Ladies and gentlemen! Starting today, I will be presenting you with weekly reviews of cinema’s golden oldies – my favourite films from back in t’day, when they still knew how to make them. Keep a bleary eye online every Sunday for my recommendations of something thoroughly civilised to wind down to after your debauched weekends.
And so, let us begin…
Vidor’s Gilda is a masterpiece of the Film Noir genre. Set in Argentina at the close of WW2, the film tells the tale of the eponymous Gilda (Rita Hayworth), who arrives in Buenos Aires as the new bride of Casino owner Ballin Mundson, and drives a wedge between him and his right hand man, Johnny.
The plot is thick with Noir’s trademark twists and turns, and the set design is opulent and camp. Hayworth was never so beautifully photographed as she is here – eternal backlighting makes a feature of her famous red hair – and she lip-synchs masterfully to the voice of whichever poor studio-lot starlet was hired to dub her singing. The songs from Gilda are iconic as the film itself, and Hayworth’s anti-striptease to the tune of ‘Put The Blame On Mame’ is dazzling and erotic in a way that Hollywood films have forgotten how to be (in other words, I’d rather watch Hayworth removing a glove than Sharon Stone flashing her downstairs mix up).
The old adage ‘something for everyone’ has never been truer than in reference to Gilda. Extravagant costumes, elaborate set-pieces, musical numbers, gun fights, gambling, South American cartels and just a hint of National Socialism combine to make Gilda an exhilarating and indulgent two hours of cinematic nonsense.
Plus, if you’re that way inclined, keep an eye on the relationship between Ballin and Johnny – am I the only one who thinks there’s something queer going on there?