Starring: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready
Director: Charles Vidor
Running Time: 110 mins
Gilda is an American film about a gambling cheat who is unexpectedly recruited as the new manager of a lavish casino in Argentina. However, once he discovers that the previous manager’s wife, Gilda, is his ex-lover, everything begins to go awry.
Some of the most classic film-noirs unfortunately don’t hold up as exciting and engrossing dramas nowadays, but Gilda is not at all the case. With great performances across the board, an electrifying opening act, and intrigue right the way through, this is a classic that’s still a brilliantly engrossing watch.
So, let’s start with the characters. Despite the title, the main character of this film is actually the gambling cheat named Johnny Farrell, played by Glenn Ford. From the off, Farrell is both suspicious and interesting enough to be likeable, helped of course by Ford’s performance, which immediately gets you hooked on the story as soon as he appears in the first scene.
It’s not actually until about twenty minutes in that the title character, ‘Gilda’ appears on screen, but what an entrance it is! The first act is intriguing thanks to the character of Johnny Farrell, but after twenty minutes, it moves onto the verge of being repetitive, and that’s when Gilda steps in. Rita Hayworth, who plays her, is stunning as soon as Gilda appears, really throwing the cat amongst the pigeons in the story and heightening the drama of it all significantly.
I won’t tell you what happens once Gilda gets involved, but needless to say it is hugely exciting and engrossing, producing much more dangerous and unpredictable drama than you would have ever expected from a film like this.
The first fifty minutes or so, then, are absolutely electric, however the final hour doesn’t quite live up to that. Yes, there are still a lot of thrills and spills in the final act right up to the climax, but the story levels out to some degree in that time, not providing the huge unpredictability and intrigue that the opening stages did.
That’s not to say that the film becomes boring, because there’s still interesting stuff to follow, but the problem is that it feels so much more like a generic 40s film-noir than something really outstanding, and that’s why Gilda gets a 7.9 from me.