GILDA (1946) 

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Rita Hayworth
Glenn Ford
George Macready
Joseph Calleia
Steven Geray
Joe Sawyer
Gerald Mohr

Charles Vidor



Time: 110 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Film Noir/Romance

As one of Hollywood's classic screen sirens, Rita Hayworth is a force to be reckoned with. I've been trying to watch GILDA for some time now, since it is the role that made her famous and the one no man could ever forget. After soaking up this movie, it's not hard to understand why men wanted her. She's beautiful, talented, sympathetic, flirtatious and downright sexy. She claims this movie ruined her personal life because men wanted to marry Gilda and woke up with Rita. That may be, but that's only because she takes this role and makes it shine. Gilda could have been like every other female part in a film noir of that era. Hayworth makes Gilda the only character you care about, the one you just can't take your eyes off of. I wanted to go home with her and I'm resolutely heterosexual.

She's the tough girl who makes her own way in the world without shame or remorse. That is until she re-encounters her one true love. From their it's a battle of wills to see who's going to blink first and betray the other to her new husband, who just happens to be his boss. Make no mistake, this may be a film noir on the surface, but underneath it's all desperation, hatred and uncontrolled passion. Everyone instantly falls for Gilda, a woman who's not ashamed by her love for men or the way she controls them. I don't really understand why Gilda would get her panties in a twist over a nobody like Johnny Ferrill, played by Glenn Ford, but he's the best choice when one considers the options. I guess when you come from the wrong side of the tracks you can't be too choosy...even if you're drop dead gorgeous.

Unfortunately for Gilda, though all men desire her, no one ever wanted to marry her before she met Ballin Mundson, played by George Macready. He wanted her from the moment he laid eyes on her and married her the next day. Gilda knew a good meal ticket when she saw one and decided to take the chance. If anything it got her out of America, away from a job with no future – they allude later in the film to a sordid past, I'm thinking stripper – and into the upper classes of society in Buenos Aires. So what if she doesn't love her husband. At least her quality of life has improved. Besides one can always find love. Money on the other hand doesn't grow on trees. In the case of Mundson he launders it through his illegal casino for an international cartel of which he is the head. Their prime directive seems to be to corner the market on tungsten, forcing the rest of the world to pay their outrageous prices for this necessary metal. It really doesn't matter. This isn't the interesting part of the story.

"Statistics show that there are more women in the world than anything else. Except insects."

What she discovers upon her arrival is how small the world can be. Her once true love is now her husband's right-hand man. They are initially less than thrilled to see each other. Johnny Ferrill owes his recent success to Mundson and he's not about to let Gilda ruin his life a second time. There is a palpable spark between them and you know it's only a matter of time the hatred turns into a rekindling of their love. Mundson knows it too, but Johnny really tries to keep Gilda on the straight and narrow, because he senses her indiscretions will inevitably lead to both their downfalls. When circumstances finally turn in the couples favor, it turns out to be anything but happily ever after. Johnny's loyalty extends only to his employer, causing Gilda to ponder how she could jump from the frying pan into the fire. She acts the way she does because she's desperate to find love and is convinced she doesn't deserve it. So, if she's miserable, she's going to make everyone else desperately unhappy too. It is these scenes of angry desperation and petty flirtations that Hayworth proves she's more than just a pretty face. In the end, all's well that end's well, but it's a bumpy ride to wedded bliss.

If you are ever to watch any Rita Hayworth movie, make it GILDA. She is luminous and turns a nothing part into the role of a lifetime. It's no wonder Humphrey Bogart turned down the role of Johnny Ferrill. The only reason you notice the men is because she talks to them. Ford and Macready try their best to keep up with her, but this is clearly her show. Ford actually holds his own as the ex-lover who finally regains his self-respect and his ability to love. His passion for Gilda pulses from every pore, making him a livewire of unrequited love. If Hayworth wasn't so good, he probably would have been more recognized for this role. The story, for the most part, is inconsequential, especially the stuff about the cartel. It's all designed as a way to manipulate the lovers and on that level it works. As a mystery/thriller, not so much, since the audience is let in on the one secret the story has. The ending is quite a cop-out, having the pair reunite after one short conversation and a particularly convenient murder. However, after so much strum and drang, if they didn't get together you'd definitely feel cheated.

There are reasons certain actors become super stars and continue to be popular long after they've left this life. GILDA is one of them. Hayworth has one of the best onscreen character introductions ever and she makes the most of it. I'm looking forward to seeing some of her other work, though I have the feeling I'll be slightly disappointed she's not Gilda.

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