Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Screenplay by Muriel Roy Bolton, from a novel by Anthony Gilbert
Starrring Nina Foch, Dame May Whitty, George Macready, Roland Varno, Anita Sharp-Bolster, Queenie Leonard
These days, the term “to gaslight” is commonly known – an attempt by a manipulative man to make a woman doubt her sanity. It stems from a successful British play Gaslight, which was made into a movie in 1940* renamed in the US as Angel Street. Four years later came to best-known version, with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. Its success led to other stories with a variation same theme, and one of the first was My Name is Julia Ross.
Julia Ross (Nina Foch) is desperately looking for a job and goes to a new employment agency, who immediately hires her to be secretary to Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Whitty). Julia wakes up two days latter in a house in Cornwall, not London, without any idea how she got there. Ralph Hughes (George Macready) insists her name is Marion and that she is his wife, who had undergone a nervous breakdown and who is trying to recover. Julia can’t convince anyone of the truth; he only hope is to contact her boyfriend Dennis Bruce (Roland Varno) for help. But Mrs. Hughes stays one step ahead of her.
The movie is tightly written with some strong suspense at the end as you wonder what might happen. It’s a slight variation on gaslighting in that they don’t try to drive Julia insane, but merely try to convince others of her insanity, which makes them discount her sincere cries for help as paranoid delusions.
The most striking performance is Dame May Whitty** as Mrs. Hughes. She is sweet and caring and thoughtful on the surface, even while she is planning Julia’s death. Nina Foch is also quite good and Julia is shown to be resourceful and clever – just not as clever as Mrs. Hughes.
The movie was unjustly obscure and deserves to be seen.
*Released as Angel Street, and available online.
**Miss Froy from The Lady Vanishes.