Most romantic film #28: Gilda (1946)

Please note: I am filling in late and on a public computer. My laptop crashed Saturday, and I’m way behind in all things. Pictures later!

This post-war film noir is filled with nasty people… I suppose it is a strange notion of a “romantic” film, but the story of Gilda and Johnny has its own romantic spin.

Suitably filmed in black-and-white, the film starts with a focus on Johnny Farrell, played by Glenn Ford, an American down on his luck in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He’s “rescued” by the mysterious Ballin Mundsen (George Macready) and made the manager and right-hand man in Mundsen’s casino. Mundsen keeps Johnny in the dark about some things, notably his dealings with a dangerous cartel. Johnny is Mundsen’s protege and pit bull.

Mundsen returns from a trip with a wife–the beautiful Gilda (Rita Hayworth). It is clear, quickly, that Gilda and Johnny have a past, and neither of them feel good about it. But they don’t come clean to Mundsen.

Mundsen makes Johnny Gilda’s keeper… he is to watch out for her, keep her out of trouble, keep men from bothering her–a big job, as Gilda constantly attracts men. She also starts to go out of her way to wind Johnny up by picking men up… or letting them pick her up.

Things only get worse. Mundsen catches Gilda and Johnny in a kiss, and crashes his plane. Johnny vows to make Gilda stay true to Ballin’s memory. Gilda imagines she and Johnny can now be together… they can, but on Johnny’s somewhat nasty terms.

Hayworth sings “Put the Blame on Mame” and does a convincing strip during one scene, and then sings “Amado mio” in another scene, reminding us of her musical comedy roots. She’s very, very good in this and if you’ve only seen Ford in the trademark nice guy roles he was known for, you’ll be intrigued by his very dark Johnny. There’s dominance and two-timing, lies and trickery, and even Nazis. Gilda is passionate and her own woman, in love with a hard-headed man, who has definite dark tendencies.

Altogether a satisfying romantic film.

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