Film Flick Friday: Gilda

Friday, June 1, 2012

In 1946 scientists named an atomic bomb Gilda, even going so far as to paint Rita Hayworth's sultry likeness on the front. The most fatale of femmes, even the actress that portrayed Gilda in the film of the same name would agree that she was as destructive as she was glorious. "Every man I've known has fallen in love with Gilda and awakened with me," Rita Hayworth once complained of the role that made her one of Hollywoods greatest sex symbols, and thereby ruined her love life. As a film, Gilda exemplifies (and even typifies) Film Noir as a genre of twisted, corrupted emotion, and shows off the seedy underbelly- side of love and sex.

In Beunos Ares, you have to make your own luck, but luck looks to have run out on small-time hustler, Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford). He is only saved at the last minute from a gunman by Balin Mudson (George Macready) and his cane with a hidden, spring-loaded dagger. Mudson gives him a tip on where to gamble, but when Farrell tires to con the house, he finds himself once again face to face again with t Mudson as the casino's owner. Lucky for Farrell, getting his life saved seems to have formed bound between the two men and Mudson makes Farrell his right hand man. This new-formed loyalty is soon to be tested when Mudson brings home a new wife, Gilda (Rita Hayworth), Farell's former lover from a life left behind in the states. Desirable and wild, Gilda carvorts with other men, simply to spite Farrell, and their temptuous relationship- already a stew of repulsion, hate and sexual tension- becomes even more bizarre when Mudson disappears and his highly secretive, highly illegal empire falls, however temporarily, into Farrell's hands.

This noir, though arguably predictable in terms of plot and execution, and clunky in terms of pacing, really comes alive in the acting. Glenn Ford, the lead actor, is emminitely convincing when watching Farrell's descent from lucky rogue to brooding sadist, but the real star is Hayworth. The screen fairly drips with sex appeal every time she steps into frame. As sexualized as she is though, Gilda appeals to both men and women in this role because the film breaks away from the femme fatale archetypes and ultimately redefines them. Whereas other noirs show women seducing good, "innocent" men, Ford's character is neither good nor innocent; in fact Gilda's motives could even be said to be among the most sympathetic in the film (not that anyone's are very good). And though she gets punished for her sexuality, she also uses it to ultimately set herself free. Beautiful and deadly, like an atom bomb, it is Hayworth's ablity to play sex without making it a sin that makes this film a must see.


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