Thursday, March 14, 2013

Notes on Gilda: Tungsten & George Macready

For my birthday, I went to see Gilda, part of a Columbia Film Noir Classics series at a local movie theater.

Somehow, I'd managed never to see Gilda before, and I was amazed at how boring the on-the-surface plot is:
something about an international cartel supplying tungsten for lightbulb-makers.

Tungsten has the highest melting point of all metals... "often brittle and hard to work with," and the frontman for the cartel, Ballin Mundson, is a very cool character indeed.

George Macready plays the scar-cheeked Mundson, who marries Rita Hayworth's character, Gilda.

Not that she's attracted to him at all, except for his money.

Isn't this a great shot of sexual disinterest?

I'd thought his scar was meant to imply that the sword-carrying Ballin had been in a duel. That fits the mysteriously German-ish character (the movie, released in 1946, seems to hint at Nazi connections).
But it just so happens that the actor had been scarred in a car accident when he was a young man.

The under-the-surface plot has a much lower melting point (if that metaphor makes any sense)---before Ballin marries Gilda, he picks up Johnny (Glenn Ford), a drifter.

They light each other up and become... very close... and when Gilda appears, she ignites a love/jealousy triangle.

Macready plays a different film noir husband––the childish psychopath Ralph Hughes––in another classic Columbia noir(which I'd seen as part of the series): the low-budget My Name Is Julia Ross (1945).

Hughes has killed his wife in a fit, and his scheming mother (below, Dame May Whitty, the lady of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes) arranges to gaslight another young woman into thinking she is the wife.

The plot is far better--it's a better movie.

But it lacks the incandescent Rita Hayworth, so really, there's no comparison...

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