Gilda (Charles Vidor, 1946)

It’s fifteen minutes into the film and you are wondering when and how the leading actress is going to come into the picture. Rita Hayworth’s entrance as Gilda is a fascinating moment as all eyes – that is, the camera, the other characters, the audience and probably all the film crew – turn to her and stay with her until the scene is over.

Gilda’s husband Ballin Mundson (George Macready) is about to introduce to her someone who works for him, Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) who also happens to be someone from her past. The men are in the dark hallway leading to the door to her room. Gilda is humming a song that is evidently special for Johnny who seems confused and unsure about whether the voice he hears is real. Ballin enters in and asks, ‘Gilda, are you decent?’ at which moment Rita Hayworth lifts her head up swishing her hair down to her shoulders. At first, she cheerfully answers back to her husband, ‘Me?’ Then she slightly rolls her eyes towards the left and notices Johnny. Her tone abruptly changes. ‘Sure, I’m decent’, she says in a dull and upset voice, putting up the straps on her shoulders.GILDAThe rest of the scene continues to focus on her face and expressions through which we understand the diversity of emotions she feels for Johnny. Before approaching the two men, she pauses a moment to take her cigarette. Even though her husband remains off-screen, his presence is evident; Gilda and Johnny are going to continue talking as if they met for the first time. Gilda is jolly at first while Ballin introduces them. ‘I’ve heard a lot about you’, she says, but when Johnny replies, ‘I haven’t heard a word about you’, she wants to make him feel insignificant. She asks her husband, ‘Did you tell him why I’m here?’ so that Johnny learns that they are married. At that moment, Ballin and Johnny continue talking off-screen. The camera remains with Gilda. She is angry, nervous and apparently still in love with Johnny. Even though we cannot see the reverse-shot, her eyes seem to be fixed on him, as the two men converse. When they finish, probably both look at her, which prompts Gilda to put on her cheerful face again.


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