Gaslight is one of my favorite movies of all time. I discovered it early in my classic movie foray because I was really into Joseph Cotton. The story is a wonderful mystery full of suspense and intrigue and really has all the markings of a Hitchcock film without actually being one. The director is instead George Cukor, who has more than enough experience to make such a masterpiece.
The story is about Ingrid Berman‘s Paula and her husband Gregory, played by Charles Boyer, and the woman slow decent into madness. Paula’s aunt/guardian was a famous opera singer who was murdered by a thief hoping to seize some valuable jewels. Ten years later Paula returns to her aunt’s house with a new husband but starts having flashbacks to the terrifying past.
Gregory presents himself as a creepy character from the start, always patronizing his wife into a submissive role. He pats her and tells her she confused when her items start disappearing. Paula has also been noticing a strange change in the gaslights in their London flat. The flames seem to go down as though someone has turned up the gas in another part of the home, except no one has. This does not help the woman’s mental state any, but she has one ally on her side: Joseph Cotton as a fan of Paula’s aunt who mistakes the young woman for her relative. He starts to gather that something sinister is afoot in Paula’s home and pokes his nose in enough to save the woman.
The story for Gaslight is really fascinating and creative and the actual gaslights in the home make for such a cool device alluding to the answer to all of our questions. Bergman gave an Academy Award-winning performance as Paula as no one can deny how deftly she conveys a weakening of the mind. Besides Bergman, also nominated for Oscars were Boyer and Angela Lansbury, who makes her screen debut as the cockney, sassy maid. The picture was also nominated for cinematography, writing, art direction and Best Picture.
I think I could watch Gaslight every day and never be tired of it. Ryan and I love to imitate Boyer’s chiding utterance of “Paauullaa” in that French accent of his as it is both absurd and creepy. This movie sort of ruined Boyer for me as anything but a sinister actor, however. Watching him in Love Affair was a challenge.