May 7, 2006

Put the Blame on Glenn-Ford, Put the Blame on Him...

When I settle in to watch a TiVo'ed episode of Turner Classic Movies' The Essentials, a program devoted to showcasing the classic films deemed absolutely necessary for fans of the silver screen, I am always a little apprehensive. I don't trust host Robert Osborne anymore; I sense that his ulterior motive is to instigate inferiority complexes upon the guest programmers and film critics he invites to the immaculate soundstage room from which he introduces movies every day, spewing off names and facts like an eccentric Zeus raining his privileged knowledge down upon viewers from his stance on the Mount Olympus of cable television. Either that, or the man's a damned fine professional, and I am but a mewling novice in the light of his staggering facility with dates, trivias and backstories....yeah. Probably moreso that last one. I just want to watch great movies though, Bobby! No one cares that you had dinner at Maureen O'Hara's house!

Okay, so Bob's an enviable cinephile. But when it comes to his selections for The Essentials, I guess I'd rather do without, choosing instead to devour wonderful, unsung films with my favorite stars, esoteric titles, and nary a chance of a DVD release, ever. This weekend's pick, Gilda, threw me for a loop - and left me looking for someone to put the blame on, besides Mame.

The title character is played by vivacious Rita Hayworth: she is, as always, a beautiful actress. I've always thought so, as did the innumerable GI's who adorned their bunks and barracks with her pin-ups in the years before Gilda was made - and the film uses her physical presence to its fullest advantage, her image still as dazzling today as it was sixty years ago. Glenn Ford enters the picture as an old flame of Gilda's, a young man working in a gambling house in Argentina, where the story takes place; tension arises when his character, Johnny, makes the startling discovery of Gilda's presence in the casino after all that has happened between them. It's an interesting enough storyline, it an Essential?

Hayworth is smouldering and sensual, George Macready is top-notch as the sinister casino owner, and I can't complain about Glenn Ford's performance here. As for the rest of the film, though - the story's pace is uneven, the plot seems somehow secondary to the visual allure of the film, and it clocks in at nearly two hours (a quite tolerable length, had it been a tolerable movie). While the dialogue is delicious, dangerous innuendo written in true film-noir style, and the fierce love-hate relationship between Johnny and Gilda is engaging, Gilda fails to reach classic film status due to its seemingly hastily-comprised ending, which leaves much to be desired, especially after all of the tension that has built up in the first portion of the movie.

I guess I'll give good ol' Gild another try in the future, but I'm curious as to who hails this film and what elements of it they find redeeming and noteworthy. Do you consider Gilda to be a great film? What about Rita Hayworth's acting ability - in what films is it best showcased?

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