"Women's director", and the director of many literary adaptation films, George Cukor, goes on to direct Gaslight in 1944. Cukor's film Gaslight was a remake of the 1940 British film by the same name, both were adaptations of Patrick Hamilton's London staged play-melodrama Gas Light in 1938. Gaslight can be placed under the psychological thrillers genre as it pertains to the abusive action of gaslighting, or to manipulate one psychologically to the point where they will question their own sanity. The term "to gaslight", comes from the characteristics of a gas light, and how it frequently dims itself and flickers.
“Gaslighting": when a person lies for their own gain to another person so repeatedly and with so much confidence that the victim begins to doubt her own sanity. And, as the film puts it, a bit of Stockholm Syndrome develops as well: The victim, now uncertain that she can perceive reality correctly, becomes dependent on the gaslighter, more attached to him than ever. -Alissa Wilkinson, Vox
The film stars Ingrid Bergman as Paula, Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton, Joseph Cotten as inspector Brian Cameron, and Angela Lansbury as the maid Nancy.
As can be read on variations of the poster, the "film was advertised as "the strange story of an international criminal's love for a great beauty," and "the strange drama of a captive sweetheart." (Filmsite). The 1940s had all sorts of noir films in this category of gothic and "effective melodrama" with the unusual theme of being a sheltered and threatened woman, particularly a wife by a husband.
Cukor's film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, it won only two though. Ingrid Bergman won Best Actress as she was incredible in portraying the role of a the vulnerable wife who experiences near insanity why living and listening to the lies of her husband in a home where her aunt was killed. The second award that the film claimed was due to the amazing recreation of the Victorian house, which landed the film a Best B/W Art Direction Academy Award.
Cinematography and Filming:
The film did an exceptional job with its amazing set, cinematography and overall filming. In fact, the film won an award for the Best B/W Cinematography, done by Joseph Ruttenberg. The filming of Gaslight reflects the theme and plot very accurately and creates a dimensional ambience for the audience to appreciate the film's art decades later. The cinematography is "expressionistic, shadowy, and menacing, - as befits the film's ominous plot." (Film Site)
The scenes of Italy and London are done very well and beautiful and capture the essence of the couples two-week romance. The play was "confined" to a single stage in most of the renditions, but this film, however, did film various locations. Part of appreciating the film art is to appreciate the locations, shots, and sets. The film portrayed a very Victorian feel with Aunt Alice's beautiful home. The set won awards for its detail, precision and execution.
The award winning black and white cinematography takes away nothing from the story, it would be as exciting and resonating if it had color, too. The cinematography teams deserves great applaud on this piece of work. The symbolism in the film too depicts its ability to display a film as a comprehensive work of art. The constant filming flickering of the gas light representing Paula's wavering sanity, and therefore the clip represented an entire descriptive term from then on.
Something about the intended settings gave this film the thriller edge. The added fog, the highlighting spot lights, and descending shadows in the set, all add to the eerie feeling of sanity. All in all, the film as said by many critiques was one of the best of the story's adaptation. It did much better than the former adaptation in 1940. The awards for cinematography were rightful.
"Where the play was confined to a single claustrophobic set, the movie is opened up to include scenes in Italy and the Tower of London. "-J. Hoberman, The New York Times
The film starts off by giving the news that Alice Alquist has been murdered. Alquist is the aunt of the films victim, Paula. The murderer left without the jewels as he was interrupted by Paula. After her aunt's death, she went to Italy to be an opera star too.
A few years later, Paula meets Gregory, and marries him after romanticizing for two weeks. Paula returns to London, and lives in the vacant home of her late aunt Alice. Paula is emotional and nervous after seeing her aunts belongings and Gregory insists on moving all of her belongings to the attic. In the process Paula finds a letter to her aunt by a man named Sergis Bauer, we learn that this is Gregory's other identity. Gregory gets angry, but dismisses his temper by saying that Paula is misremembering things.
Gregory starts his process of gaslighting Paula by making her believe that things are going missing. He takes her heirloom brooch and misplaces the picture that was hanging on the wall of Alice, Gregory convinces Paula that she is taking the items and is not remembering it. She hears footsteps in the attic and then the gaslight dims and brightens randomly. Again, Gregory says she is imaging all of this, and it's all in her head.
Paula is then locked up in her home by Gregory, he says that it is for her own good. Gregory then takes her out to a friend's party and pretends he has lost his watch from his watch chain, and then checks Paula's purse, and it is there, as he tries to prove to Paula that she is behind all of the items that are going missing, Paula starts to panic as she does not remember this at all. Paula begins to agree that she should stay home. Nancy is then hired as a maid by Gregory and worsens the situation, Paula thinks Nancy hates her. Gregory becomes flirtatious with Nancy as he starts being less romantic with Paula. Paula is starting to learn the truth of Gregory. The footsteps, the light flickering, the letter from Sergis Bauer, is all part of Gregory's manipulative tactics, he tries his best to convince her that she is crazy. His plan almost works, but then Paula meets inspector Brian Cameron, who is a former admirer of Alice, meeting Paula leads him to become interested in her murder case and the jewels that were never found. After Gregory finds the jewels, he is confronted by Cameron and the police to set out and arrest him for the murder and entraption of his wife Paula. Paula is very angry but glad she was helped.
