Movie Project #34: Gilda [1946]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Gilda [1946]

Gilda [1946]
Director: Charles Vidor
Genre: Drama/Film Noir/Romance
Starring: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford and George Macready
Runtime: 110 minutes

Rita Hayworth. Having never seen a film with this red-haired dame, she has become something of a mythical goddess to me over the years. Between Jack White’s constant fawning over her, and references from film writers, I had heard so much about the actress without ever actually seeing her perform. It was with this in mind that I added Gilda to the project, arguably her most popular film.

Gilda is a Film Noir with an especially thick layer of sexual tension. Hayworth plays the titular character, an undeniable femme fatale who is caught between two men. Her husband, Ballin (George Macready), is the boss of a South American casino. His righthand man is Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford, also the narrator), who once had a past with Gilda. She spends her time flaunting about and staying out late with strange men, much to the chagrin of Johnny, who is trying to keep her in check. Gilda is something of a wild stallion, however — impossible to tame.

Gilda [1946]

There’s also an air of homoeroticism between Ballin and Johnny, though it is never overtly mentioned in the script. This bizarre love triangle spins a dangerous web, especially once the truth comes out about Johnny and Gilda’s past. Their relationship borders that fine line between “love” and “hate”, and it’s especially intriguing to see this play out.

At its core, this is a Rita Hayworth film. She glows in every scene she is in, especially in the famous “Put the Blame on Mame” striptease. Just by merely removing her long, black glove, she oozes a kind of sex appeal rarely seen on screen. This rivals Marilyn Monroe’s legendary “I Wanna Be Loved By You” number in Some Like It Hot, as both show two classic beauties in their prime.

Rita Hayworth in Gilda [1946]

The problem with Gilda is exactly what makes it so great — Rita Hayworth. Take her out of the picture and there’s nothing left but a middling noir. Sure, Glenn Ford and George Macready round out a strong main cast, but she is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the film. Using a different actress would have been a grave mistake, and the film would have suffered greatly without her.

As it stands, Gilda is worth seeing, but only because of Miss Hayworth. The sexual tension she creates between both men is a work of art, and I have never seen a film with such a strong love-hate relationship as found with her and Johnny. There is no mistaking her legacy.


Movie Project #19: Paths of Glory [1957]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Paths of Glory [1957]

Paths of Glory [1957]
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Genre: Drama/History/War
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou and George Macready
Runtime: 88 minutes

War is hell. I don’t know if there is a director that has illustrated this better than Stanley Kubrick. His 1964 classic, Dr. Strangelove, was a pitch black comedy that satirized the Cold War, and 1987’s Full Metal Jacket disturbingly portrayed the dehumanization of soldiers during the Vietnam War. With Paths of Glory, Kubrick shows us how those doing the actual fighting are just pawns in the grand scheme of combat.

Set during World War I, Kirk Douglas stars as Colonel Dax, a commanding officer in the French Army who is ordered by his superiors to embark on a “suicide mission” to take over the German position known as the Anthill. His superiors, General Broulard (Adolphe Menjou) and General Mireau (George Macready), know the attack is ill-fated, but Mireau convinces himself it will succeed once he learns he may get a promotion afterward. Natually, Dax objects to the assault, but there is little he can do about it.

Dax and his soldiers commence the attack, and the results are as expected. Numerous casualties fall to the ground as the first wave makes absolutely no progress. Another group of soldiers bluntly refuse to even leave their trench because death is inevitable. Dax retreats and tries to rally the next group of men, but ultimately he realizes the onslaught is futile and he aborts the mission.

Furious that his soldiers are “cowards”, General Mireau demands punishment for their actions. After initially requesting court martials for 100 soldiers, the General is talked down to reducing the number to three — one from each company. While knowing the trial is going to be a total farce, Colonel Dax decides to defend the men anyway. He makes a strong and valiant case for each man, but it doesn’t matter. The three soldiers are sentenced to death, just as expected.

There is no happy ending in Paths of Glory. While the vast majority of directors during this time period would have opted for some sort of positive resolution, Kubrick prefers to show the sheer brutality of atrocities committed during war. While the commanders and generals make political powerplays, the private soldiers are sent to do their work for them while getting little recognition in return. It’s disgusting, but that is war in a nutshell.

Paths of Glory [1957]

It’s amazing how well Paths of Glory holds up today, some 50+ years later. The anti-war message is loud and clear, and it resonates just as much today as it did back then. It certainly helps that Kubrick was behind the camera for this one, as his work in this film is legendary. Some of the long tracking shots are unforgettable, especially when we follow Dax through the trenches as he makes his way past frightened soldiers with gunfire and explosions going off nearby. The battle scene as the men push toward Anthill is remarkable.

Even though it was strange to see American actors posing as French officers, I could not imagine anyone other than Kirk Douglas in the lead role. He is phenomenal here, delivering a performance for the ages. The supporting cast is also terrific, led by Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou and George Macready.

Paths of Glory runs at a crisp and concise 88 minutes, and I almost wish it went a little longer. While I wouldn’t consider this one of Kubrick’s best (a testament to his outstanding career), this is still a powerful movie with a strong message.