Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: Gilda (1946)
Studio Line: Columbia TriStar

The legendary Rita Hayworth sizzles with sensuality and magnetism as she sings "Put the Blame on Mame" and delivers a dazzling performance as the enticing temptress Gilda. In the story of Gilda, Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) goes to work for Balin Mundson (George Macready), the proprietor of an illegal gambling casino in a South American city, and quickly rises to become Mundson's "main man." All is well until Mundson returns from a trip with his new bride Gilda -- a woman from Johnny's past. Mundson, unaware of their previous love affair, assigns Farrell the job of keeping Gilda a faithful wife. Fraught with hatred, Gilda does her best to antagonize, intimidate, and instill jealousy in Farrell -- until circumstances allow him to get even.

Director: Charles Vidor
Cast: Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready, Joseph Calleia
DVD: Standard 1.33:1; audio English Digital Mono, French , Spanish & Portuguese Digital Mono; subtitles English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai; closed-captioned; single sided - double layered; 28 chapters; rated NR; 110 min.; $29.95; street date 11/7/00.
Supplements: 8-minute 45-second "Rita Hayworth: The Columbia Lady" Featurette; Vintage Advertising; Theatrical Trailers; Talent Files; Production Notes.
Purchase: DVD | If This Was Happiness: A Biography of Rita Hayworth Barbara Leaming | Score soundtrack - Various Artists

Picture/Sound/Extras: C+/B-/D-

To coin a phrase: they don't make 'em like they used to! While this statement could apply to the film in question, 1946's Gilda, it actually refers to that movie's star, the lovely and vivacious Rita Hayworth. Va-va-voom! Hayworth was unquestionably one of film's sexiest presences, and she positively fires up the screen whenever she appears in Gilda.

Actually, even without Hayworth, Gilda still would have been a solid movie. The plot offers a standard "love triangle" saga. As the film starts, Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) meets Ballin Mundson (George Macready), the proprietor of an illegal casino. All is well for a while as the two become buddies, but when Ballin returns from a trip with new wife Gilda (Hayworth) on his arm, things go downhill rapidly. It seems that Johnny and Gilda have a past, and it's that prior relationship that causes problems.

The results are eminently predictable. In a lot of ways, Gilda comes across as a post-war remake of Casablanca, albeit one set in South America instead on in northern Africa. Although the mood seems similar and the two share a lot of components, Gilda has a different emphasis and never feels like a rip-off of its famous predecessor.

Ultimately, Gilda works because of some snappy writing and due to the performances of its stars. Writer Marion Parsonnet populates the film with some terrific quips. For example, at one point Gilda states that if she were a ranch, she'd be the "Bar Nothin'". I also adored the toast given to a problematic female former friend: "disaster to the wench!" is the cry given, and if I just have to find some way to work that into my life soon!

The film moves at a brisk pace but not excessively quickly, and the characters are allowed to develop naturally and evocatively. Through these roles, the actors shine. Hayworth shows why she became such an enormous star; in addition to her beauty, she possessed a strong spark and fierce streak of conviction that came through powerfully. She also was able to portray the character's range of emotions, and seemed just as believable when tearful and regretting as when she was bright and frisky.

When I think of Ford, I recall him as an older man; his role as Pa Kent in Superman is the main way I remember him. However, as evidenced here, he was a much tougher actor than I would have anticipated. Ford portrays Johnny with a great mix of street smarts and sex appeal, and he and Hayworth display terrific chemistry. One scene in which Ford handles a smarmy pretty boy showed just how nasty he could be, and I really enjoyed his performance.

Also of note is Steve Geray's performance as washroom attendant Uncle Pio. He consistently gives the film some excellent comic relief. The role could have seemed forced and excessively goofy, but Pio works into the movie neatly and becomes a vital character despite the comic nature of the part.

