Gilda (1946)

Food:

Noir films require warm comfort food to accompany the existential crises it might bring. Recently, I ran out of pasta sauce, so I had to make shift a sauce from what was left in the fridge & what came to fruition, I highly recommend.

Boil the pasta in salt. Drain the pasta when al dente. Add 1 TBSP of butter, a sprinkle of Monterey Jack cheese, and then a large dollop of ricotta cheese. Season with garlic salt and voila! Your tasty, cheesy dish is ready to go.

Noirvember Film Series #2:

“Gilda” (1946), directed by Charles Vidor, is the dark and sexually unafraid film that boosted Rita Hayworth into the spotlight. She stars alongside Glenn Ford and George Macready, as the trio moves through a sleazy night club post-World War II. The atmosphere is similar to “Casablanca” (1942), only replacing Morocco’s landscape with Argentina. None the less, the gambling bar rooms are full of misfits, refugees and outcasts, people who cannot return home.

Noir is often defined by the more sinister aspects of otherwise glamourous worlds. “Gilda” is no different. However, Hayworth’s character does not fit the mold of a classic “femme fatale” like other noirs of its time – “Leave Her To Heaven” (1945), “Mildred Pierce” (1945) – as she is treated more like a pawn in the business ventures of the two men in her life. They desire her, use her and take advantage of her simultaneously trapping her between them. Further, all of the true emotions and intentions of the leads are purposefully kept at bay from the audience. The lack of clarity is confusing, but also powerful. Macready, at one point, says the line, “Hatred is more powerful and sexier than love,” and this, it seems, is the most we will be given to understand the inner worlds that which these characters are navigating. The most accurate description of “Gilda” is that it rides the line between a polished studio musical and a fiercely black noir.

Vidor directed each of his films with a new style, refusing to mark his films in typical auteur fashion. He directed according to the demands of whatever story he was telling, moving through horrors, screwball comedies, crime dramas and musicals, a choice which could, but should not negate his talent. Vidor had a special touch with his actors, sending three of them to receive Academy Award noms (Cornel Wilde in 1945’s “A Song to Remember,” James Cagney in 1955’s “Love Me or Leave Me,” and Vittorio De Sica in 1957’s “A Farewell to Arms.”) The performances that actors gave under his direction is a major part of his legacy. Rita Hayworth specifically appeared in four of his films, “The Lady in Question” (1940), “Cover Girl” (1944), “Gilda” (1946) and “The Loves of Carmen” (1948) – meaning that by the time he worked on this film, he had already worked with Hayworth twice. Her intro in “Gilda” is immediately iconic, an effortless flip of the hair and a gleaming, playful smile. She explodes from beneath the screen and the course of the film switches instantly as a result.

Hayworth had a rough childhood, forced to serve her dancer father in a way that would by today’s standards break child labor laws. However, her dancing is what opened the door for her in Hollywood, after winning the role in “Only Angels Have Wings” in 1939. She had an unforced sex appeal and a tough demeanor that was prevalent from that film on. Vidor was the first to sense this deadly combination and capitalized on bringing this out in her in “Gilda.” Her skill as a dancer was often described as “explosive” in style, her movement was said to have been reminiscent of a thorough-bred workhorse. Fred Astaire refers to Hayworth as his favorite dancing partner. In the most remembered scene in this film, amidst a performance, she invites the men in the audience to come up onstage and undress her, breaking the movie-musical illusion which typically separates the dance sequences from the films action, instead, melding them together in a way that is startling.

The film has been referenced time and time again in other classic pictures. In “Bicycle Thieves” (1948), Antonio is hanging a “Gilda” poster on the Italian city streets when his bike is snatched. In Stephen Kings “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” the novella details how her Gilda pinup photo paves the way for one prisoners escape. In the film version, starring Tom Robbins and Morgan Freeman, the prisoners gather to watch a screening of the film “Gilda” when Freeman’s character notes to Robbins right before Hayworth appears on screen, “This is the part I really like. This is when she does that shit with her hair.” In the 1999 Richard Curtis rom-com “Notting Hill,” Julia Roberts character contemplates fame, saying, “Rita Hayworth used to say, ‘They go to bed with Gilda, they wake up with me.’ … Men went to bed with the dream; they didn’t like it when they would wake up with the reality.” Even David Lynch gives “Gilda” a shoutout. In “Mulholland Drive” (2001), Laura Harring’s character sees Rita Hayworth’s name on a “Gilda” poster and decides to take the stage name Rita for herself.

It is a noir-classic musical that is bridled with deeper truths, which delivers accomplished performances, and an intriguing, mysterious and cleverly cynical storyline. Rita Hayworth rightfully steals the show and leaves an impression that far surpasses her time on-screen. “Gilda” must not be missed.

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