Link to 1940 British version of Gaslight on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYmtzaHwCKo
Note: The following is an automated transcription of the podcast. As a result, it may contain errors.
Steve: The term gaslighting is an expression that we hear being used quite frequently lately, particularly in the world of politics. Yet the term is only a relatively recent addition to our lexicon. In fact, few people were using the term just ten years ago. And what many people don’t know is that its origins can be traced directly back to the 1944 movie Gaslight, which starred Ingrid Bergman in her Academy Award-winning role, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotton, and in her film debut, Angela Lansbury.
Well, in a few moments, after a long absence from the podcast, my wife Mary Jane will be joining me to discuss not only the Hollywood production of Gaslight, but we will also be talking about the original 1938 London play and the 1940 British movie on which this classic movie was based.
I am Steve Silverman, and this is the Useless Information Podcast.
Steve: So, Mary Jane, welcome back to the podcast. It’s been a while.
Mary Jane: Yes, that’s right. Hi.
Steve: Yes, I’ve gotten some emails from people wondering where you were, and as you know, I’ve had you locked in the dungeon in the basement for a while now.
Mary Jane: Not exactly Steve, but yeah, I’ve been a little busy.
Steve: Yeah, and I should mention that we have been together the whole time, although.
Mary Jane: Yes, we’re married.
Steve: Yeah, it’s not like you’ve disappeared or anything like that. I would say, when was the last time we did a podcast like this? I think it was back in January or so.
Mary Jane: It was, yeah, it was a long time ago.
Steve: And since that time, we’ve actually been together all the time except for five nights, I think, right? You went to New York City for one night to chaperone a school trip.
Mary Jane: Yes, Yep, in June.
Steve: Right. And I went to Florida for four nights, so, therefore, we didn’t see each other over those days, but we’ve been together the whole time. But you’ve been busy with school. You had covid.
Mary Jane: Yes, yes, summer camp. Other things came up.
Steve: So, you’ve been very busy. And as we’re recording this, you’re about to start the new school year. And this could actually be the toughest school year you’ve had in a long, long time.
So, you could be very busy. It could be quite a while before we hear from you again, right?
Mary Jane: Yes, that’s very true, yes.
Steve: So anyway, so nobody wants to hear of this kind of stuff, I don’t think. So, a few months ago I went to and I suggested the movie Gaslight. And the reason I suggested that is because the term gaslighting has become, you know, kind of…
Mary Jane: Ubiquitous. And a lot of things related to politics, yes.
Steve: I was just about to use that term myself. So, we did watch the movie, and then of course you got covid after that. And then you got into finals and you taught summer camp. So, we pushed it off and we just rewatched it about a week ago. So here we are. We’re going to discuss the movie and we do have a little bit of surprise is going to come along with it. We have, we have some other information we’re going to add to it in the second half, I think. Right?
Mary Jane: Yeah, okay.
Steve: So, we did do some discussion beforehand as we’re watching the movie, but there’s some things we just kind of said we’re not going to discuss that, and that’ll be kind of a surprise to both of us.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: OK, so I thought you’d go first. I told you to look up a definition for gaslighting. So, what did you find?
Mary Jane: Right. Now this, before I read it, I am going to say that it very much fits the movie. I think the meaning has morphed since, you know, this definition, and it has changed a bit, but this is kind of the original meaning. All right, this is from the Encyclopedia Britannica: gaslighting, an elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation. Usually practiced by a single deceiver or gaslighter on a single victim over an extended period. Its effect is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in his own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering him pathologically dependent on the gaslighter in his thinking or feelings.
Steve: So that’s kind of a textbook, you know, dictionary encyclopedia type definition. Of course, as you said, that it’s not really applied that way as much today. We hear it more in the terms of politics. And honestly, it’s only the last four or five, six years that I’ve really heard the term a lot.
Mary Jane: Right. And this is, of course, on an individual basis here, this description. And of course, that’s not the case when it comes to politics. You’re trying to influence a lot of people, but this does fit the movie we’re going to talk about.
Steve: Right. And I’ll just add in terms of politics or just in general, I noticed online. On YouTube, as I’m watching some of the videos related to this, a lot of people underneath, particularly women, have written about how they’ve been gaslighted in relationships.
Mary Jane: Yes.
Steve: You know, basically fooled, given misinformation, you know, a false narrative, and they’re convinced something else is true, and that’s not the reality of the situation. So, the movie we are going to talk about is Gaslight, but it actually began as a play in Great Britain, and it was, it wasn’t one word, it was two words, Gas Light. And of course, that refers to the gas lights that they used prior to electricity in homes during the Victorian era basically or a little bit before that.
This play made its debut on the British stage in December of 1938 at the Richmond Theatre. It was written by Patrick Hamilton, who had previous success with a play called Ropes End. And for those who are fans of Alfred Hitchcock, which I am, the movie Rope was based on that play.
Now Vincent Price, the famous actor Vincent Price, which I think most young people would only know from this.
Mary Jane: They might not know.
Steve: They might not know him, but his voice is very famous from the song thriller by Michael Jackson, right?
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: He does the narration at the end. But Vincent Price saw the play supposedly in England. He may have seen the British version of the movie, and he brought it the United States. And there was a play on Broadway called Angel Street and it was very successful. And that’s when the American movie was made from that.
So, as I said, there was a British movie. It was made in 1940. It was called Gaslight, of course. It was now one word, and it starred Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard, and it was a hit movie. It was very, very popular.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: So, it’s uncertain whether that was what, you know, led to the American movie or it was the Broadway play. My thinking is it was the Broadway play because the British version of the movie was shown here, but it was a flop.
Mary Jane: Interesting, I didn’t know that.
Steve: So, because it was a flop, there wouldn’t be much interest in making an American movie, I would think. But because the play was very successful, you know, starring, Vincent Price and others on Broadway, that probably led to, you know, the movie being made.
Mary Jane: Right. And I think we’re going to talk about how they were different also the new American remake.
Steve: Right. Yeah, versus the play and the original movie. So anyway, MGM buys the rights to the movie and one of the conditions was they ordered all the existing prints, you know, all prints of the British movie to be destroyed. In other words, they didn’t want any record that ever happened. And we will come back to that in a little bit.
Now, the 1944 movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and it won two. One of those awards was for Best Actress. That was to Ingrid Bergman. Then, of course, the movie stars Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotton, Angela Lansbury, who we’ll talk about in a bit, she’s most famous today for…
Mary Jane: Murder, She Wrote.
Steve: Right. And this was her first role, and she was how old?
Mary Jane: She was 17, very young.
Steve: Yes, very, very young at the time. And the movie was directed by George Cukor, and it runs an hour and 57 minutes. It’s in black and white, of course. Now we watched the movie on the Roku Channel with Roku devices in the house. And it does play with commercials though.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: It’s not on Amazon Prime. Well, it is if you want to pay to watch the movie. But I also noticed that I did a quick search and our local library system has five copies in various libraries, so I’m sure other people just go to their library and get a copy also.
Mary Jane: Yes, it’s a classic at this point.
Steve: So, I should also mention before we get into the movie that the other Academy Award was for Best Production Design. It was nominated for Best Picture and so on, but it didn’t win those categories.
Mary Jane: Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me. I think we’ll talk about it.
Steve: Right. And before we discuss what we thought about the movie, I thought maybe you’d give a quick little overview of what took place. Steve: And we certainly don’t want to give the whole thing away, although if you read some of the reviews of the time and even reviews to this day, they kind of give the story away.
Mary Jane: They do give it away. Yeah. So, the movie opens with a man holding a newspaper. It’s dated October 14th, 1875. And the headline reads, “Thornton Square Murder Unsolved, Strangler Still at Large. Recent murder of Alice Alquist, the famous prima donna…”
Steve: I should mention that’s all it says. They don’t, you know, they don’t show you any more of the newspaper and then they quickly cut to the next scene.
Mary Jane: Yes, it was actually very fast anyhow. So yeah, that’s they’re kind of giving us the time period and everything in this situation.
So, the murder occurred at 9 Thornton Square in London and the woman’s niece, Paula Alquist, who is played by Ingrid Bergman. She is sent off to Italy to train to be a singer just like her aunt, and also sort of to forget about this tragic event. And she later falls in love with her accompanist, the pianist Gregory Anton, who’s played by Charles Boyer, and they surprisingly married shortly after only two weeks. He seems to really press this and she is a little reluctant, but she gives in because she loves him. So, the next thing that happens is they move back to this apartment, which is a bit surprising because she seems to be very much haunted by the event of her aunt being murdered there. But as it turns out, her husband really wants to move there. He seems to think this is a perfect place to move.
And the next thing that happens is she seems to slowly be going insane. She is forgetting things, events, she is misplacing things and she even seems to be taking things from her husband, his pocket watch. Also, a picture on the wall seems to be taken, or so he’s telling her that these things have happened. Because in reality, he wants her to believe she’s going insane. And the other thing that happens is that at night when he goes off to compose some music, she starts to hear noises in the attic.
She also notices, and this is where our title comes in. She notices that the gas light goes down, the light goes down. And then shortly before he returns, oh, it goes up. And, you know, this makes it seem like, is the house haunted? What’s going on? You know? But in fact, it’s because he is going up into this attic. And he’s searching for her aunt’s jewels, which is actually what he always wanted because he is the murderer of the aunt. And that’s pretty much the storyline.
Steve: Right. The interesting thing about this movie is that you’re, I mean, it is a suspenseful movie. You kind of know what’s going on the whole time.
Mary Jane: Well, you do know that he’s evil. You get, you get all these close-ups where he just looks really diabolical. And you see him taking these objects and either hiding them or putting them in her purse, you know, and then saying you took my watch, you know, things like that. So it’s all. Yes, it’s very obvious to the audience what’s happening.
Steve: Right. So, Mary Jane, Ingrid Bergman won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in this movie.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: What did you think about, you know, her acting and what did you think about the role itself?
Mary Jane: Well, her acting, I thought she did a great job. I did enjoy watching it. The actual character for the movie was. It was a little upsetting. It was a little difficult to put up with because she’s excruciatingly subservient throughout the whole movie until the end. At the end, she kind of regains her identity, but you keep wanting her to get a backbone.
Mary Jane: And so that part is a little difficult to watch, but maybe that’s the whole idea of the movie, you know?
Steve: Yeah, I mean it is the time period. When the movie first starts. We’ve watched it twice now.
I didn’t really notice this a second time around. But the first time, I really didn’t like her acting at the beginning, but then if then as the movie started to, you know, kind of gain steam, I thought her acting got better and better as it progressed.
Mary Jane: Well, I did find there was an interesting contrast between her and the maid, which I know we’re going to get to because she was played by Angela Lansbury. But she is kind of an upper class, very delicate, almost submissive wife, you know, always doing the right thing. It’s this upper-class woman, you know, doing exactly as her husband wants, and in this case, he wants her to believe she’s going crazy. So that’s it’s a little hard to watch. But it’s interesting.
Steve: Yeah, I do agree it’s interesting. And we’ll talk a little bit about how the original version of this was set up versus what Ingrid Bergman did later on.
Now second most important character in this movie is Charles Boyer. And by the way, you’re a French speaker, is that being pronounced right?
Mary Jane: It’s pretty good.
Steve: How would you say it in French?
Mary Jane: Boyer. Boyer. It’s very close.
Mary Jane: Yeah, most people get it quite right, actually, here in America.
Steve: Yeah, and he’s playing Gregory Anton. He’s the husband and, of course, it’s pretty obvious from early on that he’s up to no good.
Mary Jane: Right, yeah, he always has these sly looks, and as I was saying earlier.
Steve: Any thoughts on his acting?
Mary Jane: I thought he did a very good job. I mean, he, I mean, let’s face it, he’s playing kind of a scum. And he does a great job. I mean, yeah, quite convincing.
Steve: Although his accent at beginning, I couldn’t quite get used to. It sounds a little bit like Ricardo Montalban. Remember him from Fantasy Island and the car commercials?