More than a tough little thriller, the 1940 “Gaslight” is a sardonic portrait of a bad marriage between a couple that turns out to not even be married. Still, when the film finally made its tardy way to the United States in 1952, Crowther found it inferior to the Cukor version: “The street sets are plainly artificial, the atmosphere seems laboriously contrived and the direction of Thorold Dickinson is perceptibly casual and slow.” - J. Hoberman, The New York Times
Both the 1940 and the 1944 film were adapted from Patrick Hamiltons very famous and long-running 1938 London play. Hamilton's play was melodramatic, and was titled Gas Light. This play then went on to be published as a book too in 1939. The Broadway play in 1941 ran for almost three years and was titled Angel Street. The king of thriller movies, Vincent Price, played the role of Gregory in the play. The story was very well received that it was in a play, book, and movies. Not only did the story leave an impression but the term Gaslight was picked up from the story and represented the situation of psychological manipulation that was done to Paula. The screenwriter's faithfully adapted the film's plot from the play.
Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
Anatole Livtak comes out with an American thriller called in 1948 called Sorry Wrong Number. The film stars well known Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster, both of which we have seen before in other films. The film was adapted from a radio play by Lucille Fletcher from 1943. The film comes to tie together the 1940's cyclous theme of gothic roman, partly due to the wavering times surrounding World War II. The film is in the same category as Gaslight, gothic noir. "Thanks to the emergence of film noir and a new emphasis on psychological themes within suspense films, horror’s sibling — arguably even its precursor — the Gothic, was also a prominent cinematic force during the decade", says Samm Deighan on Diabolique Magazine. The similarity to Gaslight is also in the theme of the film, a women is psychologically tortured. Stanwyck's character is a wife that is bedridden and Lancaster plays her husband, the oppressor. This film depicts a woman's experience inside of an dometic abusive relationship. Stanwyck did so wonderfully in the role of a wife that she won an award for Best Actress.
Sorry, Wrong Number incarcerates its heroine inside an oppressive domestic environment, defamiliarised by the use of “anti-traditional” lighting. -Wendy Haslem, Sense of Cinema
“mise-en-scene, one of the director’s essential tools (what’s in the frame), matters a lot in these gothic woman’s films because the filmmaker can use the environment to reflect the heroine’s increasingly unstable mental state.”, Brian Brems, The Last Detail
Litvak directs this piece very carefully with the mindful use of close-up, and dramatic angles to show Leona's emotions and to convey her fears to the audience with the means of cinematography. The films gothic feel was amplified with the ambiguous style of editing, and cinema. The camera angles allow the audience to feel the claustrophobic feel that Leona may be expressive by not showing shots in large angles, rather in smaller close up frames. The shots in Leona's bedroom bring intimacy, and sympathy for the bedridden character, the cinematography allows the audience to connect with her and to feel her emotions, thus making the camera work a piece of marvel. The phone is constantly focused in this film, serving as a symbol of miscommunications and deceit.
In Sorry, Wrong Number the telephone is represented as an object of miscommunication and frustration, but also of revelation for Leona. -Haslem, Sense of Cinema
Leona Stevenson is bedridden daughter a rich man. One day on the phone she hears two men planning a woman's murder. She calls the telephone company and the police, but they couldn't do anything about it since she had very little detail. To the increase her fear, she is alone in her home that night.
She tries calling her husband and tries to the mystery in flashbacks. Henry's secretary picks up when she calls again, and tells Leona that he took an attractive women, Sally, to lunch and has not returned to the office since then. Leona married Henry when he was involved with Sally, against her dad's will.
Leona then gets a message from Henry saying that he's leaving town on a business meeting. Leona contacts a doctor that helps her with her heart condition, the Dr. tells her that Hnery was given the prognosis before hand, Henry had kept that from her. Leona's heart problems were getting really bad so she became bedridden. The doctor says that there is nothing really wrong with her physically rather it is psychosomatic. She becomes very confused and asks for a nurse to stay the night with her as she is overwhelmed with all the information she is getting. She gets told that they are short staffed late at night, but Leona sees the time and it reads 11:00, but then she discovers that her clock has been stopped. But why? Leona gets a call and discovers her husbands actions that he hides from her in regards to stealing chemicals from drug companies. Henry does not have a lot of money but one of his friends tells him that Leona must have a very large life insurance policy. His friend is taken into custody. Leona is given a number to call but it leads to the city morgue. So much was going on behind Leona's back. It seemed that her husband Henry was planning her death and ruling it to her fake heart disease so that he could enjoy her insurance policy money. Unaware of the policemen about to catch Henry, he calls back, and a man says, "Sorry, wrong number."
The mystery plot line of this film is adapted from Lucille Fletchers radio play by the same name. The film follows the theme of horror and psychological thriller just as the play did. The era of 1940 dealt with a lot of psychological thrillers and of the constant theme of women being oppressed and manipulated by men.
"Hollywood was undoubtedly attempting to compete with Britain’s strong trend of Gothic cinema: classic films like Thorold Dickinson’s original Gaslight (1940); a series of brooding Gothic romances starring a homicidal-looking James Mason, like The Night Has Eyes (1942), The Man in Grey (1943), The Seventh Veil (1945), and Fanny by Gaslight (1944); David Lean’s two best films and possibly the greatest Dickens adaptations ever made, Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948); and other excellent, yet forgotten literary adaptations like Uncle Silas (1947) and Queen of Spades (1949)." -Sam Deighan, on Diabolique Magazine
The film, like Gaslight, portrays a false illness in the women that their male partners try to instill within them.