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!
—Paula Alquist denouncing her husband.
Based on a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton, Gaslight
is a 1944 psychological-thriller directed by George Cukor and staring Ingrid Bergman
in her first Oscar-winning performance.
She plays Paula, a young woman who lived with her aunt, a famous opera singer. One day, the aunt is suddenly murdered and robbed by the mysterious Sergius Bauer, leaving Paula alone. After studying abroad for the ten years since the incident, she returns to England with a new husband, Gregory (Charles Boyer). But shortly afterwards, Gregory suddenly starts going out of his way to Mind Rape
Can Paula find out the reason for her husband's cruelty? Can a sympathetic Scotland Yard
officer (Joseph Cotten) save the day?
A very-young Angela Lansbury
made her film debut as the quirky maid Nancy; the performance won her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
This movie provides examples of:
- Alliterative Name: Alice Alquist.
- Alone with the Psycho: Paula being confronted by Gregory in the film's finale, while Brian is not around to help her.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing / Devil in Plain Sight: Gregory. Paula is a Horrible Judge of Character to not notice it.
- Bound and Gagged: Gregory, after Brian and the constable overpower him.
- Catch Phrase: Miss Thwaites' "Well!"
- Chekhov's Gun:
- One of Paula's aunt's stage gloves, given to an unnamed admirer who turns out to have been Cameron as a boy.
- The costume Alice Alquist is wearing in her portrait is where she hid the jewels.
- Death by Childbirth: Paula's mother died when she was born, though Gregory later twists the story to serve his agenda.
- The Dog Bites Back: Paula charging Gregory when latter is Bound and Gagged.
- Domestic Abuse: One of the most iconic examples in fiction, as Gregory bullies and manipulates Paula to the point of madness.
- Driven to Madness: Gregory pulls no punches in order to convince Paula she's going mad.
- Droste Image: Gregory holding Alice Alquist's costume in front of a painting of the singer wearing said costume.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Invoked by Gregory to push his agenda. He starts talking about marriage already after two weeks of knowing Paula.
- Gaslighting: Trope Maker and Trope Namer.
- Gun Struggle: Between Gregory and Brian. Nobody gets harmed though.
- Haunted House Historian: The neighbor is extremely knowledgeable about the murder mystery at the house.
- He Knows Too Much: Gregory tries to make Paula believe she is an Unreliable Narrator, in order to make her deny she ever saw that letter which tied him to the murder case.
- Hell Is That Noise: The noise from the attic is driving Paula crazy.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: How Alice hid the jewels that the tsar gave her, the ones Gregory is hunting for—on the costume she wore to the opera, amidst all the fake jewelery she wore for her performance.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: As the page quote proudly demonstrates, Paula proudly turns Gregory's scheme to drive her to madness back on him.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Paula is a manipulated victim, carrying the Idiot Ball of taking Gregory for a well-meaning husband.
- MacGuffin: The jewels.
- Market-Based Title: Averted; the play and first film adaptation were titled "Angel Street" in the U.S., but this version was released under the original title.
- Manipulative Bastard: Gregory, who sought Paula out and married her so he could get access to her house and find the jewels.
- Maybe Ever After: At the end, Brian the detective tells Paula that he'll come by later and help her get past her trauma.
- Mind Rape: Gregory's mind games that he uses to convince Paula she's going insane.
- Mr. Exposition: The neighbor being a Haunted House Historian and the police captain dropping Info Dumps about the missing jewels.
- Never My Fault: Gregory never for a moment lets Paula entertain the idea that he may be mistaken; she must be mad. At the end, Gregory insists that he and Paula could have been happy together were it not for her aunt's jewels. This is a man who has married a woman explicitly to drive her insane so she'd be committed, and murdered her aunt for the aforementioned jewels. Paula's not impressed.
- Nosy Neighbor: Miss Thwaites.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Joseph Cotten using his own courtly Virginia accent to play a Scotland Yard detective.
- Ominous Fog: Lots of it around the neighborhood as Paula is led away from the house after her aunt's murder, and lots more later, when Gregory is skulking through the alleys.
- One-Liner, Name... One-Liner: Brian to the cop: "I don't know, Williams. I don't know."
- Parental Abandonment: Paula's mother suffered Death by Childbirth and she never met her Disappeared Dad, so she grew up with her aunt, the famous singer Alice Alquist.
- Police Are Useless:
- Played straight with General Huddleston who tries hard to keep the lid on the murder case.
- Averted with Constable Williams who helps Brian solve the case and also later when both overpower Gregory.
- Posthumous Character: Alice Alquist, opera singer, lover to a tsar, owner of valuable jewels that Sergis Bauer is determined to find.
- Really Gets Around: Nancy the slutty maid, portrayed as explicitly as possible in 1944.
- The Remake: This was the second film adaptation of the play; the first was a British film made in 1940. MGM tried to buy and burn up all the negatives of the 1940 version in order to avoid any competition with its film. They failed, and the earlier version survives today.
- Servile Snarker: Nancy.
- Sleeping Single: Paula and Gregory have separate rooms—of course, given Gregory's ulterior motives, this makes sense.
- Terrible Ticking: One of Gregory's tricks on Paula.
- Victorian London
- You Can Hear That, Right?: Paula asking the cook to confirm the noises coming from the attic. Too bad, latter is hearing-impaired.