Mary Jane: Yes.
Steve: You know “Rich Corinthian Leather.” But eventually, I got over that. Uhm, the one thing I did notice about this is this is taking place in England and basically the three main characters don’t have British accents.
Mary Jane: Yes, and they never really explain what nationality he’s supposed to be, I think. But he’s actually from Prague, they say, right? So, he’s pretending to be of a different nationality, but then I don’t think they ever state what nationality he is.
Steve: So, I thought this would be a good point to do a portion or review on their two roles.
This is from the May 5th, 1944, issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, page 17, and is written by Jane Corby.
“Gaslight is the screen version of the play by Patrick Hamilton, known on Broadway as Angel Street. I haven’t seen the play. I don’t see how it can be better or even as good as Gaslight, which has something the play hasn’t got, Ingrid Bergman. The blonde star’s portrayal of a young, adoring wife who is systematically being driven out of her mind by her husband Charles Boyer, who murdered her aunt, mind you, is a magnificent contribution to the long roster of good roles which Miss Bergman has created.
“Boyer himself is so convincing that you wonder whether you haven’t been taken in all along by those other roles of his in which he made passionate love to swooning ladies. Maybe he wasn’t on the level then, either.”
Which leads us to the third character. And this is the investigator. He’s from Scotland Yard. He’s a detective. Brian Cameron, who’s played by Joseph Cotton.
Mary Jane: Does not have a Scottish accent by any means.
Steve: Yeah. At the end of the movie, I’m like, they couldn’t find anyone with a British accent? I mean, you know, living in the United States, I have no interaction with anyone from Scotland Yard, but I just can’t imagine there are too many people with, you know, middle American or just American accents as a whole.
Mary Jane: Yeah. But to their credit, the maids are British.
Steve: That is true.
Mary Jane: Both of them are. And, interestingly, the woman that we’re also going to talk about a very short part, but we’ll talk about her later.
Steve: Right. But the three major actors. And there’s not even an attempt to do it, you know.
Mary Jane: No, none whatsoever. No.
Steve: I mean, we certainly have watched our share of movies where British or Australian actors do their best at American accents and there’s no problem. I mean, you may notice a little bit, but in general, they do a very good job, and I’m sure there are. I mean, we’re not British, we can’t say this for sure, but I’m sure there are American actors who can do a fairly good British accent, but there is absolutely no attempt here at all.
Mary Jane: Right. I think in the past, yeah, I think nowadays people are actually better about that and reading subtitles. You know, having parts where we actually, I mean in America we’re actually willing to read subtitles now. You know for a portion of a movie.
Steve: Yeah, I agree. Now there’s two minor. Well, there’s actually three minor characters, but really, we’ll only talk about two of them. One is Miss Thwaites, who’s played by Dame May Whitty. And she has a very small role, but what is her role in this movie?
Mary Jane: Well, it does appear that because she wasn’t in the original movie, it’s to kind of help explain things almost as she talks she’s almost explaining. She’s a busybody and she talks a lot, but she does help us to understand aspects of the movie, and at the very end, maybe we’ll leave that for the very end, but she really explains the future of what’s going to happen next.
Steve: Right, right. Yeah, she’s just the town gossip and she isn’t part of the original play or the British movie. And I said to you at the end, even though the script is very good for this movie, when you need to bring in another character to explain what’s going on throughout the movie, that’s kind of problematic to me.
Mary Jane: Yes.
Steve: And maybe it wouldn’t be so noticeable if I didn’t know how it was originally written, you know?
Mary Jane: Right. But, I mean, you know, she’s actually a great actress and she pulls off this whole busybody neighbor pretty well, so I’m OK with it.
Steve: OK, and the last character, and the main reason we’re going to talk about her, besides her role, is because she gained much greater fame after this, and that’s Angela Lansbury. And this was, in fact, her first role ever.
Mary Jane: Yes, yeah. I heard her interviewed and it’s kind of interesting. I think we’re going to talk a little bit about the story because she has an interaction with the, you know, the character played by Charles Boyer, and she’s a little flirty with him, right? And so it’s different than the British one. I don’t know if you wanted to bring that up.
Steve: Yeah, but let me play the clip of that.
Mary Jane: Oh yeah, that would be great.
Steve: So, let me introduce this a little bit. Basically, we have Angela Lansbury, who plays the parlor maid Nancy, and she’s having a conversation, a very flirtatious conversation with her boss that’s played by Charles Boyer, that’s Gregory Anton. Let’s take a listen to that.
Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer): What are you doing with your evening out?
Nancy (Angela Lansbury): Oh, I’m going to a musical. (Sings: Up in a balloon, boys. Up in a balloon.)
Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer): I’ve never been to an English Music Hall.
Nancy (Angela Lansbury): Oh, you don’t know what you’ve missed, sir. (Sings: Up in a balloon, boys. Up in a balloon.) You’ll like it enough, sir.
Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer): Oh? We must see about that. And whom are you going to the musical with?
Nancy (Angela Lansbury): A gentlemen friend, sir.
Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer): Oh, now you know Nancy, don’t you, that gentlemen friends are sometimes inclined to take liberties with young ladies.
Nancy (Angela Lansbury): Oh no, Sir, not with me. I can take care of myself. When I want to.
Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer): You know, Nancy, it strikes me that you’re not at all the kind of girl that your mistress should have for a housemaid.
Nancy (Angela Lansbury): No, sir. She’s not the only one in the house. Is she?
Steve: Now, we had talked about this a few days ago. What did you want to say regarding this?
Mary Jane: Well, I just think there’s a nice contrast between Ingrid Bergman’s part and the maids. You know, one, the maid, is working class, and she’s tough, and she says she can take care of herself, and she doesn’t seem like someone who would put up with some of the insinuations that he’s making towards his wife about going crazy. You can misplace things, you know. And Ingrid Bergman, on the other hand, is like a delicate, genteel flower who at every suggestion she seems to think, oh, I guess maybe I am going crazy, you know? So, I just thought it was interesting that contrast and he’s interested of course in her also. So, he’s kind of manipulating with both of the women, but in different ways.
