Monday, June 6, 2016

happiness is better than art

In the first few sequences in the 1944 film Gaslight, Paula and Gregory are so in love -- it's new love, filled with vast promise -- "our life together."  A first love, for a young woman, can mean -- to her -- a triumph over any past pain, grief, shock, sorrow, or loss.  ("This man is wonderful, and he loves me! ... So -- hah!")

It's a new beginning.

As the unidentified older male guardian in the first scene says to her, "Paula -- don't look back....Think of the future...not the past."

As the music teacher tells her,

 "Now there is a chance to forget tragedy....  Take it.  Free yourself from the past....Happiness is better than art."


When Paula gets off the train at Lake Como, Gregory is waiting for her.  They embrace -- she is relieved and happy to see him, after hearing the gentlelady on the train talk about the murder from the past at Thornton Square.  Paula's somber face lights up when she sees him.

In the next scene, there's a body of water, calm, with a rowboat floating at the edge of a large patio and an ancient, grand-looking hotel section, in the background. 

Gregory comes out in a robe and slippers, looks around, and turns back to gaze into the bedroom, at Paula in the bed.  She wakes, get up and goes to him.

GREGORY:  Come and look at the morning.

[He takes her in his arms.]

GREGORY:  What were you dreaming of?

PAULA:  Our life together.

GREGORY:  And how do you see it?

-- I saw all the places where we'll be together.  Lovely places like this.

GREGORY:  I was thinking of our life together, too, only I heard it in music.  Something that I want to write.

PAULA:  Yes, what?

GREGORY:  The whole thing is alive with happiness.  I want a feeling of the early morning.
PAULA:  This morning.
GREGORY:  Yes.  With the sun rising, lighting your hair as it is now.

GREGORY (continued) -- I don't know how it ends.  Perhaps it never ends...

-- When will you start on it?

GREGORY:  Some day -- after we've had our honeymoon...and settled down in a home of our own somewhere.
PAULA:  Where?
GREGORY:  Where would you like us to settle?
PAULA:  I haven't thought.  Paris, perhaps.
GREGORY:  How would you feel about London?
PAULA:  London?

(A shadow of sadness passes over her face; she tries to suppress it.)

GREGORY:  Paula, if you won't laugh at me, I'd like to tell you something.
PAULA:  I won't laugh at you.  What is it?

GREGORY:  It's an idea, a silly idea that's been with me for years.  I was in London once in the winter.  It seemed there was no city in the world -- that was colder to the homeless -- or that could be warmer to the ones who had a home. 

How I used to long for a home of my own -- in one of those quiet houses in the little London squares...Could we settle down in London?  Not in a house in a square, perhaps...Paula, why do you look like that?

(Her face shows hard concentration, fear, courage, turmoil...)

PAULA:  Because there is a house in a square.
GREGORY:  What house?
PAULA:  She left it to me.
GREGORY:  She?  You mean Alice Alquist?

PAULA:  She was my mother's sister.  My mother died when I was born.  I don't know anything about her, or my father.  I lived with my aunt always, as if I were her own. 

After it happened I never went back.  That house comes into my dreams sometimes -- a house of horror. 

(Her face lights up a little, with a new thought) 

It's strange.  I haven't dreamed of it since I've known you.  I haven't been afraid since I've known you.

-- Afraid?
-- Yes.  For years I've been afraid of something nameless -- ever since she died.  You've cast out fear for me.

GREGORY:  If it were true, it would make me very happy. 

PAULA:  It is true.  (Happiness is gaining in her tumult of emotions; it's winning...)  I've found peace in loving you!  I could even face that house with you.

-- No, Paula, beloved.  I would not ask that of you.

-- Yes!  You shall have your dream.  You shall have your house in a square.


EXTERIOR - Thornton Square - DAY

MRS. THWAITES (the lady from the train, speaking to her flowers...)  Good morning, daffodils.  Good morning, tulips. 

She notices a man kneeling on the pavement across the brick carriage-way, engaged in some work underneath the slab.  She hurries over to him.

MRS. THWAITES:  What are you doing, my good man?
WORKMAN:  Turning on the water in Number 9, ma'am.
-- Nine?  Why nine?
-- Orders, ma'am.
(She's interested -- thrilled.) -- It must be going to be occupied, at last, after all these years!

-- Wouldn't care to live in there, myself. 

Paula and Gregory Anton arrive in a horse-drawn carriage.  They are meeting a man (real estate, or caretaker...) on the front step.  Mrs. Thwaites bustles up to Paula, "Remember me from the train?"  "Of course I remember you!"

MRS. THWAITES:  I'll call, directly you're settled.  That's my house over there, with the pink curtains.  Goodbye, for the present.

PAULA:  Goodbye.
GREGORY:  I'm so glad we are to be neighbors.

On the top step by the front door, the estate guy gives Gregory Anton a key and says, "This lock needs oiling.  If there's anything further I can do, let me hear from you.  Good day."  He departs.

The Antons pause a moment by the enormous front door.  It has a doorknob in the middle.  Gregory says, "Well Paula..."  And pushes the door.  It swings inward, slowly, with a long, drawn-out creak.


{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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