“I would destroy myself to take you down with me”

Glenn Ford (this is the anonymous-looking 1940’s Glenn Ford, not the superior 1950’s version from the Fritz Lang movies) is a grifter turned semi-respectable once hired by illegal casino owner George Macready (Paths of Glory, The Big Clock) with the unlikely character name of Ballin Mundson. Buncha noir-lite character development and plot setup ensues, while I’m on seat’s edge waiting for someone – anyone – to ask Gilda if she’s decent, then finally it happens and the movie comes to life.

So I guess Glenn and Gilda dated for years before it all fell apart, and now Glenn’s hiding out in Buenos Aires and his boss goes on vacation and comes back married to Gilda. Because of this movie’s noir reputation I assumed there’d be some femme fatale reveal in which she’s plotting a convoluted revenge scenario, but nope, just a massive movie coincidence – not to say the movie isn’t still convoluted. Glenn and George take turns toying with Gilda and she marries Glenn after George fakes his own death via plane crash. George briefly returns, only to be dispatched by bathroom attendant “Uncle Pio” (actor Steven Geray was Hungarian but hey, any foreigner will do), and we get an anti-Casablanca ending as Glenn belatedly decides he still likes Gilda.

Gilda serenades Uncle Pio:

All this plot is diverting, but Rita Hayworth’s beauty and attitude are the main attraction. I wonder if Gilda’s the only 1940’s female character to marry two men, cheat on both of them repeatedly, and still get a happy ending. Her hit song from the movie “Put the Blame on Mame” (which was pried into the tagline for this movie, confusing those of us who’d never heard the song and thought it a stupid catchphrase) is about a hot-kissin’ hard-dancin’ woman, and Dave Kehr notes it “has been known to provoke impure thoughts”. Maybe Rita even charmed the censors… or maybe they demanded different kinds of changes. Buenos Aires is crowded with corrupt officials, murderous businessmen and sinister Germans – I can’t tell if the fact that nazis and their collaborators hid out in Argentina after WWII was well-known when this film was written. Of course nazis are never mentioned, and in typical Hollywood style, Mundson controls a “tungsten cartel” instead of anything unsavory.

Played the first Cannes Film Festival alongside Brief Encounter, Rome Open City, Notorious, The Lost Weekend and Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. I mainly knew this film as the inspiration for Laura Harring’s character’s name in Mulholland Dr and the excerpt in Shawshank Redemption. Vidor had recently made the not-as-good Rita movie Cover Girl. Shot by Rudoplh Maté (The Passion of Joan of Arc, Foreign Correspondent), one of his last before retiring.

Devil is a Woman masked carnival:

S. O’Malley:

Gilda is a pawn between two men who seem more interested in each other than her … There’s Ballin’s phallic cane/sword named his “little friend”; at one point, Ballin says, “Wait for me here, Johnny. I’ll need both my little friends tonight” … The ending, with Johnny and Gilda exiting together, is a holdover from the days of the cathartic “The End” of musicals, but it leaves an uneasy impression, similar to the final scene in Notorious. In neither ending does it feel like “love has triumphed.” It’s more like a criminal getaway.

A breakout role for Gene Kelly, who was starting to come into his own after the draft-dodging nonsense in For Me and My Gal. He runs a nightclub, is best friends with dancer Rusty (Rita Hayworth, before Gilda and Lady From Shanghai) and comedian Genius (Phil Silvers, TV’s Sgt. Bilko). Obviously Gene and Rita like each other, but Gene has to make the first move because it’s the 1940’s and he’s not good with feelings, so when she becomes a popular magazine cover girl, he lets her run off to a larger theater instead of asking her to stay.

Eve Arden, the best part of One Touch of Venus (she’s the poyle in the erster), plays the same sardonic type here, cutting through the music-fantasy atmosphere whenever she’s onscreen. She works with businessman Otto Kruger (High Noon, Power of the Press), who has movie-padding flashbacks to when he almost married Rita’s grandmother. Now Rita is being pushed to marry her new theater manager Lee Bowman (I Met Him In Paris, House by the River), and there’s kind of an interesting ending, as Kruger gets her to leave him for Gene, leaving Lee to a life of romantic regret identical to Kruger’s.

Not very memorable songs (the weird “Poor John” sung by flashback-Rita is all that comes to mind) but a decent movie. Nice man-vs-reflection street dance number for Gene. Weird trick-photography montage at the end with all the popular magazines’ latest cover girls (IMDB says one had already been in numerous movies, one was Harold Lloyd’s daughter, and another would marry Jean Negulesco). Leslie Brooks, also with Rita in You Were Never Lovelier, is good as her dancer-frenemy. And Genius, well, he’s grating and horrible as a comedian, but as a buddy of Gene and Rita, I eventually came around to him.

Sequel Xanadu came out almost 40 years later.

The one where a rich guy (Adolphe Menjou of Morocco and The Tall Target) writes love letters to his daughter Rita Hayworth, intending for her to get into a romantic mood then when he finds someone she can marry, he’ll pin the letters on that guy. It pulls off the could’ve-been-icky premise pretty well. Anyway, self-important dancer Fred Astaire (with a big Omaha shout-out) comes along, Rita thinks he wrote the letters, bam.

Nominated for some sound & music oscars but lost to the more patriotic Holiday Inn and Yankee Doodle Dandy. Everyone was supposed to be Argentine but we weren’t convinced.

I enjoyed watching this with Katy much more than I did in film class. Everything is worse when doing it in class (or everything is better with Katy).