Overall, I found Gilda to be a thoroughly solid movie. The plot offered nothing revolutionary or particularly inventive, but the film featured crisp writing and excellent acting. All that and lots of sexy shots of Hayworth too - who could ask for more?

The DVD:

Gilda appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture displayed a fair number of flaws, it generally seemed quite watchable.

Sharpness appeared fine throughout the movie. At most, mild softness interfered on a couple of occasions, but these examples were rare and the film generally looked quite crisp and detailed. Moiré effects and jagged edges presented no significant concerns. Black levels seemed fairly deep and rich, and contrast looked good. At times, some low-light scenes appeared a little muddy and thick, but for the most part I thought shadow detail was satisfactory.

As one might expect of a film from 1946, print flaws are the main issue related to Gilda's picture. Speckles and grit appeared fairly frequently, and grain also could be a concern. Larger defects such as scratches and blotches occurred as well, but these were less typical. Through the first half of the movie, I was prepared to give it at least a "B-" rating, but unfortunately, the number of flaws escalated during the film's second segment. Speckles and grit became more prominent during that 50 minutes or so; they never seemed overwhelming, but the picture definitely appeared cleaner during the movie's first half. Nonetheless, Gilda remained eminently watchable at all times and it earned a solid "C+".

The film boasts a relatively strong monaural soundtrack as well. Dialogue always appeared crisp and distinct, with no concerns related to intelligibility. Actually, the speech sounded surprisingly clear for a film of this vintage; the lines were fairly natural and lacked much of the coldness generally found in recordings from this era. Music and effects displayed similar characteristics. The track lacked any real dynamic range and seemed flat in that way, but the different components came across as clean and accurate for the most part, without any noticeable distortion. I would have rated the audio a little higher except the mix betrayed some light background noise during much of the film. Nonetheless, it earned a positive "B-" for sound.

Gilda includes a few minor supplements. Most significant is "Rita Hayworth: The Columbia Lady", an eight-minute and 45-second featurette that briefly covers her career. Although the DVD avers that the program is "exclusive", that's not correct; the same documentary appeared on the DVD of The Loves of Carmen.

Because I'm lazy, I'll simply restate my comments from that review. "The Columbia Lady" provides a general biography about Hayworth's career that features clips from a number of her films plus voice-over interview snippets from Orson Welles and Fred Astaire. I found this piece to be decent but rather superficial; a longer feature could have detailed her career much more appropriately. It also seemed oddly truncated. The ending describes the big push the studio made with Hayworth's 1953 film Miss Sadie Thompson but the program stops there. Strangely, it doesn't follow up with any reactions to the film or tell us why Hayworth didn't make another movie for four years or why she wanted out of Columbia at that time (as alluded to by this program's title, Columbia gained its place in Hollywood largely through the popularity of Hayworth). It's a mildly-interesting documentary for what it is, but it lacks depth.

Gilda rounds out with a few minor extras. "Vintage Advertising" includes stillframes with images from some of the promotion done for the film; we find eight frames worth of posters, lobby cards and print ads. "Talent Files" include brief and nearly-useless biographies of director Charles Vidor, Hayworth, Ford and Macready; these provide some very rudimentary details but have no depth.

In addition, four theatrical trailers appear. We find clips for Gilda and fellow Hayworth/Ford project The Loves of Carmen. Completing the collection are snippets for A Man For All Seasons and The Last Hurrah. If those two have any connection to Gilda other than the fact they're older films and come from Columbia, I can't figure out what that link may be. Finally, the DVD includes some short but readable and moderately-interesting production notes within its booklet.

Rita Hayworth was one of the all-time great bombshells, and she showed why she attained this status in her vivid and exciting performance in 1946's Gilda. The movie offers a lackluster plot but benefits from crisp pacing and solid acting; those elements make the movie worth watching. The DVD provides decent but flawed picture with relatively clear and natural sound plus some minor extras. Fans of classic films will be happy to take a look at Gilda in all her sexy glory.

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