- Rita Hayworth as Gilda
- Glenn Ford as Johnny Farrell
- George Macready as Ballin Mundson
A seductive film noir that boasts a star-making, iconic turn from Rita Hayworth, Gilda is a dark movie to be treasured for how it spins a pretty sinister story into something classic and watchable.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, newly arrived thug Johnny Farrell is going about his cheating ways of getting money through trickery and underhand tactics. After being accosted and almost killed by a disgruntled crabs player, Johnny is saved by the elegant Ballin Mundson. This strange man warns Johnny that he must up his game if he wants to make a living. Johnny eventually finds his way to a casino where he continues his dirty tricks. He is caught and put before the owner, who turns out to be Mundson himself. Johnny being something of a con man, talks his way into a job with Mundson. Gradually, he gains his confidence and makes his way up the ranks and into a lavish lifestyle that he’s aspired for. While retaining a friendship with his boss, there is something controlling about Mundson, as he seems to consider Johnny something he owns. Regardless of this, things go well for the two of them in their relationship, trust and business. Things take a definite turn when Mundson returns after some time away with a gorgeous and playful wife named Gilda. The thing is Johnny and Gilda are very familiar with each other, stemming from an old love affair that ended badly. Being loyal to his boss, Johnny tries to avoid his definite attraction to the seductive Gilda, who delights in putting on a show and seemingly tormenting him with her wiles. Mundson is also involved in some scheme that proves life threatening, just as the heat between Johnny and Gilda comes into view. Though both attempt to keep the lid on their feelings, it proves very difficult. Yet with the love-hate relationship between Johnny and mysterious Gilda intensifying, it’s just a matter of time before things get out of hand and much darkness arrives for all of them.
Charles Vidor infuses a stylish direction into this all-consuming tale, lending something of a voyeuristic approach to how we observe the gradually twisted triangle set up among Gilda, Johnny and Mundson. His control over pacing is marvellous, never wasting a second and pulling us into this seedy world populated by equally immoral people. The black and white cinematography is gorgeously smoky and shimmering, finding a glamour, danger and tension in the main setting of the casino. Shadowy deals paired with the overall feeling of everyone using each other is noir at its grandest and finest. Gilda brims with a darkness and sexual underbelly that go hand in hand. It is a playful yet dark hearted film noir that has a lot of things going on under the curtain. Of course, with the film being from the 40’s, you couldn’t explicitly showcase anything too graphic or racy. And yet through its sizzling dialogue( much of which has many meanings depending on how you look at it), a real perverse angle covers the film in a surprisingly stylish way. The trio of main characters are all nasty, vindictive and rotten ,yet you can’t tear your eyes away from them as their machinations and web-spinning gets out of control. They all appear to enjoy toying with each other for whatever pleasure they can get, even if it ultimately leads to their undoing. This is significantly highlighted by the back and forth of the script that knows exactly how to avert the censors with witty words and subtle hints. Control and power play heavily into the narrative, with the troika of characters all using it in some ways; essays it over both Johnny and Gilda, while the eponymous siren wields it in abundance over the two men in the picture . Dominance is thematically featured, most notably in homoerotic undertones between Johnny and Mundson , thanks to the suggestive and ambiguous dialogue. If some of it gets overly complex, it is quickly forgotten because of the tension and heat of the piece, with everything fit to boil at any minute. Being a classic movie, there are oodles of memorable moments from Gilda to cherish, but two stand out. The first is the entrance of Gilda herself; tossing her hair back in wild abandon, before realising that someone from her past is now very much a part of her present. And the most iconic moment is the sensational performance of ‘Put the Blame on Mame’. Gilda, clad in that memorable dress and slowly removing a satin glove, teases playfully with this song of how men blame women for their downfall. While being a sexy scene(showing that you can be seductive without revealing a lot), a pointed darkness is also apparent in further enhancing the perverse nature of this noir.
By far the thing you’ll remember the most in Gilda is the presence of the luscious Rita Hayworth in the title part. Conveying a devastating gorgeousness that is truly spellbinding and a mysterious personality that is hard to place, Hayworth commands the screen and cemented herself as a Love Goddess of the screen. For all the sexiness brought to it, Hayworth’s fine acting also adds a distinct melancholy that punctuates in between the scheming and alluring appeal. This is a role that will forever be remembered, largely down to Rita Hayworth’s impact and charms in it. Glenn Ford is ideal casting for the no-good small time Johnny, whose want for something comfortable and rich is compromised by his desire for Gilda that leaves him falling down. Ford gets the sneaky, wastrel like areas just right, coupling it with a ruthless need to succeed in things, until his anger and lust can’t take it. And his scenes with Hayworth are loaded with simmering tension. George Macready rounds out this twisted trio with a courtly yet menacing display of cunning and trickery, constantly testing everyone around him to see what the results will be.
A dazzlingly dark and twisted noir covered in a gorgeously photographed sheen, Gilda is not to be missed by movie fans.