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Film / Gilda

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Ballin Mundson: Gilda, are you decent?
Gilda: Me? [pause long enough for to put your eyes and jaws where they used to be] Sure. I'm decent.

Gilda is a 1946 Film Noir directed by Charles Vidor, notable for its excellent cinematography and music, and particularly for Rita Hayworth's stunningly sexy performance as the eponymous Femme Fatale.

The story takes place in Argentina where a dice gambler called Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) ends up becoming the right-hand man of Ballin Mundson (George Macready), the owner of an illegal casino, who is constantly under the watchful eye of local authorities. The situation becomes more complicated when Johnny meets Ballin's wife, the nightclub singer Gilda (Hayworth), who was once his lover.

Struggling between his loyalty to Ballin and his hatred for Gilda, Johnny grows increasingly conflicted, which isn't helped when on the night he kisses Gilda, the event is witnessed by Ballin who flees only to seemingly plummet to his death in an exploding airplane. Saddened by his friend's demise, Johnny begins controlling Gilda's goings even more rigorously while the local authorities question him about details of certain cartel plans which Ballin has presumably been involved with.

Despite all of this, Johnny can't forget what he once felt for Gilda, but he can't be sure if Gilda shares his feelings. To make things worse, a shadow of the past still looms over them...

Gilda provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Ballin Mundson is a perfectly pleasant murderer.
  • Anti-Hero: Johnny cheats at gambling, likes the idea of Ballin's shady tungsten cartel, and his vindictive streak against Gilda leads him to mistreat her with glee. He still tries to do the right thing at the end of the day though.
  • Argentina Is Nazi-Land: A bunch of Germans who are none too thrilled at the V-E Day celebrations have formed a tungsten cartel, with Ballin as their frontman.
  • Between My Legs: Johnny is framed this way after a mook punches him to the ground.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In the final scene, it's the seemingly harmless and endearing Uncle Pio who kills Mundson by skewering him with his own sword cane when he's about to shoot Johnny and Gilda.
  • The Chanteuse: Gilda sings two numbers.
  • Character Title: See the title of this article?
  • Destructive Romance: All about the love-hate relationship between Johnny and Gilda. The entire plot revolves around the psychological, emotional and physical abuse they inflict on one another, which gets increasingly nasty and violent and bizarre, to the point where both of them are practically mentally unhinged by the end of the film.
  • The Dragon: Johnny is essentially this to Ballin.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In Johnny's first scene, he is shooting dice with some sailors and some assorted lowlifes.
  • Everyone Can See It: Everyone picks up on the chemistry between Johnny and Gilda.
  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: The clip Ballin buys for Gilda.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Ballin really leaves himself vulnerable in the climax by failing to take account of Pio's actions.
  • Faking the Dead: Ballin Mundson fakes a plane crash.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Implied with Uncle Pio. He seems to be an educated man, but he has an utterly menial and somewhat degrading job at as washroom attendant (he justifies his choice of job by saying that it lets him in on all of the gossip, but he said this half-facetiously).
  • Family-Friendly Stripper: Rita Hayworth performs an amazingly sexy strip-tease ... in which she takes off her gloves and her necklace.
  • Fiery Redhead: Gilda, according to the film poster.
  • Fixing the Game: Johnny plays dice with loaded dice and counts cards at casinos.
  • Hair Flip: Gilda in her famous introduction scene.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Ballin gets back stabbed by his Sword Cane.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "You must lead a gay life", says Johnny to Ballin.
  • I Call It "Vera": Ballin refers to his Sword Cane as a good "friend" of his.
  • Internal Reveal: The audience finds out immediately that Ballin faked his death but Gilda and Johnny don't find out until the end.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Near the end of the film, after Obregon has threatened to arrest him, Johnny decides that being the head of the tungsten cartel is more trouble than it's worth and decides to make a retreat from Buenos Aires after giving Obregon the information he wants.
  • Leg Focus: All of Gilda's dance scenes makes a pretty heavy point out of showing off her legs.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Inverted with Gilda who has short hair but uses the shortness of her hair to her advantage. Rita Hayworth had short hair that just barely reaches past her shoulders making it easy for her to do the sexy Hair Flip that made the film so iconic.
  • Love at First Punch: Johnny's slap of Gilda is what leads her to call him "darling" and admit that she loves him. Theirs is not the healthiest relationship.
  • Masquerade Ball: Gilda throws one in the casino.
  • Meaningful Echo: Pio calling Johnny a "Peasant."
  • Pass the Popcorn: Many characters remark to this effect.
  • Pretty in Mink: Gilda's fancy wardrobe has a few furs, including a chinchilla jacket, a mink coat, and an ermine coat that she carries in the first part of "Put the Blame on Mame".
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Obregon is perfectly happy to let Johnny leave Buenos Aires without a fuss after he has given him the information he wants, and even lets Uncle Pio off the hook for killing Ballin, explaining that as far as he is concerned Ballin already officially died when he faked his death and that Pio's action was in any case justifiable seeing how he was protecting Johnny and Gilda from Ballin.
  • Self-Made Man: Ballin, as he likes to say, "makes [his] own luck". Though the trope is portrayed quite negatively in this case, seeing how he has cheated people and stolen from them to get where he is.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Johnny and Gilda. Their only on-screen kiss is preceded by them professing their mutual hate for one another. Gilda also slaps Johnny three times in succession, and Johnny slaps her once; however, both scenes are played extremely seriously and are not followed by a kiss or anything else remotely romantic.
  • Sword Cane: Ballin has a switchblade cane.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Johnny was played by Glenn Ford, after all.
  • Villainous Friendship: Johnny and Ballin becomes friends in the first place because they realize they are quite similar in both being men with few moral qualms who like to "make their own luck".
  • Widow's Weeds: Gilda gets married while still in her black dress and veil. And that Little Black Dress is a lot tighter than Widow's Weeds probably should be.
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: Gilda's striptease consists of her removing her gloves and her necklace (she would've gone further but Johnny stopped her).
  • Zip Me Up: Gilda does not operate her zippers, men do.