I have been watching every Rita Hayworth film I can find, and had to go back and rewatch the movie featuring her most well-known role. Although this is good as a big-budget film noir, and Hayworth is beautifully shot by Rudolph Maté and beautifully dressed by Jean Louis, I am not so sure it is the best Rita Hayworth film. The problem isn’t the performances by Hayworth and Glenn Ford, which establishes a strong chemistry which carried over to other films they costarred in, such as Loves of Carmen. The problem may be in the plot, which is more convoluted than it needs to be, or with the overall direction
Gilda shares a lot of themes with Alfred Hitchcock’s film from the same year, Notorious. Both are set in South America, centering on a “bad woman” who is loved by two men, one of the them powerful leader of a cartel with Nazi connections (uranium in Notorious, tungsten in Gilda). Furthermore, both films were in competition in the very first Cannes Film Festival in 1946. For Hitchcock, the uranium was his MacGuffin, a plot device that is used to bring the three central characters together before being quickly discarded by the director after it served this purpose. In Gilda, however, the plot keeps veering back to the tungsten, as betrayed business partners open fire, and German collaborators show up to try to collect on old debts, all of which detracts from the love triangle seething with hate that the film is really about. Still, this is a great film that can be watched over and over for many reasons, including the sharp exchanges of dialogue, the top-notch photography, and Rita’s famous dance number, which has been likened to a “clothed strip tease”, in the Jean Louis strapless black satin dress which looks modern even today, after 64 years.