforehand, a 1940 film of the same name had been produced and has more in common with the original stage play, I believe. The 1944 film’s deviations from the stage play include changes to some of the character names and the fact the two main leads aren’t English since they sound European. 😀

Charles Boyer is a French-American actor and Ingrid Bergman is Swedish. This is the first time I’ve come across Charles Boyer in a film and I’ve heard his name mentioned a couple of times in ‘Dad’s Army’. 😀 It was intriguing to see him as an actor in this film as well as playing the film’s major villain.

1944’s ‘Gaslight’ was the first time I came across Ingrid Bergman as an actress. I would later see her in films like 1941’s ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ with Spencer Tracy, ‘Casablanca’, ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’ with Bing Crosby, ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness’ and the 1974 film ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.

The performances of Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman are tremendous throughout this film, especially when Boyer as the husband is gradually driving Ingrid Bergman as his wife out of her mind. It makes the atmosphere of the film tense and disturbing, especially since it’s a psychological thriller.

Mind you, I do wonder why Ingrid Bergman’s character didn’t stand up to Charles Boyer’s more, since he was becoming increasingly cruel to her as the film went on. I suppose some people can be weak-willed like that, especially when someone is manipulating him/her into thinking he/she is mad.

The film takes place in the 1880s. Essentially, 10 years after her aunt was murdered in her London home, Ingrid Bergman as Paula Alquist Anton returns from Italy to resume residence with her new husband, Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton. At first, their marriage seems to be quite blissfully happy.

But as the film progresses; Gregory Anton becomes obsessively interested in the home that once belonged to Paula’s aunt. Gregory drives his wife insane by making her think she loses things and is becoming forgetful. But a police inspector of Scotland Yard may help to unravel the bizarre mystery.

Like I said, it’s interesting to compare what I’ve seen in the 1944 film to the stage production I saw in Cardiff in 2017. In the original stage play, the male villain was called Jack Manningham instead of Gregory Anton. In the 1940 film, the character was named Paul Mallen instead of Jack Manningham.

The wife was called Bella instead of Paula. The same applies in the 1940 film. And the police inspector from Scotland Yard was called Rough instead of Brian Cameron in the original stage show. The 1940 film also had him called Rough, though he had the initials B.G. for his forenames, I believe.

I’m not sure if this is in the original stage play, but when I saw the 2017 theatre production in Cardiff, the inspector was older compared to Joseph Cotten in the 1944 film who was younger. Keith Allen also played Inspector Rough in the 2017 theatre production. Yes, really! It’s so surreal to dwell upon.

The 1944 ‘Gaslight’ film was critically acclaimed and was a box office success. It received seven nominations for the Academy Awards in 1945, including Best Picture and won two awards for Best Actress (Ingrid Bergman) and Best Production Design. This film must have been ‘hot’ news back then.

The character Charles Boyer plays in the film is revealed to have a secret identity, which is Sergis Bauer. In the 1940 film, the villain’s real name is Louis Bauer. Not sure if that’s the same real name given to the character in the theatre play. I’m surprised that Sergis Bauer wasn’t a Spider-Man villain. 😀

As established, Joseph Cotton plays the police inspector in the film – Brain Cameron. As well as being younger compared to being older in the theatre play, Brain Cameron may also be a potential love interest for Ingrid Bergman’s character. This is at least hinted at once it comes to the film’s ending. 🙂

The cast also features Dame May Whitty as Miss Bessie Thwaites, who’s a little bit of a ‘nosey parker’ and the comic relief when wanting to see more of Ingrid Bergman, though Charles Boyer forbids her to see anyone or go outside. I’ve also seen Dame May Whitty in the 1938 film ‘The Lady Vanishes’. 🙂

I was surprised to see Angela Lansbury as Nancy Oliver, the young and rather stuck-up maid Charles Boyer’s character employs at his and Ingrid Bergman’s house. A contrast to see her in this film and looking young compared to seeing her in ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ and ‘Mary Poppins Returns’. 🙂

In the 2017 theatre production, there was a rather saucy scene between Jack Manningham and the maid Nancy where they were making out with each other. This is hinted at in the 1940 film, but I’m glad nothing over-the-top and too sexy was shown between them. It comes across as subtle instead. 🙂

The film also features Barbara Everest as Elizabeth Tompkins, the housemaid of Gregory and Paula’s house. At first, I wasn’t sure whether she was involved with the plot Gregory was brewing to drive Paula mad, as perhaps Nancy was. But it seems that she and Nancy were unaware of Gregory’s plot.

There’s Emil Rameau as Maestro Guardi; Edmund Breon as General Huddleston, Brian Cameron’s supervisor; Halliwell Hobbes as Mr. Mufflin, Paula’s lawyer; Tom Steven as PC Williams; Heather Thatcher as Lady Mildred Dalroy; Lawrence Grossmith as Lord Freddie Dalroy; and Jakob Gimpel as the pianist.

I like how the final confrontation between Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman is played out in the film. The same applied in the 2017 theatre production, but it was fascinating how Ingrid Bergman’s character played against Charles Boyer’s manipulation of her in the film before saying she hates him.

The atmosphere featured throughout the film is pretty tense, especially in some of the foggy night scenes in London when Gregory is going out at night, trying to get into his house from the back and acquire some diamonds, with Inspector Cameron following him. The music assists in that regard too.

Apparently, the term ‘gaslighting’ in the film’s context, as well as the stage play’s, refers to the manipulation of a person or a group of people, in a way similar to how Paula/Bella is manipulated. And I thought the title ‘Gaslight’ was just a reference to the lighting of lamps using gas in this film. 😀

I should also point out that there are scenes that take place in Italy featuring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman’s characters before they go to their new home in London. This is different from viewing the stage play in 2017, where the scenes took place in the sitting room of the London house.

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s ‘Reflections on Gaslight’ which includes an interview with Angela Lansbury and features reminiscences by Pia Lindstrom about her mother Ingrid Bergman. There’s the ‘Oscars for Movie Stars’ newsreel and there’s a theatrical trailer for the film. 🙂

The 1944 ‘Gaslight’ film is compelling. The atmosphere is tense throughout and it’s fascinating how the mystery unravels regarding the villainy of Charles Boyer’s character and how Ingrid Bergman’s becomes manipulated by him before she’s soon saved by Joseph Cotton playing the police inspector.

It was interesting to revisit this film in 2022 and compare it to what I’ve seen in the stage production with Keith Allen in 2017. ‘Gaslight’ isn’t one of those films I watch very often, but when I see it now and again, I find the mystery and drama quite engaging and the performances of the cast are superb.

‘Gaslight’ (1944) rating – 8/10

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