Thursday, June 2, 2016

don't look back

INT.  A gaslight on the wall.

The light shimmers and flickers in a bright space against dark shadows and rows of decorative print on the wallpaper.

Opening credits.

Orchestral music, dramatic, with some accompaniment by a soprano vocal.

EXT.  London street - Night.

Fog.  A workman in a coat and hat, lighting the outdoor gaslights.  He hurries.

One of the street lamps has a sign which reads, "Thornton Square."

A bystander, a man in a coat and high, black top hat holds a newspaper under the street lamp.

CLOSE-UP -- under "London Standard, October 14, 1875," the headlines:


(Background music is dramatic, but subtle.)

At one of the houses in the square, a young girl (Ingrid Bergman) is escorted out and into a horse-drawn carriage, by an older coated-and-top-hatted gentleman. 

As she sits rigidly in the carriage, her face a numb mask of sorrow and shock, the man goes back in the front door of the house and, reaching up, turns down a gaslight. 

He exits the house.  A small group of people -- servants, perhaps -- and one policeman are there, keeping a respectful distance from the grieving young girl.

With a nimble, crisp clip-clop, the horses pull the carriage away from the CAMERA, over the bricked street, through brightness thrown by the street lamps, surrounded by darkness; a few pedestrians with umbrellas are on the sidewalk.

INT.  The carriage - Night.

The girl turns her gaze to the carriage window, and the old gentleman speaks to her, firmly but gently.

"No, no, Paula.  Don't look back.  You've got to forget everything that's happened here.  That's why you're going to Italy, to Signor Guardi. 

He was the best friend your aunt ever had, and he'll be yours, too. 

Perhaps Signor Guardi will make you into a great singer, as she was.  Wouldn't you like that? 

You must think of the future, dear, not the past.

The girl's eyes shine with tears that do not fall; sorrow, fear, and determined courage are mixed in her facial expression.  She says nothing.

In the next scene, Ingrid Bergman is in a singing lesson in an ornately furnished-and-decorated room in Italy. 

It is a few years later; she's an adult, now.  She sings -- (she sounds fine to me, but) the musical instructor -- Signor Guardi -- is gently scolding her -- "Every day you come in, you look happier, but you sing worse.  You're not concentrating!"

The piano accompanist, a dark-haired handsome man with a deep voice and melodious French accent, asks Guardi if he may be excused.

After he leaves, Ingrid Bergman -- Paula -- speaks confidentially to the Maestro.  Her face glowing, she softly confesses to him that she is in love. 

"It's something that has never happened to me before," she says.  "Suddenly it is as if nothing else existed -- even my music, which used to mean so much to me. 

Yes, you are right.  My thoughts were wandering while singing just now. 

I'm too happy.  That's why you said...that tragedy was something I could never understand."

The music teacher answers her, "I'm sorry.  It was cruel of me to say that...cruel, and untrue.  Real tragedy has touched your life, and very deeply."

He tells her now there is a chance to forget tragedy, and he says, "Take it.  Free yourself from the past -- and forget your singing, too, for a while.  Happiness is better than art."

Paula is so happy -- she is ecstatic, and she thanks Signor Guardi for being kind to her -- "Dear Maestro, no one has ever been as kind to me as you have, since she died." 

She impulsively puts her hands on his shoulders and kisses him on the cheek, then says good-bye, and leaves.

She hurries down a flight of steps on the outside of the building, her long skirt flowing, and, in bright sunlight and an emotional cloud of exhilaration, sweeps up to her love, Gregory Anton, the piano player from her lesson. 

He has been waiting for her.  He catches her in his outstretched arms, and they kiss.

"Did you tell him?" he asks her.

Paula:  He told me.  He didn't know who.

-- What did he say?

-- He said I should take my happiness.

GREGORY:  And will you?  Now?  Why do you still hesitate, Paula?
PAULA:  But I don't know you.  I don't know anything about you.

GREGORY:  Nor I about you, but I want to marry you.  Are you afraid?

PAULA:  I think I am, a little.

-- Of me?

PAULA (tenderly) - No.  No, never, but of happiness.  I haven't had a lot, and I feel I can't trust it.  You must give me time to get used to the idea.

GREGORY (warmly):  You shall have all the time you want.


She says she is going away for a week, to the lakes, to be alone and think.  They agree to see each other in one week, upon her return.

She takes the train up to the lakes.

On the train she meets a nice little old lady who's engrossed in a murder mystery.

LADY TRAIN PASSENGER:  "It's so exciting."
PAULA:  Your book?

-- Yes.  It's about a girl who marries a man, and what do you think?  He's got six wives buried in the cellar.

Paula (surprised and amused -- keeping a straight face ) -- That seems a lot.

-- Yes, and I'm only on Page 200, so I'm sure there's still more to come.  It's a wonderful book.
-- It sounds a little gruesome.
-- Yes.  I'm afraid I enjoy a good murder now and then.


They chat on, in their train compartment:  The lady, Mrs. Thwaites,

talks about her flowers in her garden at home -- the crocuses, daffodils, and tulips.  "The gardens are so beautiful in the spring.  I say Good morning to my flowers in Thornton Square every day."

-- Thornton Square?

-- Yes.  That's where I live, Number 16.  Do you know it?

A shadow of sadness and shyness passes over Paula's face; she is taken aback.
-- I know Thornton Square.

MRS. THWAITES:  Do you know anyone living there?
-- I used to.  Not anymore.

-- I wonder who that could be.  I know almost everyone who lives there now.  We're all so very friendly, popping in and out of each other's houses.  What number did your friends live at?

Paula looks uncomfortable, and distant.
-- I'm afraid I don't remember.

-- You know, we had a real, live murder there.
-- Yes, I'd heard of it.

MRS. T:  Unfortunately, it's before I went to live there, just a year before.  Ten years ago, at Number 9, a famous singer called Alice Alquist.  (She focuses on Paula) -- Have another biscuit, dear.

-- No, thank you.

-- It was a most mysterious case.  They never found out who killed her.  They never even found a motive.  I've tried to get in the house many a time. 

I think it's so exciting.  Don't you?  I mean, just to see.  Nothing's been changed -- all the furniture and everything...

PAULA:  I think we're getting into Como.
MRS. T. (cheerfully) -- So we are.


Paula, sobered and subdued after the talk of Thornton Square, alights from the train to find Gregory there, waiting for her.


{Gaslight, 1944.  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  Screenplay written by John Van Druten; Walter Reisch; and John L. Balderston.  Directed by George Cukor.  Produced by Arthur Hornblow Jr.}


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