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TCM Spotlight: The Art of Casting
Remind Me

Gaslight (1944)

Saturday April, 6 2019 at 06:00 AM
Wednesday May, 15 2019 at 01:30 PM

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At the 1945 Academy Awards® ceremony, when Ingrid Bergman accepted her first Oscar® for Gaslight, Bing Crosby and Leo McCarey had just won awards as, respectively, Best Actor and Director for Going My Way (1944). "Tomorrow I go to work in a picture with Bing and Mr. McCarey," said Bergman, referring to the upcoming The Bells of St. Mary's (1945). "And I'm afraid that, if I didn't have an Oscar® too, they wouldn't speak to me." Bergman's Best Actress Oscar® was presented by best friend and fellow David O. Selznick contractee Jennifer Jones, who had emerged the winner the year before when both actresses were nominated - Bergman for For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) and Jones for The Song of Bernadette (1943).

"Your artistry has won our vote and your graciousness has won our hearts," Jones said as she handed the statuette to Bergman. An even more generous compliment came from fellow nominee Barbara Stanwyck, who many felt should have won the Best Actress Oscar® that year for Double Indemnity (1944). Declaring herself "a member of the Ingrid Bergman Fan Club," Stanwyck told the press, "I don't feel at all bad about the Award because my favorite actress won it and has earned it by all her performances."

Bergman, who had long coveted the role of the tormented wife being driven insane by her husband in Gaslight, went after the role at MGM after resident star Hedy Lamarr turned it down. Bergman almost missed her chance when Selznick initially refused to loan her to MGM unless she was given first billing over costar Charles Boyer. When Boyer refused to budge on the matter, Bergman went to Selznick in tears begging him to reconsider - which he finally did. Because the statuesque Bergman was taller than her co-star, Boyer stood on a box during certain scenes - a ploy that would be repeated when the two stars worked together again in Arch of Triumph (1948). Boyer reportedly was distracted throughout the filming of Gaslight because the production coincided with the birth of his son, Michael. When the blessed event occurred, the proud papa treated the cast and crew to champagne.

Gaslight also won an Oscar® for Best Interior Decoration and was nominated in the categories of Best Picture, Actor (Boyer), Supporting Actress (Angela Lansbury), Screenplay and Black and White Cinematography. The film marked the movie and acting debut of Lansbury, who had been working in a Los Angeles department store before being cast as Nancy, the maid. Director George Cukor was instantly impressed by the fledgling actress' talent and professionalism, and prevailed when the studio resisted hiring her because she wasn't "sexy enough." Lansbury turned 18 on the set - and had to wait for that day to legally light a cigarette, a defiant gesture made by her saucy character. She, too, had to contend with Bergman's height, wearing high platform shoes to give the impression that Nancy towered over her timid mistress.

Director: George Cukor
Producer: Arthur Hornblow, Jr.
Screenwriter: John L. Balderston, Walter Reisch, John van Druten
Cinematographer: Joseph Ruttenberg
Composer: Bronislau Kaper
Editor: Arthur Williams, Ralph Winters
Art Director: William Ferrari, Cedric Gibbons
Costume Designer: Marion Herwood Keyes, Irene Sharaff
Cast: Charles Boyer (Gregory Anton), Ingrid Bergman (Paula Alquist), Joseph Cotton (Brian Cameron), Dame May Whitty (Miss Thwaites), Angela Lansbury (Nancy Oliver)
BW-114m. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

by Roger Fristoe


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