Charles Vidor - Gilda (Size: 1.51 GB)
Charles Vidor - Gilda [+Extras] (1946)
Rita Hayworth stars in Gilda, but she isn't seen for the first fifteen minutes, while the friendship of two men, played by George Macready and Glenn Ford, is established. Macready saves Ford from being robbed on the docks of Buenos Aires, then hires Ford to manage a gambling casino owned by Macready. They become trusting, affectionate pals in a nightlife society where women are marginal. Then Macready leaves on a business trip to the ΓΓé¼┼ôinteriorΓΓé¼┬¥. When Macready returns, Ford hurries to Macready's mansion and he is surprised to hear about a woman whom Macready just met and married. The woman is heard singing, a muted voice in the interior distance, in a bedroom, in the depths of Macready's mansion. Macready leads Ford toward the singing, into the bedroom, to meet the woman, and ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ cut ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ Rita Hayworth lifts her face to look into the camera and see who is there. In this gesture, with all the magic of the word, Rita Hayworth ΓΓé¼┼ôappearsΓΓé¼┬¥. She is bathed in light, seems even to exude it like a personal quality, like her wavy hair, her voice, and the flow of her body when walking or dancing.
She looks into the camera, into me, my interior, and I see that the friendship of Macready and Ford is in trouble, for this is the beautiful face of betrayal, jealousy, murder, suicide, war. It is the face of love from Homer to Shakespeare to the 1940s.
Like other actresses of her day, Rita Hayworth had mythic power, and could carry a movie without a male star. I thought she carried Gilda despite George Macready and Glenn Ford. To my view, they were of slightly repulsive dramatic interest, but I was about thirteen when I saw the movie. I took it as seriously as life. How could Rita Hayworth get involved with guys like that?
Macready, playing a Nazi agent who lives in Argentina, walks rigidly erect, carrying a sword cane. He looks frosty, pock-marked, and desiccated, like the surface of the moon. There is something priestly about him, a lofty, ascetic air. Ford, playing a low-life hustler who cheats at cards and dice, has a soft, dark, sensuous look, sensitive rather than intelligent. He smiles and wiggles around Macready in a flirty way. Wiggly and Rigid form a love triangle with Rita Hayworth, very degrading to her, since she is way out of their league, but then she is repeatedly humiliated in the movie. She seems to ask for it, even to need it badly; once, she actually crawls at Ford's feet. Humiliation, essential plot matter in Hollywood and novels, is probably basic to fiction generally. Even the cherished story Alice in Wonderland, where a girl falls into a hole and is then repeatedly insulted in mind and body, has to do with humiliation. When I saw Gilda, I didn't wonder if there was a universal need for such subterranean experience.
Much dramatic tension is created when neither Rita Hayworth nor Ford tells Macready ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ who is made suspicious by their instantaneous, mutual hostility ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ that they already know each other and were once lovers. Not telling Macready, they betray him. Ford thinks he is loyal to Macready, protecting his peace of mind, etc., and he is angry at the intrusion of Rita Hayworth into his paradisal friendship. He says, in a voice-over after Macready presents him to her, that he wanted to hit her, and he also wanted to hit Macready. Ford is bitterly frustrated and confused. I disliked him, but I suffered his anguish.
Trying not to succumb to Rita Hayworth's charms, Ford becomes increasingly self-righteous and more rigid than Macready. There is an excruciating moment when Macready, concerned not to look like a jealous husband, tells Ford to pull Rita Hayworth away as she dances with another man in Macready's casino. But she will not only dance with other men, she will also go out with them. She doesn't love Macready; she fears him, and yet she makes him jealous of Ford, just as she makes Ford jealous of her and other men. It emerges that her licentious bitchery means only that she loves Ford; he lovers her, too. They are trapped in a viciously delicious game of mutual detestation which becomes the main plot. It complicates, in a feminine way, through flamboyant gestures and shows of feeling. The subplot, full of male violence ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ guns, fistfights, crime, war ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ is turgid and easy to forget. You might say the movie is sexually structured, the woman (feeling) on top.
