Gaslight is a dramatic thriller fueled by mystery. Paula (Ingrid Bergman) was raised by her loving aunt, until the night she was murdered. She was found strangled by the fireplace and the fiend was never caught. Years later, Paula marries Gregory (Charles Boyer) and the two decide that her aunt’s old house would be perfect for them. But the house is full of old memories, both pleasant and disturbing. Soon, it seems that Paula is losing things and becoming more and more forgetful. And every night, when the gaslight mysteriously goes down, she hears footsteps. Is she going mad or is she being driven to believe so?
Not long after Paula and Greg move in, we can make a few educated guesses that will prove positive in the end. In some films, that would spoil everything, but not in Gaslight. The way the moments of Paula’s moments of forgetfulness pile up and drive her mad are intriguing and devastating. We’re rooting for the poor girl and we want her to know what we know, and that drives the suspense that pulls this film along so well. What is left unknown to us is enough to keep us connected to poor Paula.
Gaslight was Angela Lansbury’s first film. Or as my husband put it, “Isn’t that the lady from Murder She Wrote?” She earned an Oscar nomination for her supporting role as Nancy, the snobby and rebellious housemaid who only makes Paula feel less at ease in her home. Between her flirtatious moments with Greg and only reinforcing Paula’s apprehension, this is a wonderful performance to start off Lansbury’s great career.
This was Bergman’s first Oscar win. Her portrayal of Paula is so passionate and full of the right kinds of energy. At times Paula is so frightened she can scare the viewers. And we sympathize with her perfectly, she’s a caged animal afraid to leave her home and always being told that she’s sick. It would drive anyone crazy and Bergman brings that idea out flawlessly.
Unfortunately, Gaslight is one of those tough films to catch. It’s not available on Netflix and I was lucky to catch it on TCM last week. But if you like mysteries, psychological dramas or the great Ingrid Bergman, Gaslight is a must see.
“Would you light the gas please?”