Charles Boyer received his third Oscar nomination for portraying Gregory Anton in Gaslight.
Like most films which are thrillers like this film, spoilers must be mentioned to be able to really speak of the details of Charles Boyer's performance in this film. Charles Boyer's performance is in the line of the many mysterious man roles, which not that much is known of the past, but he is certainly is hiding something. This type of role honestly can make cause an actor to turn out some great performances example including my personal winner of 37 Robert Montgomery in Night Must Fall, as well as the unnominated Joseph Cotton in Shadow of a Doubt.
Charles Boyer was cast apparently cast against his usual type which is interesting because Boyer, always has a certain coldness to all his performances even his romantic ones. His coldness comes well into play in this film, that is most certian. The film begins though as Gregory Anton is the mysterious suitor of Ingrid Bergman's Paula. Boyer in these earliest of scenes just suggest the more usual Boyer performance, of the commanding , and not all the lovey French romantic.Boyer as usual though is fully believable in his romantic prowess as he had also been in Algiers.
There is more to be revealed of Gregory though when he marries Paula and they move into her old home where her famous Aunt had been murdered. It is here that Gregory shows a much darker side to himself. I think Boyer is properly effective in just these earliest of the scenes, by suggesting that Gregory certainly is hiding something, but still keeps a good enough of his romantic facade so that Paula does not possibly catch on to his true motives.
I think one key moment Boyer has is one of the few scenes after he and Paula get married where they actually go out which is to the tower of London. Boyer again is good in always showing how Gregory always is hiding something, and has the proper anxiousness when he slips up. Also important is when he looks at the crown jewels, and he shows a true lust in his body over the special jewelry, this is an important character trait to the story that Boyer establishes quite well and with believability, without bringing two much attention to it.
Soon though more of Gregory comes out as he starts controlling Paula in rather brutal, and extremely cold fashions. He never allows her to go out of there home, and constantly tells here that she is losing her mind. Boyer is quite chilling in these scenes, and I think it is not only what he does to her but how he does it. Boyer always is perfect here because he makes Gregory always act like what he is doing for her own good, and tries to act like he still is being warm to her, even though he is in fact being terribly cruel to her.
These scenes are rather difficult to watch because of his terrible cruelty he has to her, but they as well strangely fascinating because Boyer shows that he has almost absolute sway over her due to his constant manipulations of her. Boyer holds so much power over her it certainly is striking to watch. His very best scene though probably comes with Ingrid Bergman's best scene at the very end of the film where their roles are reversed. It is amazing to see Boyer completely lose his grasp on the situation, and finally reveal the cowardly pathetic man behind his cruel exterior. Boyer whole performance is strong effective layered performance, that works exceedingly well with Ingrid Bergman's performance.