Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Hate Can Be a Very Exciting Emotion"

Quick, which iconic 1940's film noir features a thrid-world nightclub owner, Nazis, a love affair gone wrong, a fateful airplane trip and an iconic theme song? If you said Casablanca, then you should have said Gilda, the best film of the 1940's, the one where the hero does not achieve greatness through sacrifice.

Directed by Charles Vidor, Gilda stars Glenn Ford as Johnny Farrell, a handsome, streetwise adventurer and romantic lead who "makes his own luck." Having just ended a relationship, our hero moves to Buenos Aires as the war in Europe is coming to a close. He meets Ballin Mundson, a German expatriate with a dueling scar, who rescues him from a mugging in the opening scene. The classy and witty dialog and reparté is reminiscent of such films as the screwball comedy His Girl Friday, and the romantic drama To Have and Have Not. Originally cast for Humphrey Bogart who turned the role down, Glenn Ford's Johnny becomes the right hand man at Mundson's illegal Buenos Aires casino. Mundson, driven and unhappy, goes away leaving Johnny in charge. He returns, grinning like a fool, wed to Rita Hayworth's glorious Gilda, one of the most famous screen roles ever played. Unbeknownst to Mundson, Johnny and Gilda have a past. The three toast "Disaster to the wench that did our Johnny wrong," and murder ensues. The film is well plotted, and slyly written. Hayworth is at her best, singing in the nightclub, and, by removing just one glove, performing perhaps the most seductive striptease in cinematic history. I first saw this movie a year ago, and have watched it more than six times since. It cannot recommend it more highly. Hayworth also shines in The Lady from Shanghai, written and directed by, and starring Orson Welles, who was married to Hayworth at the time. Sadly, Hayworth found it impossible to live up to the fantasy ideal of Gilda in her life off stage. After several failed marriages, she complained that men "went to bed with Gilda, and woke up with me."

What all the fuss is about:

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