#109) Gilda (1946)

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#109) Gilda (1946)

OR “Don’t Lie to Me, Argentina”

Directed by Charles Vidor

Written by Marion Parsonnet. Story by E.A. Ellington. Adaptation by Jo Eisinger.

Class of 2013

The Plot: American gambler Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) ends up in Buenos Aires working for Ballin Mundson (George Macready), owner of an elegant illegal casino. A few months later, Mundson returns with his new wife Gilda (Rita Hayworth), who instantly recognizes Johnny. Turns out that they had a past together, and a bizarre love triangle unfolds as Johnny and Gilda’s tempestuous relationship comes to the forefront.

Why It Matters: The NFR says that this movie “defined the Hollywood glamorization of film noir”, especially in its fetishization of Hayworth. There’s also an essay by Kimberly Truhler, author of film fashion website GlamAmor.com, that focuses on Rita Hayworth and costume designer Jean Louis.

But Does It Really?: While I personally would place this film in the “good-not-great” category, I give “Gilda” a pass for it film noir notoriety, its star-making turn by Hayworth, and its legacy in connection with another film (See “Legacy” below).

Everybody Gets One: Perhaps most shocking, this is Rita Hayworth’s only film on the National Film Registry**. But hey, if you’re going to pick one…

Wow, That’s Dated: Old phrases like “case the joint” and “cock-eyed”. Plus a saying about Native Americans that definitely wouldn’t fly today.

Seriously, Oscars?: While “Gilda” did not receive any Oscar nominations, it did compete in the very first Cannes Film Festival in 1946. Didn’t win anything, but at least it was in competition.

Other notes

  • I don’t single out producers as much as I should on this blog, and special mention needs to be made of this film’s producer; Virginia Van Upp. She started as a screenwriter and worked her way up to producer after helping salvage the 1944 musical “Cover Girl” (also starring Hayworth). She was one of only three female contract producers in Hollywood for most of the Golden Age.
  • That’s a pretty cool opening shot. Not sure what it has to do with the rest of the film, but there it is.
  • I am convinced that Mundson also played the bad guy in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”.
  • Gilda’s introductory shot, man. I don’t normally go for the Old Hollywood beauties, but after that I’m hooked.
  • Does everyone in this film talk in aphorisms?
  • Hayworth definitely knows her way around a suggestive line. The censors must have pulled their hair out with some of these line readings.
  • It’s one scene (between Gilda and a maid named Maria that we never see again), but this is one of the rare NFR films to pass the Bechdel test. Again, just barely. Like a D-.
  • The film’s almost complete lack of a score is a nice subtle choice. It helps build the tension in all of the secrets being kept.
  • At one point Gilda says “You wouldn’t think one woman could marry two insane men in one lifetime.” Yes, Gilda. Yes I would.
  • “Put the Blame on Mame” is a pretty sultry number. My question is when did she have time to rehearse? Also, how dare you pin this on Angela Lansbury! What did she ever do to you?
  • Not to spoil anything, but I do love movies where the bad guy gets interrupted while they’re monologuing. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Legacy

  • “Gilda” is best known today for being the film Andy Dufresne sees in prison in “The Shawshank Redemption”.
  • The fourth atomic bomb dropped in the Bikini Atoll test of 1946 was nicknamed “Gilda” and had a poster of Rita Hayworth taped to its side. Hayworth did not appreciate the gesture.
  • Rita Hayworth’s performance in “Put the Blame on Mame” is one of many film noir performances thrown into Michael Jackson’s “This Is It”.

Further Viewing: To make up for the lack of Rita Hayworth on this list, be sure to check out some of her other classics. I recommend “The Lady from Shanghai” by her then-husband Orson Welles, and “You Were Never Lovelier” one of her early musicals with Fred Astaire.

 

**2017 Update: As if they heard me, Ms. Hayworth is now additionally represented by “Only Angels Have Wings”. But still check out those other movies too.

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