In post-WWII Buenos Aires, Argentina, petty American gambler Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is rescued by wealthy businessman Ballin Mundson (George Macready). In no time, Johnny becomes his “right-hand man,” managing his casino. Why does Mudson help Johnny so much? (Many critics pointed to the homoerotic dialogue and imagery in the first section of the film.)
Ballin goes to the US for a short time; when he returns, Johnny learns that his wife is an American dancer, Gilda (Rita Hayworth), Johnny’s former love. We can tell that they had a bitter, nasty break-up.
When Gilda is brought back to Argentina by Tom, she slaps Johnny hard across both sides of his face. In reality, Rita Hayworth’s smacks broke two of Glenn Ford’s teeth. He held his place until the take was finished. -IMDB
Gilda: If you’re worried about Johnny Farrell, don’t be. I hate him!
Ballin: And he hates you. That’s very apparent. But hate can be a very exciting emotion. Very exciting. Haven’t you noticed that?
While her controlling, disinterested husband is busy running his hotel/casino and overseeing a tungsten cartel, Gilda is left to her own devices. She buys beautiful, expensive things and openly flirts with several men, so Ballin decides to make Johnny her watchdog. The younger man resents this position, and bites back at Gilda. He stops her from fooling around with any men, delivering her to her husband’s mansion.
All of the goings-on of the place are observed by a lowly (yet wise) employee, Uncle Pio (Steven Geray). He calls Johnny a “peasant” and has empathy for Gilda’s situation. There is a sub-plot involving former Nazis and a local detective. To find out more, watch the film.
Johnny (to Gilda): What was that word? It [decent] sounds funny coming from you.
This is an uneven film with a flimsy plot, but it’s also well-loved by many viewers. It packs a punch because of the presence of the gorgeous femme fatale and the (almost palpable) chemistry between Hayworth and Ford. If you’re interested in the themes explored in this film, check out Separate Tables (starring Hayworth, Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, & David Niven) and The Lady from Shanghai (starring Hayworth and Welles). I need to check out more movies with Ford; so far, I’ve seen 3:10 to Yuma, The Fastest Gun Alive, and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.