Here’s where the canary is, Johnny.

Gilda, directed by Charles Vidor, is a noirish tale that is very unseeming at first glance, but quickly explodes into a wicked ride of a story, visceral and entertaining in just about every way. It sneaks up on you, wise and silent, before grappling you and snakily whispering exactly the words you were meant to hear in exactly the way you were meant to hear them. It is a noir right down to the core, from the engaging script to the dark and foreboding characterization all the way to the expository and introspective narration.

Johnny Farrell (played by Glenn Ford), a gambling man who makes his own luck, wins a job in a casino run by the enigmatic Ballin Mundson, who soon arrives back from a trip with a wife in tow, the titular Gilda (Rita Hayworth). It’s obvious Johnny and Gilda have friction between them, and the rest of the film explores this existing and changing dynamic. The dynamic between all the characters is what’s mostly on display here; between Gilda and Johnny, Johnny and Ballin, even Johnny and the washroom attendant, they all have a dynamic that evolves and shifts and holds a character arc through the entire picture. Like most noirs, the language and wordplay of the script is clever and witty, and wickedly entertaining. There are plenty of little things that happen throughout the film that almost whisk by without saying a word, but all hold a slightly more important meaning and spring back up in the plot in unexpected ways.

I went into this not expecting much, and without doing any real research, and walked away absolutely delighted with the experience. Amusing that a film utilized in the background of one of my favorite pictures, The Shawshank Redemption, would turn out to be one of my newest favorites as well. Definitely give this one a look, especially if you’re a fan of noir, or of Rita Hayworth, who gives probably her most iconic performance. Whatever way you look at it, this is a winner, and one I highly recommend.

Arbitrary Rating: 9/10


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