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Nov 18, 2013

NOIRVEMBER SPOTLIGHT - GILDA (1946)



Back when colorizing Black-and-White movies was starting to become a "thing" (and thankfully it died), Siskel & Ebert had a special show dedicated to Black-and-White movies vs. Color.  They chose specific examples of how Black-and-White enhanced certain films, while in certain cases Color had a tendency to date things quickly.  Their prime example of Black-and-White having a quality of timelessness was Rita Hayworth in that stunning black evening dress from Gilda (1946).




That Siskel & Ebert episode sent me directly to the video store to find Gilda, and I'm glad I did.  It quickly etched itself as my favorite Noir - although I'm not so sure at the time I knew what that label meant.  Over the years though I continued to re-visit Gilda and my appreciation for the movie has grown, as has my infatuation with Ms. Hayworth.  Can you blame me?




Ms. Hayworth in Gilda has had so much of an impact, that she even became a major plot point in Stephen King's short story that became The Shawshank Redemption (titled Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption).  It's that kind of role that not only became a cinematic icon, but for me defined the look and style of Noir and the Femme Fatale.  The one sheet is also probably the best example of Noir advertising.  A sultry Rita Hayworth smoking a cigarette seductively.  In 2013, just try having anyone in a movie or television marketing campaign be seen with a cigarette!




The movie also changed my perception of Glenn Ford.  Weeks before I saw Gilda, I had rented The Blackboard Jungle with Ford as a well-meaning teacher seeking to bring education and change to an inner-city High School, attended by Sidney Poitier at that.  That well meaning teacher here is a gambler with a shady past, a man not afraid to show absolute hatred for the woman he once loved - a woman that appears impossible not to fall in love with.





Gilda has all the elements that makes it truly an exceptional Noir film.  Set in an exotic location (South America) with desirable people who are outcasts from society trying to hide from their pasts and make a new life, only to have their shady back stories catch up with them and confront them head on.  The owner of the casino - Balllin Mundson played by George Macready - is openly one of the most despicable, violently unstable antagonists to grace the silver screen - and he doesn't even try to hide it.  Feeding off the hate that Gilda and Johnny (that's Glenn Ford's character) have for each other, he practically revels in it and does everything he can to egg it on.




Then there is Gilda played exquisitely by Ms. Hayworth.  She is the epitome of beauty and danger.  Every man wants her which makes Johnny's hatred of her that much more mysterious - and this is probably why Ballin feeds off it so hungrily.  It's a role that will intoxicate and haunt you long after the final credits have rolled.




It wouldn't be Noirvember without a screening of Gilda, a Film Noir that should be seen at all costs.