|Review: Gilda (1946)|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Friday, 22 July 2011 08:05|
Director: Charles Vidor
A knock at the door. "Gilda, are you decent?" A woman's face appears from the bottom of the screen, throwing her hair back. "Me? Sure. I'm decent."
It's one of the most iconic entrances an actress could ask for, and boy, did Rita Hayward know how to use it. When Gilda was first released in 1946, the posters rushed to proclaim that there was no other woman like her. And they were right. A classic femme fatale, she smouldered her arse off in what is quite possibly the sexiest film ever made.
And yet she isn't even the main character. That's Johnny (Glenn Ford), a gambler in Buenos Aires with a broken heart and a way with cards. And dice. And anything else that involves cheating. Rescued from a back-alley pounding by Baron Mundson (George Macready), he winds up working for Mundson in his illegal casino.
They get on famously, the Baron stroking his long, spiked cane while Johnny slicks back his hair and soaks up Mundson's manly male affections. But it's not long until the men are split up by someone with even more erotic tension down her trousers: Gilda, the Baron's new wife and, inevitably, Johnny's old flame.
Charles Vidor's film noir then spends 100 minutes watching the three of them tear each other to pieces. Driven by loathing as much as lust, Glenn Ford's suave player turns into a misogynistic madman, while the defiant but vulnerable Hayworth flashes her legs, glowers at the camera and silently sucks a cigarette.
It's an incredible pairing that easily beats any chemistry between screen stalwarts like Bogart and Bacall. Hayworth steals the show in one jaw-dropping dance scene, but never overshadows the screenplay's taut love-triangle structure. The result is a perfectly paced piece of steamy drama, a hard-boiled romance, steeped in shadows that highlight the stylish costume work from Jean Louis - Gilda not only defined Rita Hayworth's career and screen persona, but brought out the best in the genre.
Set against a shady casino backdrop, Vidor's seductive thriller is a hate-fuelled masterpiece. And as the silky-voiced Macready says at one point: "Hate can be a very exciting emotion." And how.