This post is for the Classic Movie Blog Association's current blogathon, Fabulous Films Of The Forties. If you haven't already, go and check out the other posts from my fellow CMBA members!
So, I've come out of my mini-hiatus (which should be over soon...) to bring to you a special post about what is probably my favourite film noir ever, starring one of my favourite ever actresses in one of my favourite ever performances. What could be wrong with that? Undoubtedly, the 1940s was the hight of the popularity of the "Film Noir". Dark films filled with shadows and femme fatales (men in trenchcoats don't go amiss either).
Gilda, directed by Charles Vidor, is the quintessential film noir in every sense. It features a wonderfully adventurous performance from Rita Hayworth in one of the most iconic screen performances ever, Glenn Ford's quietly disturbed portrayal of Gilda's spurned lover, and some of the most beautiful lighting ever to grace the silver screen. That's what I'd like to write about today.
The story is fairly simple. Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is hired by shady casino runner Ballin Mundson (George Macready) to front the casino. He is taken under Mundson's wing and treated as his companion and henchman.
Mundson comes back from a holiday, quite unexpectedly, with a new wife. When Farrell and Mundson open the door to her boudoir, one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history is created.
We see in Johnny and Gilda's eyes that there is a history there. The rest of the film is spent with Johnny trying to control the passionate and wild Gilda - under orders from his boss - and the two of them struggling with their suppressed love/hate relationship.
Charles Vidor, director of films "Love Me Or Leave Me" and "Cover Girl", masterfully directs this classic. I've never seen a film more beautifully or menacingly lit. His use of shadows to portray the development of characters is incredible. We first see Gilda in a light off-the-shoulder dressing gown, lit in a white wash that makes her skin seem incandescent. As the film progresses, not only the lighting for her, but also her costumes (by Jean Louis), become more seductive and dark.
One thing most people seem to remember from this film is the "Put The Blame On Mame" scene, in which Rita Hayworth performs a very subtle striptease number which only involves the stripping of her glove. The dress and the slinky black gloves have gone down in history for their influence on fashion.
Glenn Ford gives a sterling performance as the fundamentally flawed and unlikeable Johnny Farrell. From the beginning he is a downright cheat and a gambler. You get the strong impression he has driven Gilda slightly insane with his uncertainty and his mood swings. The way that Glenn Ford's face often shows little or no emotion, gives you the exact impression you want from this character.
Rita Hayworth's performance is historic. She was made to play this part of the temptress, Gilda. It's one of the most unapologetically free performances of a woman on film, and the overall impression of her is inescapably of a powerful woman who isn't suppressed by the men around her. Everyone knows that Rita Hayworth is no Ingrid Bergman, she has nowhere near that versatility, but she has the capability to be awe-inspiring in the right thing. I watch this film and at the end, each time, I want to be Gilda. That shouldn't happen, really, but Rita Hayward is so charismatic that you just want to be her. Also her amazing hair doesn't go amiss.
One thing that really irritates me about this movie, however, is that Rita Hayworth doesn't sing her own numbers. What makes this so annoying is the fact that the person who is dubbed in for her sounds a HELL of a lot like Rita Hayworth. So much that I thought it was her for a long time - and was very disappointed when it wasn't. Tell the truth film companies! Pull a Natalie Wood/Marnie Nixon and get someone that sounds nothing like the actor to dub them so at least we know it isn't them. Jeepers.
This is one of my Dad's favourite ever films, so shout out to you and thanks for showing it to me :D