There never was a woman like Gilda!
Charles Vidor’s 1946 black and white film noir has the iconic Rita Heyworth in her signature role as femme fatale. Another film that was studied as part of my Film Masters, the main narrative evolves around Johnny Hudson (Glenn Ford) who is rescued by a wealthy stranger Ballin Mudson (George Mccready ) and introduced to his young wife Gilda (Heyworth). Apparently unknown to Ballin was the fact that Johnny and Gilda had a history together. They have a nasty confrontation which leads to a passionate kiss. Ballin sees and overhears them and flees and fakes his one death.
After inheriting her husband’s estate, Gilda and Johnny marry, but he becomes needy and possessive whilst she wants to marry to love. She tries to escape the marriage several times (the famous ‘Put the blame on Meme’ strip tease sequence and the sensual dance Amado Mio’). Johnny tries to reconcile with her but (dun dun dun) Mudson returns with a gun, apparently faking his death to deceive the Nazis party. Uncle Pio, the washroom assistant (Steven Geray) stabs Ballin in the back. I think, at this point, because of the vast amount of screen time dedicated to Johnny and Gilda this was just a quick and easy way to get rid of the evil husband and the screen writers were running out of time. Johnny and Gilda reconcile and they all live happy ever after.
This film was one that I had studied both at undergraduate and postgraduate level and because of this it becomes the tired out and overused film exploring the male and possibly female gaze . There is obviously a distinction between the man’s world of gambling, money and Gilda’s world of pretty clothes and perfumes. The way that she is referred to as ‘a bird in a cage’ and metaphors to that extent shows she is trapped in this masculine world with only her sexuality to save her. It is also interesting to point out that Ballin carries a cane/ knife (phallic symbol maybe) to exercise his control.
Overall, a pretty ok film which established Heyworth’s iconography as a sex symbol and Ford and McCready did a pretty decent jobs as the gambler and the evil husband.
My rating: 3.5/5
Gilda, are you decent?