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Gilda

There was a time when actresses were beyond mortal. Not to say that modern film actresses aren't pretty — they certainly are. Most folks wouldn't kick Cameron Diaz out of bed for eating crackers (although God knows with most of us that's all she'd be doing there). But when the actress in question looks like half the girls who work at your local Starbucks, it's difficult to get overly swoony. Now Rita Hayworth, on the other hand, was nicknamed "The Love Goddess," and if you ever want to know why, take a look at 1946's Gilda. The film that made her and branded her (her oft-quoted statement that "Men fall in love with Gilda and then they wake up with me" testifies to the effect it had on the rest of her life), Gilda is a sexy, bizarre and downright creepy bit of film noir. Glenn Ford plays Johnny Farrell, a weaselly sort of fellow who is making his way around almost-postwar Buenos Aires as a gambler (and not a very honest one). One night the sinister Ballin Mundsen (George Macready) saves Johnny's life in an alley with the help of the blade in his spring-loaded walking stick — a phallic symbol that Mundsen refers to as his best friend: "It is a most faithful, obedient friend. It is silent when I wish to be silent. It talks when I wish to talk." Johnny worms his way into a job as Mundsen's bought-and-paid-for next-best friend, saying, "You see, this way, you'll have two friends. You've no idea how faithful and obedient I can be — for a nice salary." Following the constraints of the Production Code, the nature of Johnny's relationship with Mundsen is only broadly hinted at, but the sexual undercurrent is unmistakable. Johnny promises that there are no women anywhere in his life, and they agree that "gambling and women do not mix." Dialogue includes lines like Johnny's "I was born last night when you met me in that alley. That way, I'm no past and all future, see? And I like it that way." When Mundsen returns from some secret Nazi business (there's a Casablanca-like subplot about tungsden, Nazis and a nosy policeman, but it's all secondary to the bisexual menage a trois) he comes home to Johnny, who is eagerly awaiting his return, having let himself into Mundsen's house with his own key. But Mundsen has a shock for Johnny — he's brought home a wife. Johnny's sexual jealousy is compounded by the fact that he and Mundsen's new spouse, Gilda, have a past themselves. The film explores the passionate sexual feelings and downright hatred they have for each other, while the plot dances all around the dark nature of Johnny's relationship with both Gilda and Mundsen. Gilda is a very strange movie, and the only way to make any sense at all of the Johnny's unrelenting antagonism (Gilda at least has an excuse, as she was in love with Johnny and he walked out on her) is to just sit back and enjoy the darkly homosexual subtext. Having "met" his boss's new wife and left them alone in their boudoir (after giving back his key to Mundsen's house), Johnny says in voiceover: "It was all I could do to walk away. I wanted to go back up in that room and hit her. What scared me was, I - I wanted to hit him too. I wanted to go back and see them together with them not watching. I wanted to know." Hayworth defines sex in this film, especially in her signature performance of "Put the Blame on Mame" in a skin-tight, strapless black satin dress — and in outfits like the utterly see-through dressing gown that she wears in one scene where her naked breasts actually upstage her. Directed by Charles Vidor. Columbia TriStar's DVD release boasts a print that was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, but one can't help but wonder what condition the original film stock was in. While the quality of the black and white is very good — deep, dark blacks, complex shadows, really gorgeous gray tones — there's a lot of noise and dust. Beyond that, it's a good transfer presented in the original 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio with decent Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) in English, French, Spanish or Portuguese (with subtitles in those same four languages plus Chinese, Korean and Thai). Also includes original theatrical trailers for Gilda and The Platinum Blonde, production notes, cast and crew notes, and the featurette "Rita Hayworth: The Columbia Lady."
—Dawn Taylor



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