In 1945, a year when American crime films were apparently moving out on to the streets of contemporary Los Angeles and New York, one reviewer noted the emergence of a ‘cycle of mystery and horror pictures placed in the gaslight era of the turn of the century.’ For another, it seemed that for Hollywood there was ‘no world of today save the world of London by gaslight’.
In Gaslight Melodrama, Guy Barefoot examines the films that gave rise to such comments, and the pattern of discourses that gave rise to such films. The book's main focus is provided by 1940s Hollywood melodramas such as Gaslight, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Hangover Square. It also discusses a related cycle of British films that located murder and melodrama amidst Victorian or Edwardian furnishings, and then looks beyond cinema to the Gothic novels of the 18th century, 19th century discussions of gaslighting in street, home and theater, and ambivalent 20th century responses to theVictorian era. Combining close analysis of particular film texts with attention to cinema's cultural context, Gaslight Melodrama provides an exploration of the ways in which the past has been the site of contested meaning, and an examination of the network of melodramatic narratives embedded within familiar and lesser-known examples of classical Hollywood cinema.