Steve: Of course, in the original version they do go off together to a music hall.
Mary Jane: Music hall. Yes, yeah, yeah. He’s going to be unfaithful for sure, no matter what.
Steve: Right, sure. And of course, this is, you know, early 1940s, so they really can’t get too much into it. It’s just implied, you know.
Mary Jane: Right, exactly.
Steve: I guess we should mention that the play, the original script is available online and this is a total rewrite.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: I mean, there are some basic elements of this movie that are original, you know, that follow the play, but overall you wouldn’t recognize it. It is a very, very different movie from what the original play was and, of course, the movie in Great Britain was very similar to the original play.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: So, this is very, it’s a very Hollywoodized thing. Now the focus of this movie is on Ingrid Bergman’s character. That’s Paula Anton, where the original script and the British movie are focused mostly on the husband. So, they’ve switched that around.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: That was one thing I noticed. But probably the thing that I didn’t like about this movie the most is it seemed very slow to me.
Mary Jane: Yes, I especially the first time. I felt it was long. I remember just saying, is it over yet? Is it almost over yet?
Steve: Yeah, I checked my watch at one point.
Mary Jane: It happened a lot.
Steve: It seemed to really drag on. We did watch it a second time as we said, and you commented after you didn’t notice it was running slow.
Mary Jane: Well, I mean, I knew what to expect and I, you know, for some reason seeing it a second time, I was more patient with the movie. Yes.
Steve: Yeah, I still felt it ran slow. I think it needed to be tightened up somehow. Just a little bit to make it a little bit more suspenseful, to keep you more on the edge of your seat, you know?
Mary Jane: Right. Well, I’m a really strong believer in a movie that’s about an hour and a half, and this was almost two hours.
Mary Jane: So yeah, I agree.
Steve: Yeah, I think if they just tightened it up a bit, it would have gone from a good, almost great movie to a fantastic movie. You know?
Now if you read some of the reviews, and we’ll share some of these in a few minutes, most of the reviewers at the time thought this was a super suspenseful movie, but honestly, I didn’t find much in the way of suspense and I know we’re looking at it all these years later.
Mary Jane: Right, this is 1940s style.
Steve: Right, but. And I guess my reason for that is, you know, this husband is up to no good from the very beginning almost. And I can’t help but wonder if the original stage play and the movies that came from it, if they had been written so you didn’t know that was going on. So you didn’t know the husband, you just saw her going into insane and then somehow you reveal that the husbands behind it. But you know from the very beginning, you know, with the pocket watch missing and so on, that he’s behind it.
Mary Jane: Well, the title is Gaslight and that’s it gave us this expression to gaslight someone. So, it’s I think they felt it was important to show how much he was manipulating her. And you know, I think that’s actually what makes it good personally is actually seeing it.
Steve: Now I think the other thing that bothered me is this is a very dark set. And you commented what?
Mary Jane: Well, I just thought that I enjoyed that and you mentioned that they actually won Production Design. Right? So, I felt that the apartment is almost a character. It’s like, you know, it’s supposed to be. She has the impression it’s haunted practically, and you really get that with the shadows and so I enjoyed that. And you were right, though. It’s a very, the movie is a dark subject, and it’s also very dark, literally.
Steve: Right, I thought it was a bit too dark. There is not a moment in this entire movie where there’s any sense of light.
Mary Jane: Well, it could symbolize what’s happening to her, to her life.
Steve: Yeah, you interpreted it as, as, you know, more eerie and haunted, where I interpreted as more dreary.
Mary Jane: Yeah.
Steve: Just very dreary. And that partly played into why the movie seemed kind of slow to me, I think.
Mary Jane: Maybe. Yeah.
Steve: Yeah, but, you know, I, I should mention it was a beautiful set. I mean very well done, the design. The only scene that really stood out to me as being awful was at the beginning of the movie where the two of them go to Lake Como in Italy.
Mary Jane: Well, yes, I’ll agree with that one for sure.
Steve: Yeah, it was the most fake-looking thing.
Mary Jane: Like I said, it looked like they took a tub, and then they just put up a hotel in the background because. It was a lake. But it was a it was like being on a stage.
Steve: Yeah, right. It really looked fake to me. So, I thought what we’d do is share some reviews from the time, and then we’ll get into a little bit more of what else we want to share after that.
Mary Jane: Yep, alright.
Steve: OK, so let’s start with the first one here.
Mary Jane: OK, so Steve, I’m going to read from the same article that you read from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and the critic says, “So Miss Thwaites, played by Dame May Whitty, has very little to do in Gaslight, but does put into words for the movie audience, the way the movie audience itself, this member of it anyhow feels about the happenings in Gaslight.”
Steve: Well, clearly you lived overseas and I haven’t because you’re saying dom, and I’m saying dame, but that’s my typical American accent, I guess. Anyway, I just felt her part and I’ll say this again wasn’t needed. She was only added to the movie to explain what was going on. To keep it going. And that’s kind of what the person wrote. They didn’t say she wasn’t needed, but she kind of narrated the story.
Mary Jane: Right, uhm, this is true. Again, though, I liked her acting job. I think she’s a really a very good actress for such a small part. So, I was okay with her character.
Steve: And I’ll share this one. This is from the May 14, 1944, publication of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Section 3, page 2, and is written by Ray Lanning. And we’ll just kind of jump to the middle here. “He hides his wife’s jewelry, telling her she’s mislaid it. He forbids her to leave the house she dislikes telling her she is ill. He insists that she will eventually go insane, telling her her mother died in an asylum. All his insinuations, his tricks, and words are carefully fitted together. The suggestions first, the statements later so that his wife, listening to him, feels she has lost her mind.
“Ingrid Bergman as the wife is quite sure and vivid in her difficult role. Called upon the change from my gay and lilting girl to a thoroughly frightened and crazed woman, she handles all of her scenes better, her later more emotional scenes best.”
So, Mary Jane, why don’t you read the next one?
