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August 29, 2023

Stunning Publicity Portraits of Ingrid Bergman in ‘Gaslight’ (1944)

Arguably the height of legendary actress Ingrid Bergman’s career was the mid-1940s. It was in 1942 that she appeared in what may be her most famous film, Casablanca. The success of Casablanca was followed by other successful hit films, including For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Spellbound (1945), and Notorious (1946). Among Miss Bergman’s successes of the era was Gaslight (1944), in which she played Paula Alquist Anton, a woman nearly driven to madness by her husband (Gregory Anton, played by Charles Boyer). For her role as Paula, Ingrid Bergman won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Lead Role.

In retrospect there should be little wonder that Gaslight (1944) was a success. Not only were both stars Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer at the peaks of their careers, but the film was based an already existing and very successful property. The film was based on the play Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton, which debuted on London’s West End at the Apollo Theatre in December 1938. Gas Light proved extremely successful, so much so that both it and its subsequent movie adaptations would give rise to the term gaslighting, referring to the psychological manipulation of someone into questioning his or her own sanity.

While Ingrid Bergman would go onto win the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as tormented wife  Paula Alquist Anton, she very nearly did not get the part. In October 1942 it was Irene Dunne and Melvyn Douglas who were announced as the stars of MGM’s adaptation of Gaslight. MGM later offered the role of harassed wife Paula to Hedy Lamarr, who turned the role down (curiously, she had earlier turned down Casablanca, perhaps Ingrid Bergman’s most famous role). Miss Bergman had seen the play when it had been on Broadway and even tried persuading David O. Selznick (to whom she was under contract) to buy the film rights. Unfortunately, Mr. Selznick refused. Quite naturally when she learned MGM was producing its own version of the play, Miss Bergman asked him to loan her to MGM so she could play the female lead. Unfortunately Mr. Selznick would do so only if she was given top billing over Charles Boyer. Mr. Boyer refused to take second billing to Ingrid Bergman. At last Ingrid Bergman broke down in tears and begged David O. Selznick to loan her to MGM for the film. Fortunately, Mr. Selznick acquiesced.

Gaslight would turn out to be a hit with both critics and audiences. Gaslight earned  $2,263,000 in the United States and Canada, and it was the thirteenth highest grossing film in the United States for 1944. The film also did well as the Academy Awards. In addition to Ingrid Bergman’s win for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the film, Gaslight also won the Oscar for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White. It was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Picture; Best Actor in a Leading Role (for Charles Boyer); Best Actress in a Supporting Role (for Angela Lansbury); Best Writing, Screenplay; and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

Today Gaslight remains one of Ingrid Bergman’s better known films. It marked the occasion of her second Oscar nomination (the first was for For Whom the Bell Tolls) and the first Oscar she ever won. It remains one of those films every Ingrid Bergman fan must see.


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