The Critics' Corner: GILDA
Saturday May, 20 2017 at 08:00 PM
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"Practically all the s.a. [sex appeal] habiliments of the femme fatale have been mustered for 'Gilda,' and when things get trite and frequently far-fetched, somehow, at the drop of a shoulder strap, there is always Rita Hayworth to excite the filmgoer. When story interest lags, she's certain to shrug a bare shoulder, toss her tawny head in an intimately revealing closeup, or saunter teasingly through the celluloid. She dissipates the theories, if any, that sex has its shortcomings as a popular commodity. Miss Hayworth will do business. The story is a confusion of gambling, international intrigue, and a triangle that links two gamblers and the wife of one of them. The setting is Buenos Aires. Sneaking in somehow is the subplot of a tungsten cartel operated by the husband, who also runs a swank gambling casino. A couple of Nazis are thrown in also. ...The direction is static, but that's more the fault of the writers. But this is another pic where the professional critics - those guys with the passes - can't do enough to detour the paying public." - Kahn, Variety, March 15, 1946.
"It is Miss Hayworth's business to portray a woman as bad as she is beautiful. On the rebound from a young bum (Glenn Ford) she marries an elegant bounder (George Macready), who falls desperately in love with her. She then spends a large part of the picture acting as much like a nympholept as the traffic will bear and, since all this transpires in Buenos Aires, the traffic is reasonably lively. ...All this senseless sinning makes for a fair amount of pulpy entertainment, nicely paced and aptly delivered for the first hour or so, more & more tortuously protracted from there on out. Glenn Ford has a good deal of style as the young scoundrel, though he looks a couple of decades too callow to browbeat tungsten tycoons. George Macready, looking rather like an icicle outfitted by Wetzel, does nicely by his questionable assignment - which is to make a Nazi glamorous. But all in all it is Rita Hayworth's picture, and people who don't bother too much about the last several reels will enjoy sharing it with her." - Time, April 1, 1946.
"If you aren't a stickler for common sense and significance, ?Gilda' is a lot of fun in a cluttered way. ...The love-hate pattern is finally resolved in a welter of subplots and subterfuge concerning cartels and Nazi skullduggery, Gilda's frantic determination to prove that the lady is a tramp, and Johnny's somewhat stuffy campaign to restrict her to the right bedroom. The dialogue about things past is cryptic enough to leave the audience a little befuddled and baffled. Nevertheless, ?Gilda' trumps up a spurious excitement and a productional glamour that can't miss as escapist entertainment. Macready makes a superior villain; Glenn Ford as Johnny combines a boyish appeal with Humphrey Bogart's badman technique. Miss Hayworth stays the same, including her appearance in an improbable black dress that somehow stays in place as she sings ?Put the Blame on Mame.'" - Newsweek, March 25, 1946.
"Miss Hayworth does all that one might expect in the title role of the tramp. But she never makes the character stand up with perilous and dynamic quality that it demanded. Glenn Ford is excellent as the stumblebum who runs a casino in Buenos Aires without any notion of the score. George Macready is altogether sinister as the villain of the piece and Joseph Calleia and Joe Sawyer add the melodramatic accents which are obviously demanded. Gilda has employed plenty of talent. It is still a boring and slightly confusing production." - Howard Barnes, New York Herald Tribune.
"When Judy Garland and Alice Faye got the urge for drama, they went the whole way and in their pictures The Clock  and Fallen Angel , respectively, they handed out the acting straight, without so much as a jazz note or a single twinkle of a toe, to highlight in. Rita Hayworth, going heavily dramatic for the first time in Gilda, proves herself a smarter show woman. For how this glorious pinup does emote in this one! What a glittering gamut of drama she reveals, plus much of her beautiful self while also singing and dancing! The result is an exciting, glamorous, rich, ruddy melodrama - and if the plot is most incredible at times, you will be more than willing to ignore it while concentrating on its star." - Ruth Waterbury, Los Angeles Examiner.
"The characters of the drama are interesting and well enough played and although the story has all the elements of high-class trash, director Charles Vidor and his experienced players have given it considerable holding power, by keeping the audience in suspense from one dramatic shift to another." - Kate Cameron, New York Daily News.
"This is a film with the intense surrealist qualities of a dream. Its Buenos Aires is a creation totally of the imagination, with its winding dark streets, its gambling hell, Mundson's white glittering house. The ambience is one of heat, decadence, sexual ferocity barely concealed behind civilized gestures and phrases. Maté's photography has a lacquered finish: the husband smoking a cigarette in silhouette, the first glimpse of Gilda, like every GI's dream, sitting on a bed and throwing back her head in ecstasy, the wedding scene glimpsed through windows streaming with rain." - Charles Higham, Hollywood in the Forties.
"Ford plays a drifting gambler who gets adopted by a German casino owner in Buenos Aires, only to become embroiled in a misogynistic ménage-a-trois with the German and his wife (Hayworth). The script is laced with innuendoes and euphemisms; and Ford finds himself as a character whose sexual attributes are not only ambiguous, but bordering on the perverse as his misogyny gradually gains the upper hand. Never has the fear of the female been quite so intense; and the themes that took wing in this extraordinary piece of cinema finally came to roost in such sexual noirs as Carnal Knowledge  and Last Tango in Paris ." - Geoff Samuel, Time Out Film Guide.
"Although the final sequence of Gilda presents the transcendence of true love over all obstacles, this culmination belies all the suspicion and sexual hatred which precede it. Women are agents of man's destruction and, if there's any doubt, just listen to the lyrics of "Put the Blame on Mame.'" - Marjorie Baumgarten, Cinema-Texas Program Notes, November 15, 1977.
"Highly charged story of emotional triangle - mysterious South American casino owner Macready, his new man - Friday Ford, and Macready's alluring wife (Hayworth) - unfortunately cops out with silly resolutions. Rita has never been sexier, especially when singing "Put the Blame on Mame.'" - Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide.
Compiled by John Miller