Gilda In Noir City, D.C.
The Film Noir Foundation and the AFI Theater presents an annual film noir festival, "Noir City DC" of classic noir movies. I have come to look forward to attending every October. Among the works presented this year was "Gilda", which, released in 1946, celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Noir scholar and author Foster Hirsch presented an introduction to the film which is included in the National Film Registry of "historically, culturally, or aesthetically" significant films maintained by the Library of Congress..
Directed by Charles Vidor and set in Buenos Aires at the conclusion of WW II the film stars Rita Hayworth in her most famous role. The story involves a triangle among the beautiful nightclub singer Gilda, her former lover and small-time gambler, Johnny, (Glen Farrell), and the wealthy operator of an illegal casino and other high-stakes businesses, Balin (George Macready). The atmosphere is tense and decadent with gambling, violence, and the presence of former Nazis in Argentina following the War.
For modern viewers, a striking feature of the film is the barely repressed sexual attraction between the two male leads, Johnny and Balin, which somehow escaped the critics when the film was released. The sexual symbolism in the form of a cane and double-entendres in the dialogue and the tension between the two men is palpable. The overt story involves a battle for Gilda's affections. Johnny and Gilda had been lovers in New York but the relationship ended badly. When Johnny and Balin start to work together, Balin marries Gilda on impulse while on a trip and asks Johnny to keep an eye on her as Gilda is free with her attentions to other men. The film highlights the love-hate dynamic between Gilda and Johnny. The love relationship becomes tied in with an international monopoly in precious metals with Balin at its head and former Nazis as his business partners.
Gilda, with voice dubbed in by Anita Ellis, performs two spectacular song and dance numbers, "Amado Mio" and "Put the Blame on Mame" late in the film. "Put the Blame on Mame" is the showstopper and more than makes up for the creaky plot. Rita Hayworth is beautiful and manages to be sweet, seductive and vulnerable all at once as the femme fatale. She regretted her inability to live down the role in her personal life.
"Gilda" was made to be seen in a beautiful theater on a large screen. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see it in this way as part of the Noir City D.C. This classic film will delight lovers of Rita Hayworth and of film noir.
Robin Friedman .