The Greatness of Gilda (1946)

What is it about Gilda that makes people return for viewing after viewing? That question had been burning in my mind for a while. You see, a family member of mine would watch this film on repeat. Though at the time I was unable to join them, my intrigue still remained.

Today, I want to share with you what I love about Gilda and my observations while viewing the film in hopes of decoding the mystery from long ago.

the spicy dialogue and one-liners

Image: Public Domain

Wow, is this film chock full of ’em! Ever been bored to death while watching a film and wishing the screenwriters were actually awake when doing their job? Yep, been there done that. Gilda keeps ya going all the way through with double entendres flying through the air. The script is full of spicy repartee, saucy comebacks, and biting sarcasm.

Some of my favorites:

  • “Pardon me, but your husband is showing.”
  • “Oh, I’m sorry, Johnny is such a hard name to remember, and so easy to forget.”
  • “Well, here’s the laundry waiting to be picked up.”

the red hot sizzling chemistry between the leads

Image: Pinterest

Get ready to clear the fog off the windows because this might just be the steamiest movie you’ve seen! Gilda (Rita Hayworth) and Johnny (Glenn Ford) have a love-hate relationship that absolutely smolders with tumultuous passion. It’s clearly painted across Johnny’s face how much he fights between his painful desire and seething hatred for Gilda, and she in turn tantalizes him every chance she can get. The more Johnny resists, the more Gilda’s fuel is fired.

You could cut the tension between them with a knife, but who wants to do that, it’s too much fun to watch.

uncle pio

Amongst the complex characters who are blinded by their own hate, anger, lust, and greed is Uncle Pio (Steven Geray) – the kind and goodly washroom attendant. He seems to be the only one who can see straight in the smoke ridden casino and offers the two leads what they need most. To Johnny he imparts words of wisdom and to Gilda he offers his friendship and understanding. Uncle Pio calls Gilda “the beautiful one” and “the little one.” Enough said, the guy is adorable and plays a pretty important part in the film’s ending.

the glamour

Image: Pinterest

Gilda is a beautiful film. Each scene positively reeks with glamour and the sets are decked out to the nines. I love the marble, grand staircase in Gilda’s home, the gates outside her home, and the swirling and leaf motifs in the casino. As for the costumes? They were designed by the amazing Jean Louis and fit the bill perfectly.

Image: Pinterest

The cinematography by Rudolph Mate is both stunning and clever. He places characters almost entirely in silhouette, uses creative camera movements, and utilizes soft lighting to give the film its distinct look.


Who doesn’t love a costume party? With the setting for Gilda being in Argentina, we get the added treat of the characters celebrating Carnival. Like a siren’s call, the music from the streets beckon to Gilda to let go of her hate and embrace her feelings for Johnny. After all, the meaning behind Carnival is to sow your wild oats, and then to reap the consequences. This marks a turning point as Carnival casts its spell over Gilda, leading to one of the most exciting scenes in the film.

rita hayworth

Image: Imdb

The heart and soul of Gilda is Rita Hayworth. Her femme fatale is beautiful, fiery, and spellbinding; yet she makes Gilda believable and relatable, not a woman on a pedestal to be worshipped and treated as a prize possession, but as a woman who needs love and care just as the rest of humanity. I’m reminded of Rita Hayworth’s quote:

“All I wanted was just what everybody else wants, you know, to be loved.”

In Gilda, I believe Rita laid out her raw emotions on the screen, making her performance moving, powerful, and unforgettable.

Image: Pinterest

It is true that Gilda isn’t a perfect film, nor does it need to be. The film raises more questions than it answers, and perhaps that’s part of the allure.

Ripe with interesting and duplicitous characters, an exotic setting, and the production values that one expects when watching a film from the golden era, Gilda is an escape into a world where the dark shadows are always present, the fabulous femme fatale keeps you guessing, and the guy who falls for her is tied up with some rather shady characters while having demons of his own to conquer.

Sound like every other noir you’ve seen? Probably, but I assure you, none have done it quite like Gilda.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Cat People (1942) – The Power of Suggestion

You’ve undoubtedly heard the saying “less is more.” In the case of Cat People, that definitely rings true. Producer Val Lewton crafted his first horror flick for RKO from a title and a shoestring budget, but with a masterful usage of light and shadows coupled with sensitive direction, the team elevated the B film into an artistic achievement and a masterpiece of the genre. With complex characters, a story that revolved around the relationships between people, a setting in modern times, and a focus on the unseen, Cat People set out to prove that horror wasn’t all about mad scientists, Tyrolean mansions, and monster makeup.

Jane Randolph, Simone Simon, and Kent Smith

Image: Pinterest

Set in New York City, the film centers around a Serbian young woman, Irena Dubrovna, (Simone Simon) who is a fashion design artist by trade. She meets and falls in love with Oliver Reed (Kent Smith). They marry, but Irena is troubled. She believes she is descended from a line of people with an ancient curse placed upon them. Haunted by her past and fearful for herself and her husband, Irena seeks for answers, but is she beyond help?

Simone Simon and Kent Smith in a promo shoot for the film


Simone Simon is absolutely marvelous as the sweet but tortured Irena. As a French beauty with a je ne sais quoi, her exotic features and accent fit her character perfectly, lending to the mysterious aura surrounding her. Simone Simon brings out the loneliness that Irena feels, making her an incredibly sympathetic character due to her nuanced performance. In my humble opinion, she makes the film. It’s no wonder that the character of Irena would become the defining role of her career.

Simon in a promo shoot for the film

Kent Smith plays Irena’s husband, Oliver Reed. American as apple pie, he is drawn to Irena because of her foreignness and exotic charm. Smith’s all-American quality contrasts so well with Simon, making the two a compelling couple. Smith gives a very good performance of a man who goes from being understanding and patient to confused and defeated. It has been said that Smith gave a stilted performance because he did not want to do the movie; however, I think his delivery and style fits the character well. To me, he is a mix between Laurence Olivier in Rebecca and Superman’s alias, Clark Kent – warm but detached, all the while having a desire to be practical and heroic but lacking in tact and discernment.

Smith and Simon in a promo shoot for the film


Roy Webb

Image: Imdb

Roy Webb was chosen as the composer for Cat People. A former assistant to Max Steiner, he became RKO’s chief musical director and worked in virtually every genre. His first credited score is Alice Adams, (1935) while his most famous is Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946). For Cat People, Webb gathered inspiration from real life by using the song, “Dodo L’enfant Do,” a French lullaby and favorite of Simon’s, as Irena’s theme. (Listen for Irena briefly singing the song a few times.) As the film goes on, the presumed innocence of the theme gets turned on its head becoming twisted, dark, and ominous. Webb’s haunting score for Cat People effectively conveys feelings of despair and longing, as well as the terror and danger that surrounds the characters.

Cat People is a beautiful film, and if you are in love with black-and-white, stylish cinematography, you are in for a treat. Cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca is the genius behind the sumptuous look of Cat People. In 1940, Musuraca filmed what some call the first film noir, Stranger on the Third Floor, and in 1947, he filmed Out of the Past, one of the definitive films of the genre. Similarly, Musuraca brought that rich touch of film noir to Cat People.

Jane Randolph and Kent Smith


Cat People is all about subtlety. The director, Jacques Tourneur, believed that what can be rendered in the imagination is much more frightening than what could be placed on the screen. Val Lewton agreed, “We tossed away the horror formula from the beginning.” Those in favor of explicit horror might be disappointed because of this aspect, but I much prefer it. I love the atmospheric, moody lighting and the poetic nature of the screenplay that sets an appropriately eerie tone as the story unfolds.

For viewing purposes, I highly recommend the Criterion version of the film. The bonus features are great and include a commentary featuring film historian Gregory Mank and audio clips of an interview with Simone Simon. The commentary adds so much to my enjoyment of this film and my appreciation of it. Cat People is one of those films that I get more and more out of as I watch and think about it. Alluring, enigmatic, and unique, Cat People has stood the test of time continuing to draw many viewers into its world of darkness, mystery, light, and shadow.

Behind the Scenes & Trivia

  • Cat People was commissioned to make some quick money for RKO and saved the studio from bankruptcy after the box office failure of Citizen Kane (1941).
  • Val Lewton’s former employer, David O. Selznick, wrote commending Lewton on his work: “It is an altogether superb producing job, and is in every way a much better picture than ninety percent of the “A” product that I have seen in recent months…it is one of the most credible and most skillfully worked out horror pieces in many years…”
  • Cat People was shot in three weeks.
  • Cat People was one of the first psychological horror films and was very influential to the horror genre as a whole.
  • Before becoming an actress, Simone Simon studied fashion design just like Irena Dubrovna.

This post is my contribution to Dark and Deep: The Gothic Horror Blogathon hosted by Pale Writer. You can read all the other spooky entries here. Many thanks to Gabriela for hosting and for letting me take part in my first blogathon!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Anchors Aweigh (1945) – A Man and a Mouse

Anchors Aweigh is a delightful, breezy piece of entertainment released in 1945 by the master of musicals, MGM. The movie features Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly as sailors on leave in Hollywood, USA, looking to pick up dates. One is an experienced “sea wolf” (Kelly) and the other is shy and naive (Sinatra). The woman in their lives (Kathryn Grayson) is an extra at MGM trying make it big at the studio as a musical star.

“Screenland, April 1945”

Anchors Aweigh packs quite a punch in the talent department. The film was directed by George Sidney who was just coming into his own with the previous year’s hit, Bathing Beauty. Sidney would go on to direct Annie Get Your Gun (1950) and Show Boat (1951), two of the studio’s most successful musicals during the 1950’s. The producer, Joe Pasternak, suggested the pairing of Sinatra and Kelly which turned out to be magical. The two bounce off of each other so well, and you truly believe that they have been friends for years. Sinatra and Kelly would go on to make two other pictures together, but this is my favorite of the three.

Anchors Aweigh marked a turning point in Sinatra’s career. He danced (taught by Gene Kelly), appeared in color, and starred in an MGM musical, all for the first time. Sinatra was already a beloved singer, but his role as Clarence was his first successful venture in movies. He made five other films before Anchors Aweigh, but this one endeared him to his fans and grew his audience.

Gene Kelly is in his prime in this film. He had just hit his stride at Columbia Pictures in Cover Girl with Rita Hayworth (1944). In it he was given creative control of the dances, as Columbia was inexperienced in making musicals. He blew every one away with his work in Cover Girl that by the time he returned to MGM they were ready to hand over the reins for his next musical.

Gene Kelly’s choreography is absolutely delightful in this film, and we get quite a few dances in a variety of styles. The most famous of these routines is “The Worry Song” where Gene Kelly dances with Jerry the Mouse (animated flawlessly by Hanna and Barbera). The desire to do something never done before prompted this dance routine. It was planned out by Gene and his assistant, Stanley Donen.

“Stanley Donen and I sat around for a couple of days trying to think of something and after one long period of silence Stanley suggested, ‘ How about doing a dance with a cartoon?’ This was it…I get all the credit for this, but it would have been impossible for me without Stanley, he worked with the cameraman and called the shots in all these intricate timings and movements. It wasn’t easy for the cameraman-he was being asked to photograph something that wasn’t there.”

gene kelly

The sequence is sheer heaven and a technical tour de force. One can’t help but be amazed by this number, and the pure joy that flows from Gene’s performance is utterly contagious.

Let’s talk about the score for Anchors Aweigh. From “Jealousy,” sung by Grayson, to “If You Knew Susie,” sung by Kelly and Sinatra, to the magnificent rendition of Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” performed at the Hollywood Bowl-this movie is a musical treasure chest! The one song I’m not a fan of is “All of a Sudden My Heart Sings,” a solo by Grayson. It never quite gets off the ground and slows the whole movie down. Jule Styne (of Funny Girl fame) and Sammy Cahn wrote six new songs for this movie. One of which, “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” was nominated for an Oscar.

Image via:

Did you ever wish you could go back in time and wander through the front gates of MGM? Me too! This film affords us the opportunity to do so! There’s footage of the MGM commissary, the Thalberg building, a recording stage, and the backlot. We get a very rare glimpse of a fleeting time in history, all in glorious Technicolor.

All in all, this movie is a time capsule. It’s for lovers of the MGM musical, of the joy of dancing, of the American spirit.

Awards & Trivia

  • Anchors Aweigh won the Oscar for Best Musical Score: Georgie Stoll
  • Anchors Aweigh earned Gene Kelly a nomination for Best Actor
  • Anchors Aweigh was nominated for Best Picture and Best (Color) Cinematography
  • Jose Iturbi, the Spanish conductor and pianist, plays himself in this film
  • A cutout of Esther Williams appears in a shop window as the sailors walk the streets of Hollywood. See if you can spot it!
Kelly, Sinatra, and Williams behind the scenes
Image via:

To buy today’s movie, click here!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!