Mary Jane: This is from the Richmond Times Dispatch. “Gaslight has been adapted so as to include practically all the excitement and refined terror of the stage play. In these days when most melodrama has been contained in war stories of great noise and violence, it comes as a welcome change of pace for those who get their best relaxation from skillfully concocted murder mysteries spiced with psychology and doused in murk.”
Steve: Doused in murk, I like that.
Mary Jane: Yeah, that’s an unusual expression, yes.
Steve: Yeah, uhm, I have to say I couldn’t find a negative review at all about this movie, so it was pretty much universally accepted at the time. Okay, so I’m going to do one next.
Mary Jane: Okay.
Steve: This is from the May 15, 1944, publication of the Cincinnati Post on page 11 and is penned by Edward Carberry.
“Cotton I think best acquits himself in this shrewdly written and directed adaptation of the stage success Angel Street. But it is Boyer, a suavely vicious, who will draw in the crowds and send them home talking.
“Miss Bergman is a charming victim, though a little too much, given perhaps to drooping like a wilted flower.
“Angela Lansbury is a pert housemate, and may Whitty, as an amiable gossip, bring in the necessary lighter note.”
Now, that part about Miss Bergman being like a wilted flower, there were a few times in the movie where she just like holy cow, that’s overacting. And we’ve noticed that before in other movies. You know how the woman just kind of faints or turns away in this big sigh or whatever, but we dismissed that as well that was back then. That’s what people expected and here it is in a review of the time complaining that she did this.
Mary Jane: Yeah, a critic feeling, yeah, that she was overacting. Yeah.
Steve: Yeah, although I will say she was excellent. Excluding that little bit, she was excellent.
Mary Jane: Yeah, I mean, it’s also the part she was supposed to play. She believes she’s going mad.
She acts, she acts like she’s going mad at the end.
Steve: Certainly. I should also mention that they mentioned in this review Angel Street. What happened was when they brought the play, when Vincent Price brought the play to Broadway, for some reason they couldn’t call it Gaslight. Apparently, that name had been used for some other play or movie.
Mary Jane: Interesting.
Steve: I’m not really sure. I did try to find it. I did find a mention that that’s why they couldn’t use the name. It turns out in the original British play, when it played in Britain, it took place on Angel Street and that’s where the name comes from. But they, you know when, of course, when the movie came out, they went right back to Gaslight.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: So, we can keep going on and on with all these reviews. There were plenty of them. But Mary Jane, why don’t you share one last one? So, why don’t you read that?
Mary Jane: Right. All right. And I think you’re going to find that this one is a little more positive about her acting. This comes from the May 19, 1944, Pittsburgh Press.
“It presents the enchanting Ingrid Bergman as the lovely, pathetic victim of this diabolical gentleman’s sadistic plottings. Far more effective than she was in Bell Tolls, Miss Bergman rings the heart in Gaslight as you watch her slowly grow mad through the power of suggestion.”
Steve: Yeah, I mean, overall the reviews were incredibly positive. And of course, she won the Academy Award for it. As I said, I don’t think I came across a single, other than that one little comment, I didn’t come across anything that was negative about this movie.
Okay, so now we do have a little surprise here, and that is after we watched the movie the first time. You know you must have been at work, and I found the original 1940 version.
Mary Jane: Oh, of course, even though they were supposed to have totally destroyed them all.
Steve: Right, yeah, supposedly they were totally destroyed. Yet somehow there is a copy that exists and the British Film Institute restored it and it’s for free on YouTube. And honestly, the quality is incredible.
Mary Jane: Yeah. It was very good.
Steve: And there were different thoughts as to how this movie survived. One is that when it was brought to the United States, someone had written Angel Street on there and therefore no one recognized that that was what it was.
Mary Jane: That it was the British one.
Steve: And then there were thoughts that maybe the director or something kept a copy of it and that’s where it came from, but no one is exactly sure. But anyway, we’re going to discuss a little bit about the 1940 movie, and then we’re going to compare and contrast them. And the one thing we definitely haven’t discussed is which one we preferred. I know which one I preferred, and I’m sure you have your opinion.
Mary Jane: I have my opinion. Yes.
Steve: So, let’s dive into that.
Mary Jane: All right.
Steve: So, the British version stars Anton Walbrook as the husband, Diana Wynyard as the wife, Frank Pettengill as the detective, and Cathleen Cordell as the parlor maid. That’s Angela Lansbury’s role.
It’s directed by Thorold Dickinson, and it runs just 84 minutes, and you can compare that with 117 of the American version, which I really felt dragged on after a while. So this one is much more compact.
Mary Jane: Right, much more compact, yeah.
Steve: now, probably the most noticeable thing to me. I mean, there’s a lot of differences between these two movies.
Mary Jane: Yes, yeah.
Steve: The most noticeable is the very beginning because at the beginning they actually show the strangulation of Alice Barlow. This is the aunt. And at the time, she’s actually sewing a needlepoint with her name. She’s finishing up. She puts her name on there and has the date of 1865.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: So you know exactly where this is set. They’re not using a newspaper to tell you the time period. I mean, no matter what, it’s the Victorian period.
Mary Jane: Right. I think in the American version you do see Ingrid Bergman, who’s kind of grief-stricken and so you kind of get a feel for something horrific has happened. But you’re right, they don’t show it at all.
Steve: Yeah, I mean this movie just jumps right into the action. With the American one, I don’t know how long it was. 20, 25, 30 minutes, probably about 20 – 25 minutes. They give you the whole backstory. You know, they take her to Italy and she’s studying music and then they come back to England. Where here they just kind of throw you into it and it picks up right after the murder.
Now the other noticeable thing, I mentioned this earlier, is in the British version of it, and this is true of the original play itself, is the focus is on the husband. The guy who’s driving his wife mad, whereas in the American movie, it’s who?
Mary Jane: Well, Ingrid Bergman plays a big part in it. So yes. And it’s her aunt, actually. It’s kind of interesting. In the American version, it’s her aunt that is killed. In the British one, it is actually the man’s aunt that he kills.
Steve: Right, and he only marries the wife, the woman, the young woman, because he wants her money so that he can afford to buy back the aunt’s house and search for the jewels that he’s looking for.
