Film review: Gaslight (1944)

Last night I watched this old film that won an Academy Award for Ingrid Bergman. She played Paula Alquist, an orphan who was raised by her aunt, a famous opera singer who was strangled in her London home by a killer in pursuit of expensive jewelry that had been gifted to her as a reward for her performance. The case was never solved and the jewels never found. Paula was just 14 at the time and she was immediately sent away to Italy to study music under her aunt’s tutor, and the London house was mothballed but not sold or rented.

The film begins nine years later when Paula falls in love with Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) who persuades her after their marriage to return to the London home and take up residence there again. They do so but soon she begins to think that she is slowly going insane.

Enter Joseph Cotten as Scotland Yard detective Brian Cameron who as a boy had happened to be a huge fan of Paula’s aunt and, seeing Paula in the street and her strong resemblance to her aunt, is intrigued enough to open up the cold case file and see if he can find anything new.

I enjoyed the film though it got off to a bit of a slow start. I thought that the first part where Anton romances Paula dragged on too long and could have had about 10 minutes lopped off without much damage. The film became much more lively once they returned to London and Cameron entered the scene.

Cotten is a fine actor who had a long and active career but is under-rated and has not received the long-lasting fame he deserves, often playing the second leading man. He most notably was second fiddle to Orson Welles in Citizen Kane (1941) and The Third Man (1949) though he did play the lead in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943).

Here’s the trailer.


  1. Silentbob says

    One of those pieces of popular culture to enter the language:

    verb (used with object), gaslighted or gaslit, gaslighting.
    to cause (a person) to doubt his or her sanity through the use of psychological manipulation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *