A lovely Rita Hayworth, a sword cane and enough hate for everybody
Mar 5, 2011
Gilda is Rita Hayworth's movie down to the last frame. It's also one of the oddest and most enjoyable combinations of misogyny, love, hate, implied homosexuality, tungsten cartels, Nazi conspiracies and megalomania. The movie also features an intriguing menage a trois. No, not the one with Gilda, Johnny and Ballin, but the one with Ballin and his two "little friends," his sword cane and Johnny. Note, for those who may care, that elements of the plot are discussed.
Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is a down-on-his-luck gambler who is saved from being robbed in a rough part of Buenos Aires by an elegant guy in formal attire and a sword cane. He's Ballin Mundson (George Macready). Mundson is intrigued by Johnny's competence, his willingness to make his own luck and...who knows? He offers Johnny a job in the posh night club he owns, actually in the casino. Although gambling is against the law, Mundson has made all kinds of accommodations and arrangements. In short order he moves Johnny up to manager and junior partner, but when he returns from a trip with a wife, tensions and suspicions emerge like fat worms from a rotten apple.
Mundson's new wife is Gilda (Rita Hayworth), a lush sexpot with flesh so hot she’ll burn your hands. Mundson may actually love her. Unknown to him, Gilda and Johnny have a history. We don't know what happened exactly, but Gilda hates Johnny and Johnny detests Gilda. But something's going on besides hate. "I hated her so, I couldn't get her out of my mind for a minute," Johnny tells us. It works both ways. One night Gilda asks Johnny, "You do hate me, don't you, Johnny?" "I don't think you have any idea of how much," he says. Gilda looks at him with half-closed eyes. "Hate is a very exciting emotion. Haven't you noticed? Very exciting. I hate you too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I'm going to die from it."
Even Mundson, when his suspicions are aroused, starts talking about hate. "If you're worried about Johnny Farrell, don't be. I hate him!," Gilda tells her husband. "And he hates you," Ballin says. "That's very apparent. But hate can be a very exciting emotion. Very exciting. Haven't you noticed that? There is a heat in it, that one can feel. Didn't you feel it tonight?" "No," Gilda says. "I did," Ballin tells her. "It warmed me. Hate is the only thing that has ever warmed me."
Johnny is loyal to Mundson. Even though he obsessively fails to recognize Gilda's love for him, he tries to keep Mundson from learning about Gilda's apparent affairs with others. When Mundson is implicated in a murder, flees and appears to die in a plane crash, Johnny is named trustee in Mundson's will, which leaves everything to Gilda. He marries Gilda out of hatred, resentment and guilt. There is no reconciliation on the marriage bed; Johnny keeps her watched day and night. He also learns about Mundson's single-minded ambition to control the world's tungsten, of his dealings with Nazis toward the end of the war, and of the determination of an Argentinean detective to blow apart Mundson's criminal business dealings. And at the end, when Johnny does the right thing, when he realizes he's been wrong about Gilda...Ballin Mundson comes back, determined to use his one "little friend" to kill his other "little friend," and Gilda as well.
If any movie could be said to be deliberately constructed to boost an actor to super stardom, this is it. The camera loves Hayworth, and she is photographed with exquisite care. Whether she's doing a non-strip strip to "Put the Blame on Mame" or just looking teary-eyed and vulnerable, she's gorgeous. Glenn Ford, or any other actor who would have played Johnny, has a tough job competing. He's supposed to be tough, competent, yet hurt so deeply that he obsessively hates Gilda until the last ten minutes of the movie. His attitude, to me, gets tiresome after awhile. Ford also looks boyish, a look that stayed with him until the mid-Fifties. He's not completely convincing as the kind of guy that a full-blown woman like Gilda would fall for so completely. George Macready, as the third person in the menage, had probably the best role of his career. He's a cool, sophisticated smoothie, condescending, and the real-life scar he had on his cheek adds to his menace. It's believable that his Ballin Mundson might be partly attracted to Johnny Farrell for a reason that dare not speak its name. On the other hand, it's also believable his Mundson might truly, at least at first, be besotted by Gilda. There are two other nice performances by Steven Geray as Uncle Pio, an impertinent but wise washroom attendant, and by Joseph Calleia as a patient Argentinean cop.
