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A Guide to Watching "Gaslight" (1944)

220px-gaslight-1944Last fall, I hosted an online discussion about the movie Gaslight, the 1944 thriller that gave rise to the pop psych term gaslighting, which typically refers to psychologically manipulative and controlling behaviors in interpersonal relationships, the political realm, and our workplaces.

This session was part of a film discussion series hosted by the University of Chicago’s Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults, an intensive, non-credit, four-year course of study of the Great Books of the Western canon. The film night discussions are among the program’s complementary activities. (I’m a student in the Basic Program, having just completed my 3rd year. I hope to share some of that experience in future posts.)

Despite the growing popularity of the term gaslighting, it’s quite possible that many folks have never watched the movie. In fact, prior to agreeing to host the film night session, I hadn’t seen the movie in years and wondered if it would hold up as a dramatic story, rather than simply being the inspiration for the term as used today. Fortunately, Gaslight gave us plenty to talk about, and we didn’t spend a lot of time on its contemporary relevance.

If you'd like to do your own viewing of Gaslight, the following notes are slightly edited from what I posted for those attending the film night:

How to Watch

  • Search “Gaslight 1944 streaming” for options. You will likely pay a small rental fee, around $3.
  • Gaslight is also available on DVD. Look for the WB Archive Collection print.
  • Don’t confuse an earlier, 1940 British production with the 1944 American production. The 1944 production has received the most critical attention.

Short Intro from

“Ten years after her aunt was murdered in their London home, a woman returns from Italy in the 1880s to resume residence with her new husband. His obsessive interest in the home rises from a secret that may require driving his wife insane.”

Main Cast, Director, and Honors

  • Charles Boyer as Gregory Anton (Academy Award nominee)
  • Ingrid Bergman as Paula Alquist (Academy Award winner)
  • Joseph Cotton as Brian Cameron
  • May Whitty as Miss Thwaites
  • Angela Lansbury as Nancy (Academy Award nominee)
  • Barbara Everest as Elizabeth

Directed by George Cukor.

Gaslight won an Academy Award for “Best Art Direction – Black and White” and received Academy Award nominations for “Best Motion Picture,” “Best Screenplay,” and “Best Cinematography – Black and White.”

A Starter List of Questions

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