Two questions about old movies (SPOILERS)

I adore old movies, especially melodramas, but sometimes the endings are as unsatisfying as a Stephen King novel.

Gaslight, for instance. Paula almost has a nervous breakdown before she finds out her husband has been trying to drive her insane and that he’s a murderer.

The ending has Paula and Joseph Cotten’s character standing on a balcony admiring the pretty evening and talking about how tomorrow’s another day (paraphrased). And then here comes this old lady and sees them, and she gets all twinkly at the sight of true love. Cut to credits.

Paula was nearly driven insane, for pete’s sake! Somebody needs to give her a drink, put her to bed, and then maybe Cotten can come see her in a week or two, maybe take her to dinner.

Too many old movies are like that. Endings neatly tied up when there are tons of questions to be answered, explanations to be made, and the characters need to show the effects of their ordeals.

Endings are just as important as beginnings and middles, and old movies don’t spend enough time on them.

Anyway, my first question is Why did Elizabeth (the nice old maid, not Nancy the young slut) lie to Charles Boyer about Joseph Cotten being in the house?

The lie made Paula sound truly crazy. Was Elizabeth trying to keep Boyer from knowing Cotten was there? Why? It wouldn’t help Paula, and Cotten was out of the house by then, so he didn’t need protecting.

My second question is does anyone think that more recent movies (the last 40 years) have better (more realistic) endings? It seems like we’re getting more (sorry for using this word) “closure”, more aftermath, what happened after the story was told, epilogue, whatever.


I saw Gaslight years ago, but I don’t remember it near well enough to answer your questions about it.

One famous old movie that had an unsatisfying ending was Hitchcock’s “Spellbound.” It SPOILER had this big build up about how Cary Grant was a murderer, but it just ended with him being innocent and everything being a big understanding.

Not sure I agree with your estimation of the state of movie endings though. Sometimes it’s best to leave some questions unanswered. We don’t have a clue what’s really going to happen to the characters at the end of “Gone With the Wind” or “Casablanca,” but would it be better if we knew how things ultimately turned out?

I believe you are thinking of **Suspicion ** (Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine). **Spellbound ** had Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman, and had a reasonably satisfying ending (IMO).

I have read that the ending of Suspicion is not the one that Hitchcock wanted, but the more logical downer ending where he pushes her out of the car and kills her tested badly with audiences, so he relunctantly switched it. I don’t have a cite for that, however.

Gah, yes, I did mean “Suspicion” of course, thank you. I wonder if the original ending still survives somewhere…it would make for a better movie IMO.

(How do you do the spoilers box?)

I experimented. I tried the “Wrap PHP tags around the selected text” button, and typed over “PHP” with “spoiler”, and it worked. I’m sure there are instructions somewhere, but I couldn’t find them. But I’ve seen enough spoiled spoiler box tags to guess it would be something like that.

In many cases, the unsatisfying ending was forced on a movie by the Production Code. One big rule was that evil was never allowed to triumph. Anybody committing any crimes or other misdeeds had to be punished (or have their plans foiled) by the last reel.

The story about the “ending Hitchcock wanted” has been circulated for a long time. Hitchcock himself talked about it, but you can’t trust Hitchcock in interviews. He frequently made up things he thought were humorous, and he had a strange sense of humor.

In SUSPICION, an ending where the Cary Grant character really is a killer would make no sense. The whole movie is about Joan Fontaine’s (unfounded) suspicions, about her psychological mood. I mean, c’mon, the letters on a scrabble set make the word “murder” and that’s evidence? Plus, that wonderful shot of her at the center of a spider-web-like shadow makes it clear that she’s the spider at the center of the web (as well as being caught in it.) The whole movie falls apart if her suspicion is justified.

It’s a different story in REAR WINDOW, of course.

Those movies had good endings. They were longer endings than Gaslight, which helped. I don’t mind being left to wonder at what happens next – those endings are fine.

Gaslight’s ending was unsatisfying because it was trite and unrealistic and quick. Paula should have been a basket case, especially since it was obvious that she still had feelings for her murderous husband.

The ending made it seem like she had already recovered (in just a few minutes) and was ready to move on with her life. It needed more time, I think.

Put the word “spoiler” in tags. The first time, it’s and when you’re done typing, it’s .

Agh! I meant to Preview, not Submit.

Use tags (brackets), with the word “spoiler” inside. When you’re ready to close, use the \ before the word “spoiler”.

Like this, but without the spaces: [ spoiler ] write your stuff, then end it with [/ spoiler ].