Mary Jane: Right. So, it’s really, it’s for her money, yes.
Steve: Now I guess I should mention that after they buy this house, they come back twenty years after the murder. So, 1865 + 20 is 1885. So that’s the same exact date that they have for the American movie. Although the American one, I think the newspaper is dated 1875 and they add 10 years, but you end up with the same date.
Mary Jane: Right. She comes back ten years later in the American.
Steve: Right. But what I did find interesting is the places, the names. They’ve all been changed except for the maids. The maids stay the same. For example, in the British version, the home is #12 Pimlico Square, and in the US version, it’s #9 Thornton Square. Why they’d make that change, I don’t know.
Even the names of the characters in the play, the British movie, and the American movie, they’re all different. For example, the husband. That’s the one who’s driving or the wife insane. His name in the play is Jack Manningham. He becomes Paul Malin in the British movie and then Gregory Anton in the American movie. The wife is Bella Barlow Manningham. Of course, she marries, gets the last name Manningham. Then she becomes Bella Barlow Malin. That’s Diana Woodward’s character in the British version. And then she becomes Paula Alquist Anton, played by Ingrid Bergman, in the American version. So, the names are just changing here. Even the investigator. He’s Constable Rough in the play and in the British version, and then he becomes a much younger man, played by Joseph Cotton. That’s Brian Cameron in the American version. As I said, the names of the two servants remain the same throughout it. That’s Elizabeth and Nancy. Of course, if we go through all these names are just going to confuse everybody. So, it’s easier to just say husband and wife and the maid and the investigator and so on, I think.
Mary Jane: Sure, that would be great.
Steve: Anyway, now the beginning of the movie on both sides is very different. As I said, in the American one, there’s this whole back story. The British one, they just throw you right into it. And the endings, which we’ll talk about later on, are different. But the central core, even though all the dialogue and stuff is different, is kind of the same. The same events take place. For example, you know, there’s a portrait missing off the wall. She’s lost a cameo brooch. His pocket watch is missing. Yet to me they feel like very, very different movies. What do you think about that?
Mary Jane: Well, there’s two main characters that, well, I wouldn’t call them main, but there’s two characters that are very different. We talked about that. One is very important to the difference I think is the investigator. And the parlor maids are different. Their personality types are different. They still play the same role, but.
Steve: Yeah, I mean, but, you know, I watched the American version, then I watched the British one, and even though I kind of knew how the story went, I felt like I was watching a different movie, you know?
Mary Jane: OK. Yeah.
Steve: So anyway, what I want to do, of course, you know, gaslighting. He’s trying to convince his wife that she’s going nuts, that she’s going insane, and of course, she should go into an institution. So, I have two clips comparing, not necessarily at the same moments in the movie. But comparing how it occurs in the British and then in the American movie, with her going insane. How it’s handled. In one, she kind of realizes that, in the other one, the husband is basically telling her this. So, let me first play the British version, OK?
Mary Jane: Alright, yeah, let’s do that.
Steve: So, I guess I should set this up a little bit. What we have here is from the 1940, the British version. We have the cook Elizabeth, talking with Bella. That’s the wife. And Bella is staring into a mirror.
She’s actually looking at her eyes in a mirror, and this is what she says.
Elizabeth (Minnie Raynor): There, there, ma’am. There’s only something wrong with the pipes. You must have dropped off and been dreaming you heard something.
Bella Mallen (Diana Wynyard): That’s right, Elizabeth. Dreaming. I dream things when I’m awake. I’m going out of my mind, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth (Minnie Raynor): Oh, ma’am. You mustn’t say such things.
Bella Mallen (Diana Wynyard): You know, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth (Minnie Raynor): Well, the master did say something, but.
Bella Mallen (Diana Wynyard): I once knew a girl who died in a lunatic asylum. I remember her eyes. That was how they first knew.
Elizabeth (Minnie Raynor): If there’s anything I can do, ma’am.
Bella Mallen (Diana Wynyard): No thank you, Elizabeth. There isn’t anything anybody can do.
Steve: So, I know when we heard this the first time, you had a comment that you made to me. So why don’t you share that?
Mary Jane: Well, I think we laughed at her response to the maid. You know, she kind of, I don’t know, kept up her stiff upper lip and said No, no, no. I’ll be fine. I’m just going mad here.
Steve: Yeah, very, very prim and proper. When she’s going, you know, think she’s going insane and she’s going to end up in a mental institution and she’s just handling it very, very sophisticated with a sophisticated approach, you know?
Mary Jane: Right, I’ll be fine.
Steve: So now we’re going to play a clip from the 1944 version This is the husband, played by Charles Boyer, basically telling his wife, that’s Ingrid Bergman, that she’s going insane.
Mary Jane: Right.
Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer): Your mother was mad.
Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman): Oh, Gregory.
Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer): She died in an asylum when you were a year old.
Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman): That’s not true.
Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer): I’ve been making inquiries about Alice Alquist’s sister. I’ve talked to the doctor who attended to her. Would like to see him? He described her symptoms to me. You like to hear them? It began with her imagining things that she heard. Noises, footsteps, voices. And then the voices began to speak to her. And in the end, she died in an asylum with no brain at all.
Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman): Oh no, no.
Steve: Clearly the reactions these two wives are very different in these movies. And you know, what did you want to add to that?
Mary Jane: Well, yes, I mean the British woman is more despondent and depressed, whereas Ingrid Bergman, in a sense, she’s fighting against it a little. She screams. She cries, and he’s just telling her, you know, you’re mad, just like your mother. And, so I guess she’s a little more, you know, emotional, certainly than the British.
Steve: Right. Yeah, I did feel the British movie, the acting as a whole, was much more subdued, you know, just across the board. Whereas in the American version, Ingrid Bergman, you know, she really lets it go. And I guess it’s why she won the Academy Award, you know.
Mary Jane: Right. And I suppose it could be a cultural difference?
