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USA 1944
Directed by
George Cukor
114 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


This suspense thriller-cum-melodrama was a remake of a1940 British production of the same name based on a play by Patrick Hamilton who wrote the original text of Hitchcock’s Rope.

Ingrid  Bergman plays Paula Alquist, a young woman who falls in love with a suave and handsome pianist, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). They marry and at Gregory’s request go to live in London in the house that Paula inherited from her aunt, a famous opera singer, who had been murdered there ten years before.  Soon Gregory is trying to convince Paula that she is losing her mind but a Scotland Yard inspector, Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotten) comes to her rescue.

Although one can appreciate the quality of the film (it also won an Oscar for Art Direction) it is, by today’s standards at least, a little on the hokey side with Cukor taking too long (almost half the run time) showing us Gregory weave his web around Paula. Given that we accept the improbable contrivance of Gregory engineering his relationship with Paula, his motivation, a mad fixation with the deceased aunt's jewels, is hardly sufficiently convincing to justify his elaborate strategy (surely Gregory would encourage his wife to go out, not incarcerate her) and the film lacks the Gothic tenor it aspires to and requires.

Although Bergman picked up the first of her three Oscars for her performance she is not as good at suggesting neurasthenic hysteria as was, say, Joan Fontaine in Suspicion (1941). On the other hand, Boyer who was also Oscar-nominated but did not win, is quite effective at switching from charming to menacing with an undercurrent of madness. Cotten is, as ever, interchangeable with his appearance in every other film that he was ever in, Dame May Whitty does a rather good turn as a nosey old biddy and a seventeen year old Angela Lansbury makes her film debut as a tarty housemaid.

A marquee production of the time (it was nominated for seven Oscars), Gaslight is a film that will appeal more to fans of studio-era Hollywood than anyone looking for a solid psychological thriller.




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