Rita Hayworth, with her amazing blond light in this dark movie (where almost everything happens in rooms, and even the outdoors seems indoors), suggests that dark and light are Manichean opposites ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ dark is evil, light is good. Gray represents confusion of good and evil. I certainly didn't think this when I saw the movie in the Loew's theatre on Canal Street, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I didn't think anything. I felt the meaning of things, especially the morally murky weight of the gray-lighted bedroom scene where Rita Hayworth asks Macready to unzip her dress as she lies on a bed. She says more than once that she has trouble with zippers, a helpless girl imprisoned in the dress of a grownup. Zippers, a major erotic trope of '40s movies, represented a man's access to a woman's body, despite her invisible metal teeth.
I didn't want Macready to unzipper Rita Hayworth's dress. I didn't want Macready to touch her, though she is married to him, and she herself invites physical intimacy. Macready has told Ford he is ΓΓé¼┼ôcrazy about herΓΓé¼┬¥, so his heart is in the right place. Nevertheless, I didn't want him to touch Rita Hayworth, I knew he doesn't really love her; doesn't even feel desire or lust, only a sickening idea of possession, and a mysterious need for betrayal. Why else would he hire Ford, a known cheater, as his most trusted assistant? And why else would Macready marry a woman ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ even Rita Hayworth ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ he has known only one day?
Macready flaunts his frightening sword cane, which he calls his ΓΓé¼┼ôfriendΓΓé¼┬¥, but he moves in a delirium of masochistic self-destruction, and he is finally stabbed in the back by his ΓΓé¼┼ôfriendΓΓé¼┬¥, literally the cane, metaphorically Ford. Macready gets what he deserves, which is what he wants, including sexual betrayal by Ford. Despite Ford's furious resistance to her, Ford gets Rita Hayworth, which is what she wants. Everything seems to work out, to balance and close, but not for me. I left the movie haunted by images of Rita Hayworth, yearning for her.
She had so much beauty and vitality that I assumed she would recover from what Macready did after unzippering her dress. Whatever it was, it wasn't good, but I supposed it happened a lot in Hollywood, where men go about touching women without feeling love, and ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ utterly unbearable ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ there are women who want to be Macreadied. Thus: in the religioso movie darkness, I saw Rita Hayworth request her own humiliation by the ascetic, priestly, frightening Macready. Zip. She is sacrificed and apotheosised. I had to remind myself that Gilda is a movie, not real life, and George Macready is a fine actor; also, probably, a nice guy.
The creep touched her.
I understood that real life is this way.
Nothing would be the same for me again.
I wanted to forget the scene, but it had happened as if to me, and was now fixed in my personal history, more indelibly than World War II. Only an instant of zipper business, yet it colored my love for Rita Hayworth with pity and grief. She lay there, utterly still and vulnerable, and Macready leaned over her the way kids play doctor, an eerily erotic game.
Seeing this was like a criminal privilege, though I was only sitting in a movie theatre, doing nothing but looking. But I looked. I didn't shut my eyes. Unspeakable apprehensions ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ pleasure? ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ were aroused in me, in my head or heart, that secret, interior, moral theatre (as opposed to the public showplace, the Loew's Canal) where movies dreamily transpire, differently for each of us. I disapproved of the sensations, the so-called pleasure, but pleasure and disapproval feed on each other. Rita Hayworth will be all right in the morning, I told myself. It won't matter what Macready did, though it was shameful and sad. What I felt was, perhaps, felt by millions.
Today, these feelings are considered sentimental; quaint. They have lost force and spontaneity. We still have them, maybe, but they no longer have us. Macready did it to Rita Hayworth. So? He didn't rape her. The scene ended. I didn't have to watch Macready actually do anything, not that it would have been possible to film Macready in bed, doing things to Rita Hayworth, without destroying the movie. The remake of Gilda will, of course, show Macready doing everything, but it must be remembered that Gilda was released when feelings ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ like clothing styles, popular dances, car designs ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ were appreciated differently from today. Perhaps feelings as such had a far higher value. Movies didn't have to show naked bodies, fucking, paraphilia, or graphic mutilation and bloody murder. Techniques of suggestion were cultivated ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ the zipper, for example. Less was more except in regard to words. There were long scenes brilliant with words. We didn't so much use our eyes, like roots digging into visible physical bodies for the nourishment of meanest sensation. The ear, more sensuous than sensual, received the interior life of persons, as opposed to what is sucked up by the salacious eyeball.