Steve: Sure. So there clearly are differences in the main characters here. You know, I think the British actors, the two main actors, the husband and wife, that’s Anton Walbrook and Diana Wynyard, they’re a little bit more subdued than in the American version. But the real difference to me is in the constable and the maid. That’s Angela Lansbury’s role. So now the investigator is Constable Rough and is played by Frank Pettengill. And what’s the most obvious thing?
Mary Jane: Well, he’s an older man, an older gentleman with quite a paunch and he’s kind of fatherly in this in this movie, trying to look out for her, concerned about her, but more like a father.
Mary Jane: Did you want to talk about the investigator in the American one?
Steve: Well, the American, we already said, you know, the investigator in the American one, that’s Brian Cameron, is played by Joseph Cotton. A) His accent is way off. He’s clearly there because he’s got fame at the time, he was a famous actor, but second, he’s a young guy.
Mary Jane: Young, slim, attractive for the time, yeah.
Steve: Right. Right, a little bit of eye candy, I would say.
Mary Jane: Yes, and we have to say, I think now he becomes almost like a love interest at the very end of the movie.
Steve: Right. And we’ll talk about the ending in a bit and what we liked and didn’t like about them. And the other part is the parlor maid. Now Kathleen Cordell plays the role in the British version. And of course, Angela Lansbury plays in the American version of this movie. So, what are your comments on that?
Mary Jane: So, the British parlor maid is definitely more innocent, young, vivacious. He’s attracted to her, the male character. As a matter of fact, there’s one point where he says, “You are inexperienced, aren’t you?” And she looks confused and says, “Depends how you mean, sir.” And then he laughs. So, you could have said that in a different manner, but she says it more in an innocent manner. Whereas Angela Lansbury’s character is more of a tart, sort of. So that’s kind of the Hollywood 40s, I think, style, making her kind of sexy.
Steve: Although I will say it was kind of interesting, I’ve always heard about the Can-can girls and in the 1940 version they really had them on the screen.
Mary Jane: They showed, yeah. They showed the Music Hall with the can-can girls, so that was interesting, that one.
Steve: Yeah, it really seemed like it was a real music hall where they filmed that. I’m not really sure.
Mary Jane: Oh my goodness. And the dancing was amazing.
Steve: Very impressive.
Mary Jane: So yeah, it was pretty much the real thing.
Steve: So what about the production? I mean, we already mentioned that the American version is a typical Hollywood production with incredible sets, except for that one scene at the lake. But in general, it was really, really well done. What do you think about the British sets?
Mary Jane: Well, it’s not as elaborate. I’m sure they didn’t, you know, possibly didn’t have the kind of the Hollywood money, the funds to budget that elaborate so.
Steve: Yeah, it seemed like a set to me. In fact, one of the things I mentioned to you earlier is that the British one really seems like a play. Even the set looks like a play. And then the American version is more of a movie set. You know, much more elaborate.
Mary Jane: It’s a little more sophisticated.
Steve: Yeah, more on a much grander scale. So that was very noticeable to me. But I will say this and that is, I didn’t find that the British version dragged at all.
Mary Jane: No, it gets an A+ for editing I think.
Steve: Yeah, and it is truer to the original play. The American version takes a lot of liberty, you know, with it.
Mary Jane: Yeah, they rewrote a lot.
Steve: So, at the end of both of these movies, you realize the wife is not insane. She’s not losing anything. She’s done nothing wrong other than to fall under the husband’s spell.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: What I did find interesting is in the British version, it’s actually the husband who’s insane and they really do show that insanity, but that’s totally removed from the American version.
Mary Jane: Right. Yeah, it was a nice twist on the British one for sure.
Steve: Right, but at the same time at the end of the American version, there is a nice little speech where she is regaining.
Mary Jane: Kind of, yeah. She regains her identity and she kind of fights back in a sense and she actually tries to kind of give him a taste of his own medicine for a little while, and pretends to be too mad to help him escape. Because he wants to escape. He wants her help.
Steve: Well, we don’t play that whole segment. Let’s just hear a little bit of that. And of course, this is Ingrid Bergman in the American version.
Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman): I’ve found it at last, you see, but it doesn’t help you, does it, and I’m trying to help you, aren’t I, trying to help you to escape. How can a mad woman help her husband to escape?
Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer): But you’re not mad.
Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman): Yes, I am mad. My mother was mad.
Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer): No, Paula, that wasn’t true. Help me.
Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman): If I were not mad, I could have helped you. Whatever you had done, I could have pitied and protected you. But because I am mad, I hate you. Because I am mad, I have betrayed you. And because I’m mad, I’m rejoicing in my heart, without a shred of pity, without a shred of regret, watching you go with glory in my heart! Mr. Cameron, come.
Mary Jane: So, I like this piece because it’s kind of a long time coming to have her stand up for herself. So, I kind of like that, the way they end it there.
Steve: Yeah, I totally agree. Now, we should also talk about the very ending of these movies. They end very differently.
Mary Jane: Yes, there’s a bit of symbolism in it, yes.
Steve: Now in the British version, the wife goes out on a balcony and she’s looking out over the square and you get the sense she has freedom, she has independence.
Mary Jane: Right, right. Yes. And then in the American one, she goes out on the balcony with the investigator and he says it’s going to be hard, but I’ll be here to help you.
Mary Jane: And then she kind of touches his shoulder and says, you’re so very kind. And then out of the blue, the busybody woman shows up and says, Oh my.
Steve: And that’s the end of the movie.
Mary Jane: And that’s the end of the movie.
Steve: And I told you after I just thought that was not needed.
Mary Jane: Yeah, it got a little cheesy. Basically, it’s that she, oh, she’s gone from one husband to another. She’s probably, this is going to be her, at least her boyfriend, probably in the future.
Steve: Yeah, I have to say I liked the British ending better – that little bit – better than the American. I just, you know, maybe it’s because I’m looking through, you know, the eyes of someone living in the year 2022.
Mary Jane: Yes, yeah.
Steve: But you know, it’s almost like she needs a man and she’ll have a man and she’ll be happy after that.
Mary Jane: That she’ll always need someone who will take care of her.
Steve: In the British version there’s no hint of that. She’s just going to do fine.
