On release the film was a massive hit and was entered into the 1946 Cannes Film Festival, the first time the festival was held.
Taken from an original story by E. A. Ellington, the crisp, economical screenplay by Jo Eisinger and E. A. Ellington has a complex story line, and describes how a down-and-out tough, Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford), goes to work for Balin Mundson (George Macready), a frozen-faced mastermind who wields a sword cane, and who runs a nightclub-casino somewhere in South America during World War II. Is it friendship that begins between them, or something more physical?
Then Mundson goes away and returns with a wife, Gilda (Rita Hayworth). Gilda is beautiful and a little wild and reckless. She knew Johnny 'before' and seems ready to resume the affair, but he is shocked and scathing toward her - cruel, as if he would prefer to disown her. Johnny stays loyal to Mundson and to his idea that Gilda is trash.
We realize that Mundson and his club are a front for Nazi operations. He goes missing, presumed dead. Johnny now runs the casino. He marries Gilda, but only as a way of keeping her confined in case Mundson returns. She takes her revenge by performing at the nightclub - this is the famous 'Put the Blame on Mame' routine, which serves as a vicious rebuke to Johnny's caution and masked gayness. Of course, in the last twenty minutes, the plot clears itself up magically, so that Johnny and Gilda may be left in some semblance of starry union.
The film moves briskly but not too quickly, and the characters are allowed to develop naturally and evocatively.
Rita Hayworth was one of the most glamorous and sensuous actresses in Hollywood history. For Columbia, 'Gilda' was a way of getting Hayworth back to work after the failure of her marriage to Orson Welles. She did not let them down and gives a flagrant and moving portrait of a natural woman, a libertine, who appears too sensual and honest for the crouched male figures with whom she associates.
Dubbed by Anita Ellis, she was at her greatest in the key 'Put the Blame on Mame' number, wearing black satin (by Jean Louis) and long gloves, with hair to her shoulders.
The whole film is fascinating, but the celebration of Gilda is quite remarkable. The design is by Stephen Goossn and Van Nest Polglase, and the acting throughout is superb. Special mention should be made of Glenn Ford who rose to stardom with this movie and the briliant, icy performance of George Macready as Ballin Mundson. The strong supporting cast includes Joseph Calleia, Steven Geray Joseph Sawter, Gerald Mohr, and Ludwig Donath, backed by a wonderful music score and the gorgeous cinematography of Rudolph Maté.
Main CastRita Hayworth ... Gilda Mundson Farrell
Glenn Ford ... Johnny Farrell / Narrator
George Macready ... Ballin Mundson
Joseph Calleia ... Det. Maurice Obregon
Steven Geray ... Uncle Pio
Joe Sawyer ... Casey
Gerald Mohr ... Capt. Delgado
Mark Roberts ... Gabe Evans
Ludwig Donath ... German
Don Douglas ... Thomas Langford
Lionel Royce ... German
Saul Martell ... Little man
George J. Lewis ... Huerta
Rosa Rey ... Maria
Anita Ellis ... the singing voice of Rita Hayworth
CreditsDirector ... Charles Vidor
Producer ... Virginia Van Upp
Screenplay ... Jo Eisinger, Marion Parsonnet
Music ... Hugo Friedhofer
Cinematography ... Rudolph Maté
Format ... B & W
Distribution Company ... Columbia Pictures
Release date ... February 14, 1946
Running time ... 110 minutes
Academy AwardsNo Wins: