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.