Mail flyers in Argentina struggle with difficult terrain, disabled pilots, a love triangle, infighting and a contract saying they get new planes if they fly a few more difficult missions on schedule. Dutchy (Sig Ruman, covert nazi in A Night in Casablanca) owns the planes but Cary Grant gives orders to the flyers. Kid (Thomas Mitchell) is the oldest with poor eyesight, Joe (Noah Beery Jr.) dies early, Sparks is the radio man, I think Les gets injured (most of them do at some point) and Tex (Westerns actor Don Barry) sits in a booth warning of weather conditions.

New flyer Bat (Richard Barthelmess, star of Broken Blossoms and The Dawn Patrol, sort of Henry Fonda crossed with Peter Lorre) shows up putting everyone on edge because of a word-of-mouth story that he’d abandoned a copilot – oh, and he brings new wife Rita Hayworth, an ex-flame of Cary’s who doesn’t know the dead-copilot story. And Jean Arthur (You Can’t Take It With You, Easy Living) was just passing through until she caught sight of Cary Grant, then follows him like a puppy for two hours trying to get him to tell her to stay, refusing to leave until he does, a catch-22 that works out romantically at the end.

Hawks and Cary Grant made this between Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday. Thomas Mitchell (The Kid) won best supporting actor as Doc in Stagecoach, also played the plantation owner (Scarlett’s dad) in Gone With The Wind, king of the beggars in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and appeared again with Jean Arthur in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington – all in the same year as this movie.

EDIT 2024: Watched again… a movie about a rude attack on some birds… and their revenge.

We got a Roku and I’m filling an attached USB drive with classic movies to watch, dubbing it the “TCM drive”. Of course we always could have watched these same movies by hooking my laptop to the TV, but now it’s ever-so-slightly easier, so we celebrated by watching a couple and pretending we still get cable (I forgot to do my Robert Osbourne impression to introduce them).

Girlish weakling James Cagney is saddled with a tough-guy’s name (Biff Grimes) and an embarrassing womanizing drunk for a dad (Alan Hale, atheist farmer in Stars In My Crown). Biff’s only friends are ambitious scammer Hugo (Jack Carson, somewhat-star of Red Garters) and genial Greek barber Nick (George Tobias, in Sergeant York the same year). Cagney can’t get a girl, can’t keep a job, is studying to be a dentist because all his life his dad has blamed his poor behavior on pains in his teeth.

Cagney gets a single date with the hottest girl in town, titular blonde Rita Hayworth (Lady From Shanghai) and blows all his money on her, but as Jack Carson gets more successful, Rita ends up with Jack, and Cagney marries her pretend-feminist friend Olivia de Havilland (Cagney’s Midsummer Night’s Dream costar). Cagney is bummed, but of course Olivia is just as pretty and much nicer, so we know he’s being a dummy.

Given a vice-president job at Carson’s firm, Cagney is set up as the official scapegoat when cheap building materials lead to the death of his own dad (“my teeth don’t hurt anymore”), spends five years in prison getting his dentistry degree by mail and practicing on other inmates. He returns home to his loving wife and to the sunday afternoon framing-story, where he sees Carson as an emergency patient, and instead of killing him with nitrous oxide, realizes Cagney’s got the better life than his rich ex-friend since Rita Hayworth is a materialistic shrew.

I think Una O’Connor played a friend of Cagney’s dad and George “Superman” Reeves was a friend of Carson’s, but neither made an impression.

Based on a play from late 20’s, also filmed in 1933 with Gary Cooper and Fay Wray, redundantly in 1948 with Alan Hale Jr. and Raoul Walsh, then on TV in ’49 with Burgess Meredith, ’51 with June Lockhart and ’57 with Gordon MacRae. Adapted here by the twin Epstein brothers who wrote Casablanca and shot by James Wong Howe.

If I count right (and it’s difficult), this was director Orson’s fourth of twelve released feature films. All the usual Wellesian eccentric production tales surround it, and the usual claims of studio mistreatment (an unapproved music track, an hour of footage removed), and the usual reports of poor reviews and low ticket sales. That stuff aside, we’re left with a great movie, full of idiosyncratic camerawork and acting (why oh why does Welles assign himself an Irish accent) and super dialogue.

Trophy wife Rita Hayworth (who’d just starred in Gilda) takes a fancy to Irish-Welles, sends her rich husband Arthur (becrutched Everett Sloane of The Patsy, The Enforcer) to hire Welles for their yachting expedition. Welles doesn’t mind being around Rita, but Arthur and his partner Grisby (Glenn Anders of Laughter, hamming it up) get under his skin with their power plays and upper-class bitchiness.

Welles tosses a sharks-eating-each-other metaphor at the rich folk, later is spotted smooching Rita at the aquarium as a visual tie-in. What distracted me from thoughts of the Steve The Octopus controversy from Citizen Kane was noticing that sometimes Welles and Hayworth seem to be conversing before real fish tanks, and sometimes before massive projection-screen blow-ups of fish tanks, so unrealistically out of proportion that it must have been intentional.

Back in the fold, Grisby offers a way out – he’ll give Welles enough money to run off with Rita in exchange if Welles helps Grisby fake his death, boasting about a murder for which the police could find no body. But the plan, as all movie plans must, goes wrong. Grisby kills Arthur’s private investigator (Ted de Corsia, killer who gets chased over the Williamsburg bridge in the climax of The Naked City) then turns up dead himself, Orson the obvious suspect. He escapes the cops and finds Rita, but she’s behind it all, stashes him in an abandoned funhouse – for no reason other than to provide outstanding visuals for the final mirror-room showdown. Arthur and Rita shoot each other down, and Welles is left behind.