Next up is the classic 1944 drama Gaslight, starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Wotta Knight (1947)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s Volume 2 from Warner Archive Collection)
Disclaimer: On the disc case, it is noted that the set is intended for the adult collector, which is because these shorts were made at a time when a lot of racist and sexist stereotypes were prevalent. All I’m trying to say is, parents, be careful about just sticking these on for your kids.
(Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)
Popeye and Bluto joust in a tournament to win the chance to awaken Sleeping Beauty (Olive) with a kiss. As usual, it’s Popeye and Bluto fighting over Olive, with Bluto winning out enough before Popeye has to eat his spinach to win. Some good gags to be found here as they fight, although it’s another problematic short with blackface and a racist stereotype for the boy holding the bell signaling each round. Still, a few good laughs anyways!
And Now For The Main Feature…
Upon the death of opera singer Alice Alquist, her niece, Paula Alquist, was sent away to study music. Ten years later, Paula (Ingrid Bergman) is in love with pianist Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), and so they get married. Gregory mentions to her how much he wishes he could live in a fashionable London square, and so Paula reluctantly says they can stay in her aunt’s old home, since she still owns the property. However, the place and her aunt’s stuff bring up traumatic memories, and Gregory decides to put everything in the attic and board it up. They hire Nancy (Angela Lansbury) and the half-deaf Elizabeth (Barbara Everest) as maids. Gregory and Paula mostly keep to themselves, and Paula slowly becomes forgetful, losing a brooch he gave her, along with hearing things at night. But is she really struggling, or is Gregory driving her insane?
Gaslight was based on a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton, which has gone by the titles of Gas Light and Angel Street, depending on where it was produced. The play was turned into a British movie in 1940 starring Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard. At first, Columbia Pictures bought the film rights with hopes of making a film with Irene Dunne starring, but when that fell through, MGM bought the rights for their star Hedy Lamarr. When she turned it down, Ingrid Bergman campaigned hard for the role (at least, after director George Cukor convinced her to try), although she ran into trouble, since she was under contract to David O. Selznick. Charles Boyer insisted on being top-billed, while Selznick insisted on top billing for his star (although she didn’t care), so she had to beg him to let her have the role. Obviously, she got it, and it ended up winning her the Oscar for Best Actress, her first of three.
Now, I’m coming off my first time seeing this movie, and my main thought afterwards was “Wow! That was a rough movie to watch!” Now, don’t misinterpret my comments. I’m not trashing this movie, I am very much praising it! The performances here are, in my opinion, great, as they help really sell the story! This is my first Charles Boyer film, so I have nothing else to compare it to, but he does great in his villainous role. From the moment his character starts in tearing down Paula, all I can feel for his character is an intense dislike bordering on hatred, seeing what he does to Paula. And I really feel for Ingrid Bergman’s Paula, watching her go from being sane and altogether to falling apart mentally with all of Gregory’s psychological abuse. I certainly agree that she EARNED her Oscar win for this movie! Watching both Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman’s performances alone makes this movie extremely tough to watch! I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to continuing on if only to see Gregory get his comeuppance at the end! I’m certainly rooting for Joseph Cotten as the police detective Brian Cameron to seek out what’s happening after he mistakenly takes Paula to be her late aunt, in the hopes of rescuing Paula from madness before it’s too late! And it feels so weird at this point to go back and see Angela Lansbury in her film debut, but she is fantastic here, too, and also makes seeing the movie well worth it! I’ve heard good things about the earlier British film, too, but after watching the 1944 film, there’s no way I want to go through this story again anytime soon! This film was worth it for its stars, and is the version I recommend seeing at present (since, as I said, I haven’t seen the earlier version)!
This movie was recently made available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection after previously being available on DVD. Now this is one of their transfers I have to take issue with (be careful of assuming what I mean with that). Why do I take issue with it? Simple! The movie looks fantastic, and, as rough as this movie is to watch, I wish it would have looked terrible so that I would have had an excuse to stop watching it partway through! Seriously, though, like I said, it looks great, and is certainly the best way to view this movie!
Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Ingrid Bergman – The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1944) (original review of The Bells Of St. Mary’s) (update)
Joseph Cotten – Since You Went Away (1944)
Angela Lansbury – The Harvey Girls (1946)
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