Gilda is a 1946 black and white movie directed by Charles Vidor and starring Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth. You could call it a film noir, and at first I thought it might be a variant of the Double Indemnity type of story where a glamorous woman inveigles a weak man to murder her wealthy husband. But the story-line of Gilda is rather different. It veers this way and that, and isn’t easy to pin down.
Ford plays a gambler, Johnny Farrell, who shows up in Buenos Aires and chances upon a German called Mundson who is apparently charming but also sinister, in a slightly unlikely way, I felt. Mundson owns a casino, and appoints Johnny as his chief henchman. He trusts Johnny, and Johnny shows plenty of loyalty, but their relationship is put under strain when Mundson returns from a trip with a new wife in tow. This is the eponymous Gilda, seductively played by Hayworth.
Gilda, it turns out, is an old flame of Johnny’s. It is difficult to make out whether their mutual loathing is genuine, feigned, or not mutual at all. Mundson reveals that he is the head of a tungsten cartel (ah, those tungsten cartels, you don’t hear much of them nowadays!), having done a covert deal with a group of fellow Germans to front the organisation while the war was raging. With the war over, the bad guys want their cartel back, but Mundson is bent on keeping control.
I enjoyed this film. Hayworth is an excellent femme fatale, and she makes the film work. I’ve never been a Glenn Ford fan, I’m afraid, but here he irritated me less than in one or two other roles, perhaps because there was a real chemistry between him and Hayworth. The plot is a bit wacky, but it twists enough to maintain interest throughout. I wouldn’t describe Gilda as a classic, but it’s certainly very watchable.