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In Buenos Aires, Argentina, a young American gambler named Johnny Farrell finds himself in danger of being robbed of his latest winnings. He is rescued by an older man, Ballin Mundson, using a cane concealing a spring-loaded dagger. Farrell makes his own luck at gambling, and tries to pass off his "skills" at an upscale casino. He is brought before the owner, who turns out to be Mundson. Johnny convinces Mundson to take him on as a manager and the two become friends. Returning from a trip, Mundson introduces his new wife Gilda. Johnny and Gilda were lovers in the past, and, after realizing this, Mundson determines to retain control over both of them by using one against the other; Johnny and Gilda are obviously engaged in a continuing love-hate relationship. Other men are inevitably attracted to the beautiful Gilda, and she flirts in return. Johnny seeks to reign in Gilda's wanderings, and remains loyal to Mundson, even after learning of his friend's ties to a cartel organized by former Nazis.

Producer: Virginia Van Upp
Director: Charles Vidor
Screenplay: Marion Parsonnet, based on Jo Eisinger's adaptation of E.A. Ellington's original story
Cinematography: Rudolph Maté
Film Editing: Charles Nelson
Art Direction: Stephen Goosson, Van Nest Polglase
Music: Doris Fisher and Allan Roberts
Cast: Rita Hayworth (Gilda), Glenn Ford (Johnny Farrell), George Macready (Ballin Mundson), Joseph Calleia (Obregon), Steven Geray (Uncle Pio), Gerald Mohr (Captain Delgado), Joe Sawyer (Casey).

Why GILDA is Essential

Rita Hayworth once blamed Gilda (1946) for ruining her love life. "Every man I've known has fallen in love with Gilda and awakened with me," she once lamented. But this dark and twisted love story also made Hayworth into one of the cinema's most unforgettable and enduring sex goddesses.

Hayworth plays the role of the jaded temptress to the hilt, even vamping at one point, "If I'd been a ranch, they would have called me the Bar Nothin'!" It was that often racy, sordid aspect of the film expressed in dialogue and Gilda's sexually provocative demeanor that caused a Variety critic of the time to note Gilda's "intriguing, low-down quality."

Marked by the distinctly cynical viewpoint and shadowy ambiance of film noir, Gilda could be described as a "hate story." By focusing on the polluted, venomous relationship between Gilda and Johnny, Vidor gives the film its slightly perverse - some have said sadomasochistic - feel. Ford showed remarkable insight into the film's racy themes when he pronounced "the picture was about hate being as exciting an emotion as love." Johnny and Gilda seem to delight in hurting and humiliating each other, making this one of the oddest film romances ever made. In reality, Ford and Hayworth were great friends and even lived next door to each other for a time in Hollywood. Gilda was Ford and Hayworth's second pairing after The Lady in Question (1940), which some said began Ford's screen infatuation with Hayworth. Ford admitted to having an affair with Hayworth, though he was a man of discretion and never gave details about his involvement with the luscious movie star in his autobiography. The pair would later go on to star together in The Loves of Carmen (1948), Affair in Trinidad (1952) and The Money Trap (1965).

With her vampish evening gowns and unforgettably sexy striptease to "Put the Blame on Mame" (sung not by Hayworth, but by Anita Ellis), Gilda is most remembered as Hayworth's picture. Though Hayworth removed only one long, black glove during the "Mame" number, her insinuating sultriness is still capable of generating erotic heat, and makes it seem like she shucked the whole outfit.

As was pointed out by Joe Morella and Edward Z. Epstein in their biography Rita, the film was a cross-over hit, appealing equally to both men and women. It struck a chord " presenting a woman who typified the ideal: the girl every man wanted to possess and every woman wanted to look like. Women, in fact, liked, responded to, empathized with Rita Hayworth - they have always made up a huge portion of her audience. Even in her femme fatale roles Rita's vulnerability came through. Her likeability and vulnerability are essential factors in her appeal."

But Ford's performance is equally memorable for the actor's sudden, dramatic shift from happy-go-lucky rogue to brooding sadist. That degree of intensity and world-weariness was perhaps intensified by the actor's recent return from a stint in the Marines during World War II. It was, after all, the pessimism and sense of ennui created during that war that helped nurture film noir as an expression of national despair.

by Felicia Feaster & John Miller

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