Later in the movie, Rita Hayworth asks again for help with her zipper, during a nightclub routine, as she does a striptease dance. Several men hurry to oblige and help her become naked. Ford notices, has a tizzy, stops things from going too far. He slaps her. His hand doesn't wither and rot. Not only is there injustice, there is no justice. I feel so sorry for her, not to mention myself, poor kid, having to grow up, to know such things. Rita Hayworth is never seen disrobed in the movie, though it is threatened more than once. The atmosphere of dark repression and mysterious forces ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ the mood or feeling of the movie ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ might be destroyed by the revelation of her body. It scared me as she began her striptease dance in the nightclub. I didn't want everybody to see her body, or even to see that Rita Hayworth had a body. (The length of her beautiful left leg ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ I nearly died ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ is fleetingly exposed by a slit in her dress, as she dances.)
Two years later, I had sex for the first time, and I was taken by a weird sorrow riding home alone in the subway, as visceral odors lifted from my hands, reminding me that I'd fallen a few hours ago with my girlfriend ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ both of us virgins ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ from Heights of Desire, into bodies. (Religious movements, west and east, have cultivated a practice of dreamily disembodied, extended, nonorgasmic sex, as described in John Donne's poem ΓΓé¼┼ôThe EcstasyΓΓé¼┬¥.)
In plain sight of Ford, who is obliged by his job to watch her, Rita Hayworth flirts with other men and says, ΓΓé¼┼ôif I were a ranch, they'd call me the Bar-NothingΓΓé¼┬¥. She thus tortures Ford, showing him ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ in the desires of other men ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ the body he can't let himself have. Ford watches. He tries to seem angry, then blurts out that Rita Hayworth can do whatever she pleases. It doesn't matter to him. He says he will personally deliver Rita Hayworth to her other men, then pick her up like ΓΓé¼┼ôlaundryΓΓé¼┬¥ and return her to Macready. In effect, everything Rita Hayworth does with other men will be determined and controlled by Ford. Impassioned and irrational, Ford doesn't know what he means.
My moral notions, already disturbed, were further disturbed ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ the hero talks like this? I was being introduced to deep stuff, subterranean forces, years before I understood what was happening to me, or maybe the world in the '40s. It had to do with sex ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ hardly anything doesn't ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ but I didn't know about sex. I believed something more important was at stake. I saw Bad presenting itself ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ in the form of pleasure ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ as entertainment; and I was being made to know that I was susceptible to the pleasure of Bad, if for no other reason than that Bad was in me, like Gog and Magog.
Was the experience indeed pleasure, not merely a strong sensation, like the electrical excitement of an idea, or the effect of a novelty, or a demonic, masturbatory fantasy? If it was a real feeling, could I be violated by it, my own real feeling? Could it happen to anyone? If so, could anyone ever be a good person?
I continued to wonder, without words to analyze or describe it, about the distinction ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ in real life ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ between pleasure and its innumerable imitations. Saint Augustine says, ΓΓé¼┼ôThe love of this world is fornication against God,ΓΓé¼┬¥ and that's that. For me, the question was, if I felt something I believed was bad, but it felt good, would I want to fornicate against God again and again? And would I then despise other pleasures, assuming other pleasures remained to me? Had Macready unzippered me, too? In Flannery O'Connor's masterpiece, ΓΓé¼┼ôA Good Man Is Hard to FindΓΓé¼┬¥, a mystical murderer says, ΓΓé¼┼ôIt's no real pleasure in lifeΓΓé¼┬¥. I wondered about real pleasure. What is it?
Ford's antiheroic, homoerotic hysteria, basic to the dramatic effect in Gilda, is virtually explicit when Rita Hayworth suggests that a psychiatrist can tell Ford that he likes the idea of Rita Hayworth as ΓΓé¼┼ôlaundryΓΓé¼┬¥, or dirty ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ that is, of her doing things with other men. I didn't understand this in feeling or thought. Is sexual infidelity ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ deserving of death in the colourful Mediterranean community I came from ΓΓé¼ΓÇ£ what Ford likes? I di