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Gilda Gilda
Reviewer: Richard Tara
Director: Charles Vidor
Cast: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready, Joseph Calleia, Steven Geray

Shortly after the Second World War, Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) a handsome American drifter is broke and loose in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One night, after a gambling win, he is mugged. He is rescued by an older debonair man Ballin Mundson (George Macready) who takes a liking to him and eventually makes him his partner in his gambling casino.

Johnny is devoted to Ballin and they form a very strong friendship. Johnny soon realizes that Ballin has another secret business on the side. He offers to help but is spurned. Turns out that Ballin is trying to protect him from his scary Nazi associates that have fled to Argentina after the defeat of Germany.

This close relationship of the two men is suddenly shattered. Ballin (George Macready) goes on a short trip, meets a gold digger floosy, Gilda (Rita Hayworth) and marries her without realizing that Gilda and Johnny (Glenn Ford) had been intimate before.

The relationship deteriorates rapidly on all fronts. Ballin is fond of Johnny and Gilda equally. But, Johnny (Glenn Ford) who is intensely jealous of his closeness to Ballin (George Macready) resents Gilda’s presence. Gilda is a flirt and starts dating other men to irritate Johnny. Finally, to put the icing on the cake, the Nazi’s threaten Ballin and demand their investments back. Feeling the heat, Ballin decides to disappear. He leaves everything to Gilda and Johnny. Too late, it is then that he discovers the smoldering relationship between the two of them. He takes off in an airplane that crashes into the sea and everyone assumes that he is dead.

Johnny blames Gilda for Ballin’s death. Marries her to gain control of Ballin’s fortunes and makes her a virtual prisoner in their house. Gilda’s repeated attempts at escape are thwarted by Johnny.

After a while, the German Nazis harass Johnny (Glenn Ford) for their inventions and money that they say they had entrusted to Ballin (George Macready) for safekeeping. And to make matters worse, Ballin comes back to kill Johnny and Gilda for betraying him.

This movie has been considered as one of the best ever by many critics and students of history of the movies. There has been a lot of speculation about the relationship between Ballin and Johnny. Some consider Gilda more of a love story between the two men and when one of them, Ballin, is jilted, he decides to seek revenge.

Gilda was made in 1946, right after the war. It would have been very difficult, if not impossible to even hint at a homosexual attraction. The underlying relationship, or want of one, between the two is handled superbly and subtly by veteran director Charles Vidor who directed Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth in “The Loves of Carmen” the following year and went on to direct excellent movies such as “Rhapsody”, “Farewell to Arms” and “The Swan.” He died relatively early in his career.

The black and white cinematography is the handiwork of Rudolph Maté who later became a well-known director. One cannot help but enjoy his expert handling of shadows, angles and the intensity of his camera work.

In the 1940’s, Rita Hayworth was at the zenith of her career. Her pinup photos adorned many mess halls and tents during the war. So, it was natural for the studio to promote the movie under her name. Her acting ability can be considered mediocre and she was no singer either. Anita Ellis dubbed her songs in the movie.

George Macready, who plays Ballin Mundson, was an actor with outstanding qualities and a commanding presence. He played a villain in most of his movies and on TV. In Gilda, he was given the chance to be a lead. His presence definitely overshadows that of Glenn Ford, who is one of my favorites, and actually makes the movie so taut and dramatic. I cannot think of any other actor that could have replaced him in that role. The silky, yet menacing voice, the intimidating look and the way he walked and carried himself. One would have felt in danger by being in his presence and never sure of his chances if he betrayed the man.

One of my top ten movies of all time. Four stars.

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