Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Boyer and Bergman
GASLIGHT (1944). Director: George Cukor.

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. 


angelman66 said...

This is truly one of the greats. It is Bergman's film, but she is very ably supported by Boyer and Lansbury, who was so young yet so mature in this role and so in command of herself as a performer. Yes, I totally agree that this is one of Cukor's best--he did a great job with suspense in both this and the wonderful Woman's Face with Crawford. Sometimes I do forget that this one was Cukor and think it was Hitchcock...

William said...

Yes, "Gaslight" seems to improve with age. What makes it remarkable is that it's so suspenseful even thought you know almost right away who the bad guy is (if not his motives entirely).