Movie Critique - Gilda

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation: A showcase of how lust and possession can breed contempt, hate and revenge mixed with sexual tension among all parties involved made it an instant cult classic.

Gilda is a 1946 American film noir directed by Charles Vidor and produced by Virginia Van Upp. The film has Rita Hayworth in the titular role along with Glenn Ford, George Macready and Joseph Calleia. Screenplay provided by Jo Eisinger, Marion Parsonnet and uncredited story by Ben Hecht from a story by E. A. Ellington.

Johnny Farrell (portrayed by Glenn Ford) gets hired as the casino manager by the owner of the casino, Ballin Mundson (portrayed by George Macready), in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mundson is also married to Johnny's old nemesis Gilda (portrayed by Rita Hayworth). Between their animosity comes the organized finance cartel who want to take over the casino, a murder happens, and the revenge begins.

The first time I heard about this movie was as a small snippet in the 1994 super hit American drama film The Shawshank Redemption. That one clip (look below) shown in the film and the way all the prisoners almost hold their breath to see Rita Hayworth come alive on film caught my attention. This was 12 years ago when I saw The Shawshank Redemption for the first time. Now I finally got to watch the movie.

Incidentally The Shawshank Redemption was adapted from Stephen King's 1982 novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption". The film also boasts a poster of Rita Hayworth from this film on the wall of Andy Dufresne's (portrayed by Tim Robbins) cell. 

This was Ford's first film since his 1943 Destroyer as he was serving in the Marines. His comeback became a cult classic now. Perhaps that is why the posters and the trailers focused only on Hayworth rather than Ford to keep it a surprise to the viewers, even though Hayworth doesn’t get introduced to the audience for at least after 25 minutes into the film. 

Ford's Johnny and Hayworth's Gilda hate each other so much that it is almost electric. There is no denying the chemistry between the stars that reflects into their characters. Never seen hate being exposed as an emotion that could generate so much heat and sexual tension that Johnny and Gilda almost burn. 

Much like her real-life, Hayworth's screen character Gilda was trapped by possessive men all around. At that time in real-life, she was married to Orson Welles, with whom she had a tumultuous relationship. Glenn Ford was very much in love with her and hadn't hidden it from anyone. And Columbia Pictures boss Harry Cohn was practically ruling her personal life as well. Her frustrations, fears, hate and love that she personally faced, all channeled through in her acting as Gilda.

This is the second movie I am watching of Rita Hayworth in a femme fatale role. The fist one was the 1947 American film noir The Lady from Shanghai with Orson Welles and Everett Sloane along her side.

The third wheel in the spin was George Macready's Ballin Mundson. Chill as ice; cool as cucumber; sly as a fox; and cunning as a snake. No one could have made Mundson look as despicable and hate-able as Macready made him look. 

The film is well known for the amazing wardrobe created by costume designer Jean Louis; the lush photography by cinematographer Rudolph Mate and of course the melodies by Anita Ellis - "Put the Blame on Mame" and "Amado Mio" - to the choreography by Jack Cole. 

I saw a film recently in which we saw another one of Jean Louis' creation worn by the heroine. In the 1957 American film noir Nightfall, the heroine Anne Bancroft's character Marie Gardner wears a beautiful creation in one scene.

And here's the amazing wardrobe we see on screen for Gilda. Followed by the two costumes she wore for the two melodies she performed for in the film. And finally her everyday clothes, which even were designed glamorously. 

I cant deny that Glenn Ford looked really sharp in his suits as well, even if the suit was mis-matched and borrowed ones occasionally. Matching equally to Hayworth's Gilda.

Lyrics for the songs were written by Doris Fisher and Allan Roberts. Fisher and Roberts also wrote the lyrics for her song "Please Don’t Kiss Me" for The Lady from Shanghai. Put the Blame on Mame is a song that mocks at society who puts blame on a beautiful woman for anything and everything. It was filmed in two version in the film. One, as you can see below, is Hayworth's performance in the casino's night club.

Other version was Hayworth's Gilda strumming a guitar and singing it while Ford's Johnny and Uncle Pio (portrayed by Steven Geray) watch over. 

Here’s the video for the second song in the film, Amado Mio.

Hayworth's introductory scene is very iconic with some memorable dialogues to go with it.

