A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Gaslight (George Cukor, 1944)

Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight
Paula Alquist: Ingrid Bergman
Gregory Anton: Charles Boyer
Brian Cameron: Joseph Cotten
Miss Thwaites: May Whitty
Nancy: Angela Lansbury
Elizabeth: Barbara Everest

Director: George Cukor
Screenplay: John Van Druten, Walter Reisch, John L Balderston
Based on a play by Patrick Hamilton
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Art direction: William Ferrari, Cedric Gibbons

There is a tendency among critic-historians to prefer the 1940 Thorold Dickinson film of Gaslight to the slicker and more opulent 1944 version directed by George Cukor, partly because MGM attempted to suppress the earlier film -- an absurd and vicious effort that evidently failed. But although I myself went along with that attitude in my entry on the Dickinson version, I have to admit that rewatching Cukor's film has brought me around, partly because Cukor is a director I have more and more come to appreciate for his warm professionalism. He loves actors and showcasing them, which he does to great effect in the 1944 film, winning an Oscar for Ingrid Bergman -- largely, I think, for her wonderful scene in which Paula turns the tables on Anton -- as well as bringing out Charles Boyer's great gift for attractive menace. And perhaps best of all, giving the teenage Angela Lansbury an opportunity to shine -- and to earn the first of her sadly unrewarded Oscar nominations. Lansbury's Nancy is a saucy baggage, and she steals the show from the stars by wielding her sharp little chin like a knife, making Paula's fear of Nancy entirely credible while flirting boldly with Anton. May Whitty as the nosy Miss Thwaites, with her delight in the macabre, provides a needed bit of comic relief, too. Her curtain line, "Well!", when she comes upon Paula with Brian Cameron after Anton's arrest, provides a satisfactory ending, partly because it's delivered in a different tone -- this time one of delight -- than her earlier scandalized "Well!" when she saw Paula and Anton kissing. This is high Hollywood filmmaking at its most satisfying.

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