I remember the first time I saw this movie. I was about 9, and my parents were watching a lot of old black and white classics. This is the one I remember most vividly and the one that had a profound affect on me. This was at a time when I was just becoming aware of gender roles in society. I remember being so amazed at the way women were being portrayed in this movie. I'd never seen a black and white movie where the female role was so complicated and dark. It was also the first time i'd seen such dynamic and complicated characters.
Gilda was made in 1946. This classic Charles Vidor Noir stars Rita Hayworth - in the title role, Glenn Ford, and George Macready. Post-war Buenos Aries serves as the the backdrop. American Gambler, Johnny Farrell (Ford) has just come to South America and, after loosing his winnings to a mugger, is picked off the streets by a mysterious stranger (Macready). His savior, Ballin Mundson owns a grand casino and Johnny rises quickly under his employment and mentorship, eventually becoming Mundson's right-hand and trusted friend. When his boss leaves on an impromptu trip and leaves him in charge of the casino, Johnny thinks he finally has it made.
But his luck is quick to turn. Ballin soon returns to Buenos Aris, and with him, his new bride. Johnny's former flame, Gilda - enter Rita Hayworth. From the moment they come face-to-face, you know the tide has turned - and not in Johnny's favor. His vengeful ex-lover delights in torturing him. Determined to conceal their past from Ballin, Johnny must wether the storm, all the while trying to destroy his lingering feelings for his friends' wife. Gilda is hell-bent on making Johnny pay for leaving her. As the stakes continue to be raised, a toxic love triangle begins to form. The tension between Johnny and Gilda eventually comes to a boil and sets in motion a chain of events that has deadly consequence
Gilda is a staple in american cinema. Rita Hayworth's portrayal can be described as nothing less than iconic. She was one of the original femme fatales. Before movies like Gilda, women were not given roles like this. Gilda was not totally evil nor totally good. She and Johnny were arguably a passionate, but toxic pairing. Getting off on the pain that they inflicted on each other. As much as they loved one another, they hated the other almost as much. Gilda is full of grey characters. In this everyone had an ugly streak. Ballin's deadly intentions. Johnny's rage and Gilda's cold vengeance.
If there's one thing that fuels this movie - other than the superb casting, writing and directing, it's the chemistry between Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth. They were an iconic film noir duo. The pair starred in four separate films - spanning 30 years. Their chemistry is rumored to have continued behind the scenes as well. The two remained close both literally and figuratively (they were neighbors) until Hayworth's death from Alzheimer's in 1987. Ford was a pallbearer at her funeral, and was rumored to have left a rose next to her picture every day until his passing in 2006.
Gilda was the first movie that allowed me a real look at people. I remember being completely enthralled with this movie, solely because it was so illuminating. Granted, it's a fiction but If there's anything I took from this movie it would be the portrait of humanity it paints. Gilda is a real visceral look at people, what they are capable o and just how far they can be pushed.
Gilda is a classic film noir and a must-watch for black and white movie fan. Check out the trailer below