Mary Jane: This is true, but a few moments before that, we do have to say she has her rich cousin saying that he’s so happy that she’s now kind of regained her independence and all that. And you do get the sense that she’s going to be cared for by her family. So, you still get that message there, you know? But anyhow, you’re right, it definitely the very last few minutes, it’s very different. And the British one is a little more positive as far as women, you know, taking care of themselves.
Steve: OK, Mary Jane, now for the big surprise was we purposely have not discussed this. Which version did you like better?
Mary Jane: All right, now I know when we saw it first, I felt like I liked the British one. But I guess the second time around I did appreciate some of the acting, some of the set design, and the cinematography. I kind of went for the American one. So, I think I’m going to go a little bit more for the American one. But let’s give the credit to the British for having written the script. You know it’s coming up with the whole idea.
Steve: I have to say after I watched both the first time, I liked the British one better. But I have to say even after watching them twice, I still prefer the British one.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: I think it just gets right into it.
Mary Jane: Right, there’s, it’s very good.
Steve: It keeps you engaged the whole time. Sure, it’s certainly nowhere near as beautiful of a set to look at. The acting is a little bit more subdued. But I just preferred the story. I was more glued to the screen for that one than the American one.
Mary Jane: I, you know, honestly though, the American one, there’s a darkness to it. And I don’t mean visually. I mean their relationship is a little more sadomasochistic, almost. Because it’s very strange the way once he says, Oh, I’m sorry, darling, she just loves him all again, you know? No matter how torturous he is. It’s not just the visuals, I like the American one also. Kind of for the psychological piece too.
Steve: Yeah, I’ll agree.
Mary Jane: That’s just my opinion.
Steve: I’ll agree with you to a point, but I just couldn’t get over that the American one dragged.
Mary Jane: It was longer, yes, absolutely.
Steve: Yeah, and.
Mary Jane: It was a little too long, yeah.
Steve: And I said, I said this to you after we watched both of them. I think the first time, I didn’t need all that back story at the beginning. I like that the British one just throws you into the action, although it is, it does, you know, run more like a play. You, you know you’re watching a theatrical set, almost, and it’s more of a play. But I just liked that version better. So we disagree, I guess
Mary Jane: Yeah, yeah, sure. That’s not unusual, Steve.
Steve: Sure, people think we fight over everything, which we really don’t. We get along pretty well. But anyway. So I guess no matter which version you choose, is it worth going back and finding a copy of these movies a finding a copy and watching them?
Mary Jane: Absolutely, if you enjoy and have the patience for older movies, which I do. But you want to watch it with a friend. I don’t know if I’d watched them alone. It’s true the American ones a bit long, but they’re worth watching, I think. For sure.
Steve: And of course, I should mention that the British version is totally free. It’s on YouTube for free, no commercials, nothing, and it’s in great condition.
Mary Jane: Yeah, yeah.
Steve: They really did a good job of restoring this movie. So, if you don’t have access to the American one, at least see the British one. I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s only an hour and a half, so it’s not that big a deal. Not even. It’s a really, really good movie. They’re both good movies.
Mary Jane: Right, the British one is very good also. No, no doubt about it.
Steve: OK, so here I am cutting you off. Sorry about that, but we got to give it a score. You know, we’re teachers.
Mary Jane: Oh boy, one to 10, right?
Steve: We have to grade them. Actually, I think did we do one to 10 the last time? No, I think we did out of 100, right, because we’re teachers. Yeah, sure. Yeah.
Mary Jane: Well, it’s pretty similar. I mean 8.8 is 88, OK?
Steve: Right, so. Let’s start with the British version. What grade would you give that?
Mary Jane: So, if we’re doing 1 to 100, I would give it an 87. And the American one, I’m not going to give it much more. Maybe 88. I mean, they’re both really good. It’s just they’re different. Style and yeah.
Steve: Honestly, I would give him about the same score. I’ve seen better movies than both of these. But they are in the high 80s for both of them. I might reverse a little bit, but you know, basically, they’re both under 90%, I would say. They’re definitely not average movies. I think they’re better than average simply because the story is very good.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: So, I recommend you see one of them, at least.
Mary Jane: Yeah, and then you know where the term gaslighting came from.
Steve: Yeah, and I should mention, we watched both and you don’t get bored. You can watch one and watch the other. And because they’re done so differently, it’s almost like watching a different movie. It’s almost like there’s so many movies they’ve remade. If you watch A Star is Born, they’ve done so many versions of that.
Mary Jane: Right, it’s. It’s almost nice to compare for sure.
Steve: Right. So anyway, I guess we should bring this to an end.
Mary Jane: All right.
Steve: I know you have school starting in two days.
Mary Jane: I’ve got work to do right now actually.
Steve: So, you may be distant for a while. I just want to thank you for taking the time out to do this. I know you’re my wife and…
Mary Jane: Yeah, the commute was so short, it was fine.
Steve: Yeah, and I got you out of the dungeon, so.
Mary Jane: Yeah, yeah, right.
Steve: Although your office is actually on the second floor.
Mary Jane: Right.
Steve: I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. As you know, no one else knows this, I’m working on a new thing for the podcast.
Mary Jane: Yeah, sounds interesting.
Steve: I’m not going to quite go into it right now. I’ve had this idea for years, but it’s different from how I’ve done things in the past. I’m still going to do these longer stories and I’m still going to do the Retrocasts, but this is something different. It may be a little late. As you know, I’m having more dental surgery. It seems like a constant thing on this podcast, but I am having another dental surgery.
Mary Jane: Yes.
Steve: I think it’s on Thursday this of this week, so I don’t know how I’ll be. It may be a few days where I can’t actually work on it and record, so we’ll see. But I think people will enjoy it. Then you’ve heard what it is. Without giving away, I think it’s a little bit of a yeah, it’s still looking at old stories and stuff, but from a different point of view.
Mary Jane: We’ll keep it a mystery for now.
Steve: So anyway, I just think I want to thank everybody for listening and I hope you tune in the next time. Take everyone. Bye.
Mary Jane: OK. Yep, bye.