Fanny by Gaslight (film)

Fanny by Gaslight (US title – Man of Evil) is a 1944 British drama film, produced by Gainsborough Pictures, set in the 1870s and adapted from a 1940 novel by Michael Sadleir (also adapted as a 1981 mini-series).

Fanny by Gaslight
Fanny by Gaslight (1944 film).jpg
UK promotional poster
Directed byAnthony Asquith
Produced byEdward Black
Written byDoreen Montgomery
additional dialogue
Aimée Stuart
Based onnovel by Michael Sadleir
StarringPhyllis Calvert
James Mason
Wilfrid Lawson
Stewart Granger
Music byCedric Mallabey
CinematographyArthur Crabtree
Edited byR. E. Dearing
Release date
May 1944 (UK)
1946 (France)
1948 (USA)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$17,285 (US rentals)[3]
£300,000 (UK)[4][2]
786,581 admissions (France)[5]

It was the second of its famous period-set "Gainsborough melodramas", following The Man in Grey (1943). Its US release was delayed for its breaking the Hays Purity Code, and 17 minutes were removed for this release.

Stewart Granger later said he "didn't like" the film because of its "drippy characters" but thought "Asquith was much the best of those directors I worked with at Gainsborough."[6]


Fanny (Phyllis Calvert) finishes at boarding school in 1880 and returns to London, where she witnesses Lord Manderstoke (James Mason) fight and kill her supposed father. She soon learns that her family has run a brothel next door to her home and (on her mother's death) that he was not her real father. She goes to meet her real father – a respected politician – and falls in love with Harry Somerford (Stewart Granger), his advisor. Manderstoke continues to thwart her happiness.



The film was based on a novel published in 1940.[7][8]

Phyllis Calvert and Anthony Asquith were attached to the project by October 1942.[9]

The film's release in the US was delayed over three years due to American censor concerns over scenes set in a brothel.[10]

Jean Kent played a Margaret Lockwood style role.[11]


According to Kinematograph Weekly the 'biggest winners' at the box office in 1944 Britain were For Whom the Bell Tolls, This Happy Breed, Song of Bernadette, Going My Way, This Is the Army, Jane Eyre, The Story of Dr Wassell, Cover Girl, White Cliffs of Dover, Sweet Rosie O'Grady and Fanny By Gaslight. The biggest British hits of the year were, in order, Breed, Fanny By Gaslight, The Way Ahead and Love Story.[12][13] However, it performed very badly at the box office in the US.[3]


The film deals with themes of illegitimacy, social class, blackmail, and duelling.[14][15][16]


  1. ^ Murphy, Robert (2 September 2003). Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939-48. Routledge. ISBN 9781134901500. Retrieved 17 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ a b Kinematograph Weekly. 19 April 1945. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ a b Geoffrey Macnab, J. Arthur Rank and the British Film Industry, London, Routledge (1993) p164
  4. ^ "Actor's Views May Bring Ban". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 13 September 1945. p. 2. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
  5. ^ Box office information for Stewart Granger films in France at Box Office Story
  6. ^ Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen 1997 p 230
  7. ^ LIGHTS, SHADES, AND LADIES: A LOVE STORY IN OLD LONDON Brown, Ivor. The Observer (1901- 2003); London (UK) [London (UK)]05 May 1940: 4.
  8. ^ "HOLLYWOOD LETTER". The Advocate (Australia). Tasmania, Australia. 27 September 1946. p. 9. Retrieved 10 October 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "Round the British studios". The Australian Women's Weekly. 10 (21). Australia. 24 October 1942. p. 10 (The Movie World). Retrieved 10 October 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ Breen's Nix. Variety. New York, NY: Variety Publishing Company. 7 May 1947.
  11. ^ Vagg, Stephen (29 January 2020). "Why Stars Stop Being Stars: Margaret Lockwood". Filmink.
  12. ^ Lant, Antonia (1991). Blackout : reinventing women for wartime British cinema. Princeton University Press. p. 231=232.
  13. ^ Reeves p.180
  14. ^ Harper, Sue (1 June 2000). Women in British Cinema: Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know. A&C Black. ISBN 9781441134981. Retrieved 17 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ Keaney, Michael F. (20 May 2015). British Film Noir Guide. McFarland. ISBN 9781476604381. Retrieved 17 December 2018 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ Williams, Tony (10 August 2000). Structures of Desire: British Cinema, 1939-1955. SUNY Press. ISBN 9780791446447. Retrieved 17 December 2018 – via Google Books.


  • MacFarlane, B. (1997) An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methuen. ISBN 0413726703.
  • Reeves, N. (2003) The power of film propaganda: myth or reality?, Continuum: London. ISBN 9780826473905.

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