I watch a lot of movies—most of them on TCM and all late at night.
The knowledgeable and affable film historian and TCM host Robert Osborne feels like a family friend to me. Cary Grant, James Stewart, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, and Joseph Cotten are relatives who stop by to tell me their stories on films.
Like any classic film buff, I’ve my favorite movies… and one of them is “Gaslight.” Recently, “Gaslight” (1944 version) was on, and I watched it for the hundredth time.
Dreamy and naive Paula (Ingrid Bergman), niece of a famous opera singer who was murdered, falls in love and marries Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). Gregory convinces Paula that they should move into the London townhome that Paula’s aunt bequeathed to her. Despite Paula’s hesitance—her aunt was murdered in that very place—Paula gives in (that smooth-talkin’ Gregory knows how to get what he wants, especially when he sounds like Charles Boyer). Once in London, Gregory begins a subtle manipulation of Paula, slowly breaking down her self-esteem, playing mind games with her, and “gaslighting” her. (The term “gaslight” comes from this movie; the psychological form of abuse makes victim’s doubt their own memories and perceptions.) Fortunately, Inspector Brian Cameron of Scotland Yard (Joseph Cotten) happens to bump into Paula.
No! I’m not going to tell you the whole movie. Just go rent it!
So, while watching “Gaslight,” I reached for my sketchpad and colored pencils and markers and quickly drew a little scene from the movie just because. Poor Paula sits and reads her book while her smug, self-satisfied maid (an 18-year-old Angela Lansbury) gets her flirt on with Gregory Anton. He’s at his most gaslight-y self in this scene. You want to throw your popcorn at the screen and go rescue the adorable Paula.
Paula, Paula, Paula … as Gregory Anton would say.