|Boyer and Bergman|
Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman) lived in a house in London with her aunt, a famous opera singer who was strangled to death. Years later she comes back to that house with her new husband, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). The autocratic Anton berates Paula for her bad memory and for losing things and inexplicably taking pictures from the wall and hiding them. Is Paula going crazy or is there something more sinister going on? Gaslight doesn't make any attempt to disguise the identity of the bad guy in this, but the film is suspenseful in spite of it. Bergman won her well-deserved first Oscar for her portrayal of the confused Paula, and Boyer is equally expert and fascinating. In her first film role, Angela Lansbury [A Life at Stake] scores as the saucy, borderline rude maid, Nancy, and Dame May Whitty is charming as the nosy old biddy, Miss Thwaites. Joseph Cotten offers another effective portrait as a policeman who once met Paula's aunt and is struck by the resemblance; against orders, he takes a new interest in the case. Barbara Everest is also notable as the cook, Elizabeth. The best scene in the film is when Paula nearly has a nervous breakdown at a piano concert. Although Cukor was not a suspense specialist along the lines of Hitchcock, he still manages to craft a nifty thriller, as he did with A Woman's Face. Bergman and Boyer re-teamed for much less felicitous results in Arch of Triumph, as the chemistry just wasn't right for those particular characterizations. At one point Paula shows her husband a glove worn by her aunt and signed by no less than Charles Gounod, in whose Romeo and Juliet she had performed -- what a memento! This is far superior to the 1940 British version of the story.
Verdict: A mesmerizing performance by a resplendent Bergman and fine support from Boyer, Cotten, and Lansbury. ***1/2.