Saturday, January 19, 2019

2019 Blind Spot Series: Gilda

Directed by Charles Vidor and screenplay by Marion Parsonnet from a story by E.A. Ellington with adaptation by Jo Eisinger and un-credited work from Ben Hecht, Gilda is the story of a kingpin’s wife who is caught in a love triangle between her husband and a former lover who manages her husband’s casino. Set in the casinos of Bueno Aires, the film is a noir picture that play into a woman whose sex appeal drives two men to a breaking point as the titular character is played by Rita Hayworth. Also starring Glenn Ford, George Macready, Joseph Calleia, and Steven Geray. Gilda is a dazzling and exhilarating film from Charles Vidor.

A gambler meets a casino owner as he is hired to manage the man’s casino where he finds himself meeting the owner’s wife who was an old flame of the gambler. It’s a film that play into an uneasy love triangle of sorts yet there is this love-hate relationship between Gilda and the gambler Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) who hide their past from Gilda’s husband in the casino owner Ballin Mundson (George Macready) who eventually becomes suspicious about them. Marion Parsonnet’s screenplay is largely told through Farrell’s perspective in a traditional film-noir style of voice-over narration and a language that features stylized dialogue that add to the tension in the film. Notably as it play into this tense atmosphere in the casino in Buenos Aires where Farrell is helping Mundson watching over the casino as it relates to cheats and such.

Still, Farrell does become concerned about Mundson’s business as it relates to German businessman who want to work with Mundson following the aftermath of World War II. Mundson’s business would also attract the attention of Argentine government agent Obregon (Joseph Calleia) who is also suspicious about Mundson’s dealings. Things get more complicated during the second half as it would relate to Farrell trying to steer Gilda away from other men believing that Mundson would get hurt if he knew the truth. Yet, it would play into an uneasy alliance between the two during its third act that would create more tension and intrigue.

Charles Vidor’s direction does have some style in terms of the lavish presentation of Buenos Aires though it was shot mainly in studio lots in Hollywood. While there’s some wide shots of the streets as well as interior of the casino, Vidor aims for something much simpler as it play into the dramatic tension between Gilda and Farrell through close-ups and medium shots. Vidor would also use some intricate compositions as it would show what Mundson is seeing in the casino on the second floor while it has this air of controlled chaos unless something goes wrong where Farrell would take care of the situation. The scenes between Gilda and Farrell have Vidor play up the sexual tension with Gilda being quite forward to get Farrell to do something as a scene of her singing and playing a guitar late one night is a key example of this romantic interplay.

Things would get more exhilarating during its third act due to a couple of musical numbers involving Gilda who would try to wow men just to get attention or to rile Farrell up who feels immense loyalty to Mundson. It would lead to revelations about Mundson’s business as well as why so many people are after him as Vidor would play up the suspense in the third act with Gilda and Farrell being forced to work together to stop Mundson. Overall, Vidor crafts a scintillating yet exciting film about a gambler dealing with a former flame who is married to his new boss at a casino.

Cinematographer Rudolph Mate does amazing work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it help set a mood for some of the scenes at the club including the musical performances with its usage of light and shadow. Editor Charles Nelson does terrific work with the editing as it is straightforward with a few fade-outs to help structure the story along with rhythmic cuts for the suspenseful moments. Art directors Stephen Goosson and Van Nest Polglase, along with set decorator Robert Priestley, do brilliant work with the look of the interior of the casino and its bar as well as the Mundson home and his office overlooking the casino.

Costume designer Jean Louis does excellent work with the costumes that focuses mainly on the clothes Gilda wears including the iconic strapless black dress for the big musical number. Makeup artist Clay Campbell does nice work with the look of Gilda to play into her glamorous persona as well as the steely look of Mundson. Sound recordist Lambert E. Day does superb work with the sound as it play into the raucous atmosphere of the casinos as well as the exterior scenes involving cars. The film’s music soundtrack supervised by M.W. Stoloff and Marlin Skiles is wonderful for its mixture of orchestral-based stock music that is used sparingly along with some big-band music that include some of the songs that Gilda sings.

The film’s incredible cast include some notable small roles from Ludwig Donath and Lionel Royce as a couple of Germans, Joe Sawyer as a hood of Mundson in Casey, Don Douglas as a lawyer Gilda goes out with late in the film in Thomas Langford, Mark Roberts as a man flirting with Gilda in Gabe Evans, and Steven Geray in a fantastic performance as the washroom attendant Uncle Pio as a man who isn’t impressed with Farrell as he calls him “Mr. Peasant” as he’s someone who is a lot smarter than people give him credit for as he’s an observer with some philosophical views about what Farrell is going through. Joseph Calleia is excellent as Detective Maurice Obregon as a police investigator who is suspicious about Mundson’s business dealings outside of Argentina as he believes that Farrell knows something while is a man that is incorruptible and wants to help Farrell.

George Macready is brilliant as Ballin Mundson as a casino owner who gives Farrell a job to manage the casino while he is also trying to do other things while becomes concerned about Gilda and questions about her past as it’s a chilling yet engaging performance from Macready. Glenn Ford is amazing as Johnny Farrell as a gambler who is hired by Mundson to manage the casino where he feels indebted to Mundson but is troubled by the presence of Gilda as he copes with his feelings and disdain for her as it’s one of his great performances. Finally, there’s Rita Hayworth in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as a woman who is married to a casino owner as she is someone trying to get attention and to be loved while also riling up both her husband and former love as it’s a performance full of charisma and oozing sex appeal along with this air of ferocity that makes it an iconic performance from Hayworth.

Gilda is a spectacular film from Charles Vidor that features great performances from Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, and George Macready. Along with its ensemble cast, gorgeous photography, dazzling costumes, and thrilling moments of suspense and drama. It’s a noir film that manages to hit all of the right notes while being a study of emotions and temptation between two former lovers who both have a bad history in this love-hate relationship. In the end, Gilda is a sensational film from Charles Vidor.

Charles Vidor Films: (The Mask of Fu Manchu) – (Sensation Hunters) – (Double Door) – (Strangers All) – (The Arizonians) – (His Family Tree) – (A Doctor’s Diary) – (The Great Gambini) – (Romance of the Redwoods) – (Blind Alley) – (Those High Grey Walls) – (My Son, My Son!) – (The Lady in Question) – (Ladies in Retirement) – (New York Town) – (The Tuttles of Tahiti) – (The Desperadoes) – (Cover Girl) – (Together Again) – (A Song to Remember) – (Over 21) – (The Loves of Carmen) – (Hans Christian Andersen) – (Thunder in the East) – (Rhapsody) – (Love Me or Leave Me) – (The Swan) – (The Joker is Wild) – (A Farewell to Arms (1957 film)) – (Song Without End)

© thevoid99 2019


Chris said...

I agree Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford are excellent in Gilda. I first heard about this noir in Shawshank Redemption when they are watching it in the prison. A wonderful scene:

thevoid99 said...

@Chris-How can any straight man not love that scene? I think that was one of the reasons why I selected it as a Blind Spot as well as the fact that it's been lauded by many which prompted me to select it and it's a great film. Rita Hayworth.... wow.... what a woman!