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Thursday, 28 June 2007

Gilda (1946) Charles Vidor

As you'd expect from the title this film is all about Gilda, one of the most blatant exhibitions of sexual charisma on the screen in the forties. We meet the other two central characters first though: Johnny Farrell, a small time but still highly skilful gambler earning money in Buenos Aires by playing with his own dice, and Ballin Mundson, the owner of a casino outside of the city where gambling is still legal. Mundson apparently saves Farrell's life, though there's doubt as to whether it actually needed saving, and points him towards the casino. Soon he's Mundson's right hand man and everything looks promising for the both of them.

During the hiring process, Mundson points out to Farrell that women and gambling don't mix, and you really don't need two guesses to find out where Gilda comes in. She arrives as Mundson's ravishing new wife and of course she's part of the past that Farrell has kept quiet and hidden, and we realise that all these people have pasts kept quiet and hidden and there's going to be a story or three hiding in there that will come out and bite people.

There's a lot going on here and the script is very clever indeed to make it all keep going on while getting passed by the Production Code. I didn't see a lot of the gay overtones to Zombie Island that were raised before its showing on TCM as part of the Screened Out festival, but the intriguing love triangle here isn't too easy to miss. I've seen a few Glenn Ford movies and he's certainly putting on a lot of effeminate characteristics here that I've never seen him put on before. The director may not have intended a bisexual love triangle but I'm pretty sure that Glenn Ford did and so did Jo Eisinger who adpted E A Ellington's story for the screen.

It's tightly plotted and full of intrigue, deceit and acutely biting dialogue. Rita Hayworth's Gilda is ascerbic, knowing and very deliberate in everything she does. She does an awesome job here but she's well aided by the script. Eisinger wrote for Hayworth again, twice in the sixties, but never for Lauren Bacall and that's a shame. That combination could have been a killer during the film noir era, especially if you added Bogie into the mix. I'll certainly look out for another highly rated film noir written by Eisinger: Night and the City, directed by Jules Dassin in 1950 with Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney.

What else I'll look out for is this one, again. While it's obvious that both Hayworth and Ford are superb, there's so much going on that I really get the impression that it's a film to come back to and grow with. I'm sure I'll see different things next time and maybe different things the one afer that too. The perspectives are likely to change and how I read the characters is likely to change too. In other words, it's a great one but I have no clue how great on the basis of a single viewing.

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