Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Gaslight

Gaslight
seen on TV @ TCM
1.7.13

To be honest, for a long time, I had always thought of Ingrid Bergman as the Casablanca chick and little else. I didn't realize until recently, for instance, that she won three acting Oscars (though one was supporting, I believe, so that's why she's never mentioned in the same breath as Meryl Streep). I liked her in Casablanca, no doubt, but I had never been inspired to seek out the rest of her films, though I have seen Spellbound and Notorious, of course.

She was from Sweden, so I imagine she probably got plenty of comparisons to Greta Garbo. They were both impossibly beautiful. I used to have a bit of a movie crush on Garbo ever since seeing her in Camille in my college film history class. I've read and heard people describe Garbo as cold and distant, and maybe that was true to an extent. I remember seeing some of her silent films on PBS once. I think maybe that was her true forte - not that she didn't do well in talkies.


Bergman, however, doesn't strike me as being much different in this aspect, however. She had a little more fire to her, true, but I can't imagine her making a movie like Ninotchka, one that tweaks her on-screen persona and allows her to let her hair down - and I fully admit, I have not seen nearly enough of her movies. 

I've wondered here before whether actors of the past were more locked into their cinematic images than those of today, and I'm beginning to think that this was indeed the case. In reading about Bergman's history, I've noticed that when she married director Roberto Rossellini and left her first husband, she was pregnant with Rossellini's child, and this caused such a scandal that she was banned from American films for seven years. Apparently, everybody was used to her screen image as a good girl. This strikes me as absolutely ridiculous, given the amount of affairs that have been long part of Hollywood's history. Maybe it was the pregnancy that put this over the top for people back then?


So I finally got to see Bergman in Gaslight for the first time yesterday. A former video store co-worker recommended this film once, and it was one of those little things that stuck in my memory for years, but I never bothered to do anything about until now. This was the first of her three Oscar-winning roles - another thing I didn't know at the time I watched it. 

Bergman marries this dude years after the unsolved murder of her aunt and moves back into the house she grew up in with her, which unsettles Bergman a bit, but she does it for her man, who likes the place. Then he begins messing with her head, making her think she's more forgetful and incompetent than she actually is. Then she hears noises in the attic, where there shouldn't be any, and she starts freaking out. Her husband's running some kinda game on her, but what is it?


Looking at the Oscars for 1945, I see Bergman beat Stany. You can take one guess as to who I would've voted for, but in fairness to Bergman, she wasn't even nominated for Casablanca, which makes NO SENSE AT ALL, so if this was a make-up Oscar, I can live with it. 

Bergman is very good in Gaslight, although her character seemed to me like the victim of Plot-Induced Stupidity. Why did she feel like she couldn't go out of her own house? Just because her creepy husband said so? And why couldn't she unboard the door to the attic and see what was up there? I kept expecting her to say the house was haunted by her aunt's ghost, but she never does. She just seemed too easily cowed, not just by her husband, but by the noises in the attic and the titular gaslight flickering back and forth. I know, I know; this is set in the Victorian era, and people, especially women, were way different then. 


A brief word about Angela Lansbury: I thought that the husband was gonna have some kind of dalliance with her character, especially when it seemed as if she was gonna be the one to initiate it! I liked her and I wish she could've played a bigger role in the story, even if she did still get an Oscar nomination her own self. She's quite lovely here and even a little on the curvy side. It's easy to see why she has had such a long career in film and television.

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