Some memorable quotes from the film:

Ballin Mundson: Gilda, are you decent? / Gilda: Me? / [long pause] / Gilda: Sure. I'm decent.
Ballin Mundson: [referring to his knife cane] It is a most faithful and obedient friend: it is silent when I want it to be silent, but talks when I want it to talk. / Johnny Farrell: Is it that your idea of a friend? / Ballin Mundson: That is my idea of a friend. / Johnny Farrell: You must lead a gay life.
Gilda: Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven't you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I'm going to die from it. Darling…
Johnny Farrell: You have no idea how faithful and obedient I can be - for a nice salary.
Gilda: Oh, I'm sorry. Johnny is such a hard name to remember and so easy to forget. [In a breathy voice] / Gilda: Johnny. There. See you later, Mr. Farrell.

This film earned Rita Hayworth the eternal title "Hollywood's Love Goddess". Gilda was screened in 1946 Cannes Film Festival. The cult status achieved for this film was so much so that the test atomic bomb in the Pacific Ocean in 1946 was named Gilda, fourth atomic bomb had a cutout of Hayworth from that film.

Accidents happen on sets all the time. And so did in this film. The scene where Hayworth's Gilda slaps Ford's Johnny, she did so hard that it broke two of his teeth. Imagine that!

On a side note, Glenn Ford in the film reminds me of Jay Hernandez who plays the role of Thomas Magnum in the reboot of the American crime action drama television series Magnum P. I. Since this is the first film of Ford I am watching I cant say if this similarity can be seen in all of his films or just with this character as Johnny Farrell in this film. Check it out for yourself.

The opening credits has this text at the bottom of one of the index cards: The characters and incidents portrayed and the names used herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely accidental and unintentional.

The film is told in first-person narration by Glenn Ford's character Johnny Farrell. The central theme is hate and anger in the film as opposed to any other positive emotion. It surprisingly became a cult classic considering the film had no happy tunes or tones.

A subtle gay and bisexual subtext flows through when showing the interaction between Johnny and Ballin, although neither the film script nor the film makers realized that or warranted it. A medley of glamour and perversity, with a plot so toxic that it became a huge success for Columbia Pictures. Never seen Hate and Anger become so much successful.

A showcase of how lust and possession can breed contempt, hate and revenge mixed with sexual tension among all parties involved made it an instant cult classic. Gilda is not just about Rita Hayworth, it has much more to offer. A gem of a film noir with tons of style and sex appeal. Do not miss to watch it if you get a chance. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Gilda and Johnny dance to the song "Anywhere" in the masquerade party. This is from Rita's previous movie, the 1945 Tonight and Every Night.

b. This is the second movie Vidor is directing that has Hayworth in the lead. The previous one was the 1944 American comedy musical film Cover Girl in which her co-star was Gene Kelly

c. This is the second movie that Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth starred together. The previous one was the 1940 American comedy drama The Lady in Question. Ford and Hayworth had been on and off lovers in real-life that lasted 40 years. No wonder when Rita Hayworth passed away in May of 1987 due to early onset of Alzheimer's Disease, Glenn Ford was one of the pallbearers.

d. In the 2006 American-British romantic comedy The Holiday, we can see the DVD of this film in Amanda Wood's (portrayed by Cameron Diaz) home.

e. Check out the old time radio fixture Gerald Mohr as Captain Delgado in the film. He was famous for his roles on radio such as Archie Goodwin in The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe; several episodes in The Whistler series; as Phillip Marlowe in the radio show between 1948 and 1951; and many other shows.

f. The clip showing the song Put The Blame On Mame from Gilda was digitally added to Michael Jackson's This Is It concert. Here is a part of that. You can also see Edward G. Robinson in one scene. Then one scene from Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame's 1950 American film noir In a Lonely Place; and another chasing scene from the 1946 American film noir The Big Sleep, again a Bogart film; and finally a dialogue from Bogart (not sure what film it was).

g. Spice Girls also released a video for the song Too Much for their second album Spiceworld in 1997. In the song Geri Horner aka Ginger Spice is shown in a black and white scene based on Rita Hayworth's Gilda performance.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. New York Blizzard happened in 1888, but Gilda sings it as 1886 in her song "Put the Blame on Mame".

b. Men's Restroom in the casino has no sign on it to signify it was a men's room. Shouldn’t a sophisticated casino like that have it well marked?

c. When Johnny is watching one of the roulette game at the casino, you can see the ball circling the wheel, but the wheel is not moving. In an open game, the roulette wheel never stops

d. When Ballin takes the plane and flies off, we see his plane going into the cloud around the time it starts sputtering. But when it explodes we see it happening on the ocean, no where we see it plummeting down before the explosion.


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