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This article is about the 1940 film Gaslight. For the 1944 film see Gaslight.


Gaslight is a 1940 film based on Patrick Hamilton's play Gas Light (1938). It was released in the United States under the title Angel Street so that audiences would not confuse it with MGM's 1944 version starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, though both had essentially the same plot. The 1944 cinema Gaslight was released in England under the title The Murder in Thornton Square.

Plot

The plot focuses on a young woman haunted by the murder of her aunt in a Londonmarker townhouse that has lain vacant since the crime. Years later she is persuaded by her new husband to return in order to overcome her anxieties. She soon finds herself misplacing small objects and hearing odd noises, and before long her spouse has her believing she is losing her sanity.

This screen version, directed by Thorold Dickinson and starring Diana Wynyard, Anton Walbrook, and Frank Pettingell, adheres more closely to the original play than the 1944 remake. The latter early on reveals the husband's sinister intentions, and cast handsome leading man Joseph Cotten as the detective who solves the case, contrasted with the heavyset, rougher and older Pettingell, who acts as a benevolent detective that intervenes after he observes strange events on his street. The 1940 version had a smaller budget than the more romantic 1944 edition, and concentrates on the abusive, manipulative marital relationship.

The term gaslighting originated from this film (The character Gregory used the gas lamps in the attic, causing the rest of the lamps in the house to dim slightly; when Paula comments on the lights' dimming, she is told she is imagining things. Paula believes herself alone in the house when the dimming occurs, unaware that Gregory has entered the attic from the house next door. The sinister interpretation of the change in light levels is part of a larger pattern of deception to which the character Paula is subjected.)

Reception

MGM reportedly tried to suppress release of the 1940 film in the United States, even to the point of trying to destroy the negative, so that it would not compete with their more publicized 1944 remake.

References

Bibliography

  • The Great British Films, pp 52-54, Jerry Vermilye, 1978, Citadel Press, ISBN 080650661X


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