Horror History: Gaslight
I first learned about Gaslight in its film form which was released in 1944. It stars Ingrid Bergman and Angela Lansbury and tells the harrowing story of a woman who endures major loss followed by physiological torture. It’s a gothic horror story turned into a captivating and horrifying film. The 1944 film was actually based on a play from 1938 called Gas Light. Gas Light was written by Patrick Hamilton and tells a similar story.
As you might expect, this work is what gives us the term ‘gaslighting.’ In the play and film, the husband uses tricks of light and other deceptions to convince his wife she’s going insane. All so he can steal from her. The term ‘gaslighting’ was not used at all in these works, but the connection is clear.
Though the play debuted at the Richmond Theater in London, it was transferred to the Apollo Theater in the West End. It ran for only 141 performances, but inspired many successful remakes. Most notably Angel Street from 1941, an American version which became one of the longest running musicals on broadway.
Patrick Hamilton wrote Gas Light after enduring two back to back traumatic and life altering events. The darkness he presumably felt at the time seeps into the essence of his work.
Recently, at a paranormal convention I found this novelization of Gaslight. This copy is from 1966. The by line belongs to Hamilton, but the Gothic novelization was done by William Drummond. Because this copy was released almost twenty years after the play and film, we can thank its renewed popularity to Angel Street. Which is also referenced on the cover.
The 1944 film was nominated for seven academy awards, including Best Picture, at the 7th annual Academy Awards Ceremony. It won two. Ingrid Bergman won for Best Actress and the film won for Best Production Design.
Gas Light has been repurpose and repackaged in so many different formants over the years. From radio dramas, spin-off plays, to film and television features. The story remains poignant and haunting.