------------------------------------------------------------------ Was this the story of Gilda? Don’t you believe it. Ballin Mundson is the key to Gilda and to Johnny. I heard this from a young man who knew Ballin very well…
Ballin Mundson (George Macready) in Gilda:
Ballin’s dead now. Yeah, he was arrogant and selfish. He used people and he’d throw them away. I was just another Buenos Aires hustler when I met him. Was there anything special about me? I don’t know. But he took me in and I loved him. Then he met Johnny that night he went down to the docks looking for rough trade. Before I knew what was going on, I was out and Johnny was in. Funny thing, Johnny wouldn’t have anything to do with Ballin in that way. At least not then. Maybe that was the attraction. All I knew was that Johnny was a cheap gambler with greasy hair and a phoney boyish grin.
Ballin wanted Johnny bad. When he heard about Johnny’s love-hate for Gilda, Ballin thought he’d be clever. He married Gilda, flaunted her in Johnny’s face, insinuated that women are always trouble. “See, Johnny," he'd whisper, "just look at how she dances, how she flirts, how she rubs it in your nose. Come here, Johnny, sit on the sofa with me. Have a drink. Men don’t play it that way, Johnny...I don’t play it that way. Here, take my hand, Johnny...don’t worry. You know me. I’m Ballin. Gilda’s not for you. She's not for me. Come to the bed, Johnny.”
The next day Ballin told me it was time to move out so Johnny could move in. He set me up in an apartment and gave me some money. But I loved him and I knew Johnny didn’t. Then Ballin had to leave the country. When he came back he learned Johnny hadn’t waited for him. So there’s Ballin Mundson, the guy nobody dared to cross. Tough Ballin Mundson, who for once in his life had let his guard down. He found out Johnny had hooked up with Gilda. What a laugh. Johnny trying to prove he’s straight and Gilda trying to prove she’s not a slut. Ballin tried to kill Johnny, but the only thing Ballin got was a bullet in the back.
What’s it all mean? Who knows. Gilda still sings about Mame but it’s in a dirty Cuban dive and she’s a drunk. A pal told me she doesn’t smell too good. Johnny got married to a society dame...can you believe it? But word is out that he haunts the docks most nights.
And me? I’m doing okay. I saved the money Ballin gave me and bought some property. Uncle Pio gave me Ballin’s ‘little’ friend’, that sword cane Ballin always carried with him. Some night I’m going to take it to the docks and find Johnny. For Ballin.
Pros: RITA HAYWORTH AND GLENN FORD - beautiful Cons: it wasn't in color The Bottom Line: This is the time of the beautiful people The tagline for this movie states There has never been a woman like Gilda. Well, that may be true and all, but in fact, there has never been a woman like Rita Hayworth. Born in 1918, she was a vibrant 28 years old in this production. My only wish, this release had been in color. … more
Rita Hayworth stars with Glenn Ford in the film noir masterpiece GILDA, which is widely considered to be the finest film in Ms Hayworth's career.Gilda (Hayworth) is a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage with corrupt illegal casino owner Ballin Mundson (George MacReady) when she comes face-to-face with her past; Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) her previous lover whom she left and married Ballin on the rebound.Gilda and Johnny re-ignite the passions when Ballin "kills" himself. Little do they know … more
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.
All film noirs need deceit, betrayal, dialogue hard as diamonds--and dames even harder than that. ButGildais the only one with the dame front and center, and for good reason. Rita Hayworth shimmers in the 1946 classic, which spins on a tortured plot involving the title character (Hayworth); her imperious husband (George Macready), a ruthless casino owner and head of an Argentine tungsten cartel (!); and Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford), Gilda's ex-lover and now her husband's go-fer. But no one watchesGildafor the plot, except to learn that all the characters have secrets--perhaps even ones they would kill for. Hayworth captures Gilda's vulnerability beneath her devil-may-care front ("If I'd been a ranch, they would have named me the Bar Nothing"). Not to be missed: Hayworth's slinky striptease to "Put the Blame on Mame."--Anne Hurley